Jennifer Michelle Lee is an amazing film director and screenwriter. Lee is the first female director of a Walt Disney Animation Studios feature film and the first female director of a feature film that earned more than $1 billion in gross box office revenue. It was an honor to meet Jennifer Lee while in Los Angeles for the premiere of “A Wrinkle In Time”. As I expected her personally would glow and she would be sweet as pie. During that recent roundtable interview, she spoke about the past for years while writing “A Wrinkle In Time” folks Jennifer Lee is amazing to let’s dive into the interview.
From A Classic Novel To The Big Screen
In the spring of 2014 when Jennifer Lee heard Disney was looking for a writer to adapt the Newbery Award-winning 1962 Madeleine L’Engle children’s classic “A Wrinkle In Time” she could let the opportunity pass her by.
“It took four years at times it was a challenge but when I heard they were looking for a writer I was like “Oh-oh-oh!” I loved it as a kid, my daughter was reading it. I was reading it again and I just kept saying I had a whole take on it, but I wanted to try it. What I loved is, Disney really responded to acknowledging that. Like I wasn’t trying to do the book adapting it for the film it was very much clear I didn’t want to try to be the book. If we try to be the book, we’ll fail to show our love for the book showing sort of how much inspiration there is in the book. How strong the journey is in the book I could stay true to that then we might have a chance of finally getting it made. It’s been years of trying then of course when Ava joined that was the final magic piece of the puzzle.”
Writing The Adaptation Over The Past Four Years
It was exciting to hear first hand from Jennifer Lee how the past four years have been for her as she worked on writing the adaptation for “A Wrinkle In Time”. Jennifer Lee made it look easy, but do we truly know all the details…we do now!
“Everybody was different I tend to write in the mornings and then I can edit and give notes, some things in the afternoons. The morning is writing time, but I would go into animation in the afternoons and do that part of my job as well. For me, it was more of like every morning thing.
I spent about a year and a half to almost two years just writing. I worked very closely with Jim Whittaker and Catherine Hand the producers creatively then off to the studio to get notes. What I loved is the notes were always about deepening. There was never anything about the size or scope or too big or too small it was always, “this family”.
There comes a time where they go out to directors and look for interest I had thought of Ava, only because I thought someone who can do science fiction, you could do all that. What you really need is someone who can like, very evocative and make you feel something that you never felt before. Do it in such a way that is so grounded in truth and when they brought her in, I was shocked and couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Then we go into the next phase which is when it becomes her film and she doesn’t have to keep me on she could have rewritten it herself. She’s an amazing writer luckily, she wanted to keep me around. At first, there was a lot of conversations and we talked deeper and deeper of the characters. She wanted to get her head around the physics, I love physics. We would do all that and then of course as the cast and the crew come. A fun thing for Ava and I was the bully Veronica is a matchup of her biggest bully and my biggest bully. What I appreciate though, is that journey was like understanding that the bully has wounds as well. All the little things we did together and then we brought the cast in and they brought a lot to it.
Chris Pine loved the science so when we met with Dr. Alexander he met with us too and we have these great conversations about quantum physics. It was really connecting from the ground up with something important is something so fantastical. So that’s kind of the four years in two minutes, maybe.”
Favorite Lines From The Book That Had To Be In The Movie
Jennifer Lee also shared with us a couple her favorite lines from the book that had to be in the movie. Some of which is also my favorite lines!
“wild nights in my glory”
“I give you your flaws”
There’s so many we would take up a whole paragraph and have to reduce it to a sentence. There are things where I think are in the book and then I look back and I go oh no the book is like a page on the subject. Those are the two, like favorites that popped out for me.”
Inspiration Behind Storytelling
For Jennifer, Lee storytelling is more than just a dream job it has truly become her passion.
“I would just about look for the signs in your life when I was little I was drawing all the time. I love Disney, I thought I could be an animator, but I wasn’t a good enough artist. I was always writing things, but they would gel. But it was like, there’s something inside, I was running sagas in my head. I would have these like epic journeys going on at night, to fall asleep and one day I wrote a scene down.
I overheard something, and I just started writing it. And I turned it into a scene and I went, oh my god. Like this is the thing that I’ve been looking for the kind of writing that film is. What you can see, what you can hear, and what you can say. Like the reducing it that way having those limitations did something and I had already been a visual artist, so I knew I was a visual thinker.
I was 30 when I went to film school I’d had a whole decade in book publishing so for me I came to it late. It was certainly the signs of saying, Oh, I was drawing as a kid but if I look back, I was drawing stories.
I wasn’t just drawing it was like, turn the page. Kind of comic book stuff it was never something that anyone told me I could do. No one ever thought if I try to look now too and I think kids are able to find those things better now.”
From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.
Meg Murry is a typical middle school student struggling with issues of self-worth who just wants to fit in. The daughter of two world-renowned physicists, she is intelligent and uniquely gifted, as is Meg’s younger brother, Charles Wallace, but she has yet to realize it for herself. Complicating matters is the mysterious disappearance of Mr. Murry, which has left Meg devastated and her mother broken-hearted. Charles Wallace introduces Meg and her fellow classmate Calvin to three celestial beings (Mrs. Which, Mrs. Whatsit and Mrs. Who) who have journeyed to Earth to help search for their father, and together they embark on their formidable quest. Traveling via a wrinkling of time and space are known as tessering, they are transported to worlds beyond their imagination where they must confront a powerful evil force. To make it back home to Earth, Meg must face the darkness within herself in order to harness the strength necessary to defeat the darkness rapidly enveloping the Universe.