Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Jennifer Yuh Nelson in May 2012 at the C2-MTL business conference
May 7, 1972
|Alma mater||California State University, Long Beach|
|Occupation||Director, storyboard artist|
|Kung Fu Panda 2|
Kung Fu Panda 3
The Darkest Minds
Jennifer Yuh Nelson (born May 7, 1972), also known as Jennifer Yuh, is a Korean-American director and storyboard artist. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. She is also one of the few Asian-American directors who is economically successful.
She won an Annie Award for Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production for directing the opening for Kung Fu Panda and was the second woman nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, for her work on Kung Fu Panda 2. The film proved to be one of the most financially successful films directed by a woman.
Yuh was born in 1972 in South Korea and immigrated to the United States with her parents and two sisters when she was 4 years old. She started sketching and drawing at a young age, while developing an interest with 80s action movies and anime. Her favorite filmmakers were James Cameron, Ridley Scott, and Katsuhiro Otomo. Yuh spent her childhood in Lakewood, California, where she enjoyed watching martial arts movies, playing with cars, and drawing. "I have been drawing since age 3 and making movies in my head for almost as long. In fact, drawing for me was a way to express those films when I had no other means of doing so," said Yuh. As a young girl, she would sit at the kitchen table for hours and watch her mother draw, copying her every stroke. As a kid, she would fancy stories with her sisters and was learning to draw to get down those stories. Yuh traces the lineage of her career to those formative family experiences.
Interested in art, Yuh followed her sisters to California State University, Long Beach, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration. There she got introduced to animation, "When I was in college years later, a veteran storyboard artist came to talk to my class. He showed us how he drew movies for a living. My mind exploded. And that led to a career in animation." Jennifer then followed her sisters into an animation business - at first as a cleanup artist at Jetlag Productions, where she worked on various direct-to-video features. In 1997, she got hired as a storyboard artist on HBO's Todd McFarlane's Spawn series.
In 1998, Yuh joined DreamWorks Animation as a storyboard artist, where she worked on Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, and Madagascar. As a big fan of martial arts movies, she asked to work on the first Kung Fu Panda film, where she served as head of story and director of the opening hand-drawn dream sequence. After the release of Kung Fu Panda, Jeffrey Katzenberg, DWA's CEO at the time, approached Yuh about directing Kung Fu Panda 2. Although she hadn't expressed interest in directing the sequel to the film, Producer Melissa Cobb stated that she should direct the second one due to her excellent work on the first, to which the rest of the crew supported the decision. The film proved a major critical and international box office success with a worldwide gross of $665.6 million, making it the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman until director Jennifer Lee's Frozen two years later. She held the record for highest-grossing film by a solo female director until the release of Patty Jenkins' 2017 film Wonder Woman. She eventually became the first woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film (since 2007's Persepolis) and to win the Annie Award for Best Directing in a Feature Production. Yuh returned to co-direct Kung Fu Panda 3 alongside Alessandro Carloni, which was released in 2016. In July 2016, she was also added as one of the board of Governors by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In 2016, Yuh announced that would be making her live action directorial debut with an adaptation of Alexandra Bracken's The Darkest Minds for 20th Century Fox. Producer Shawn Levy praised Jennifer for her visual sensibility as well as her natural narrative qualities. She described herself as soft-spoken, contrary to what contemporary directors are often personified as; instead, she used storyboards to help pitch her ideas to Shawn Levy and 21 Laps.
|1998||Dark City||Production illustrator/Story artist|
|2002||Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron||Story artist|
|2003||Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas||Head of story|
|2008||Kung Fu Panda||Head of story|
Annie Award for Best Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production
|2011||Kung Fu Panda 2||Director|
Annie Award for Best Directing in a Feature Production
|2016||Kung Fu Panda 3||Director (with Alessandro Carloni)|
|2018||The Darkest Minds||Director|
|2019||How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World||Additional story artist|
|1997||Real Adventures of Jonny Quest||Character Designer, Character Design, Background Artist, Storyboard Artist|
|Extreme Ghostbusters||Storyboard Artist|
|1997-1999||Todd McFarlane's Spawn||Director, Storyboard Artist, Character Designer|
|1998||Spicy City||Head of Story, Visual Effects|
|2008||HBO First Look||Herself|
|2012||IC Places Hollywood||Herself|
|TBA||Love, Death & Robots||Supervising Director (season 2)|
|1994||Happy, the Littlest Bunny||Assistant designer|
|1994||Leo the Lion: King of the Jungle||Assistant designer|
|1994||A Christmas Carol||Assistant designer|
|1995||Alice in Wonderland||Assistant designer|
|1995||Magic Gift of the Snowman||Assistant designer|
|1995||Jungle Book||Assistant designer|
|2003||Sinbad and the Cyclops Island||Story writer|
|2008||Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five||Storyboard artist|
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