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Jennifer Yuh Nelson

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.[2] She is also one of the few Asian-American directors who is economically successful.[3]

Jennifer Yuh Nelson
Jennifer Yuh Nelson.jpg
Jennifer Yuh Nelson in May 2012 at the C2-MTL business conference
Jennifer Yuh

(1972-05-07) May 7, 1972 (age 47)[1]
ResidenceUnited States
Alma materCalifornia State University, Long Beach
OccupationDirector, storyboard artist
Years active1994–present
Notable work
Kung Fu Panda 2
Kung Fu Panda 3
The Darkest Minds

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.

Biography and careerEdit

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.[4] 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.[citation needed]

Interested in art, Yuh followed her sisters to California State University, Long Beach,[5] where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration.[2] 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."[4] Jennifer then followed her sisters into the animation industry, at first working as a cleanup artist at Jetlag Productions, where she worked on various direct-to-video features.[4] Following a brief stint at Hanna-Barbera Productions on The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest for Cartoon Network,[6] she was later hired as a storyboard artist on HBO's Todd McFarlane's Spawn series in 1997.[7]

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.[5] After the release of Kung Fu Panda, Jeffrey Katzenberg, DWA's CEO at the time, approached Yuh about directing Kung Fu Panda 2.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] In July 2016, she was also added as one of the board of Governors by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[11]

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.[12] 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.[13]

In 2018, Yuh announced that she would be working on a remake of the Korean film A Bittersweet Life, with Michael B. Jordan starring.[13]

In June 2019, Yuh was hired as supervising director of the second season of the Netflix animated anthology series, Love, Death & Robots.[14]


Feature filmsEdit

Year Title Role
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
2005 Madagascar Story artist
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[15] Director (with Alessandro Carloni)
2018 The Darkest Minds[16] Director
2019 How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Additional story artist


Year Title Role
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
2016 Tavis Smiley Herself
2018 Kore Conversations Herself
TBA Love, Death & Robots Supervising Director (season 2)


Year Title Role
1994 Cinderella Assistant designer
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
1995 Heidi Assistant designer
2003 Sinbad and the Cyclops Island Story writer
2008 Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five Storyboard artist

Awards and NominationsEdit


  1. ^ "Yuh, Jennifer". Library of Congress. Retrieved September 10, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Sperling, Nicole (May 25, 2011). "Tough enough". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
  3. ^ Kim, Elaine H. (2017). "Overcoming barriers to representation". The Routledge Companion to Asian American Media. Taylor & Francis. p. 84. ISBN 9781317540847.
  4. ^ a b c "JENNIFER YUH NELSON • DREAMWORKS". 2011-04-18. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
  5. ^ a b Hulett, Steve (January 23, 2012). "The Jennifer Yuh Nelson Interview -- Part I". The Animation Guild Blog. Retrieved January 23, 2012.
  6. ^ Inoa, Christopher (August 14, 2018). "Darkest Minds director Jennifer Yuh Nelson is a quiet force making history in Hollywood". Syfy Wire. NBCUniversal Media, LLC. Retrieved November 14, 2019.
  7. ^ Nusair, David. "Jennifer Yuh Bio". Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved February 6, 2012.
  8. ^ "Interview with KUNG FU PANDA 2 Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson". 2011-05-31. Archived from the original on 2011-06-16. Retrieved 2011-07-11.
  9. ^ "Q&A with Jennifer Yuh Nelson". CAAM. January 25, 2016.
  10. ^ Young, John (August 29, 2011). "'Kung Fu Panda 2' becomes highest-grossing film directed by a woman". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 2, 2011.
  11. ^ "Academy Appoints Jennifer Yuh Nelson Governor At Large". Animation World Network.
  12. ^ Nordine, Michael (July 12, 2016). "'Darkest Minds': Jennifer Yuh Nelson of 'Kung Fu Panda' to Make Live-Action Directorial Debut with Ya Adaptation". Indiewire.
  13. ^ a b Barker, Andrew (2018-07-26). "Billion Dollar Filmmaker: Jennifer Yuh Nelson Moves From Toontown to 'Darkest' Side". Variety. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  14. ^ Maas, Jennifer (June 10, 2019). "'Love, Death and Robots' Renewed at Netflix, Adds 'Kung Fu Panda 3' Director". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  15. ^ "New Distributor Twentieth Century Fox Unveils DreamWorks Animation's Release Slate Through 2016". DreamWorks Animation. September 9, 2012. Archived from the original on October 12, 2013. Retrieved September 10, 2012.
  16. ^ Howey, Josh (March 23, 2017). "Gwendoline Christie Joins YA Novel Adaptation The Darkest Minds". Empire. Retrieved April 27, 2017.

External linksEdit