On Friday, June 24th, the Fifth Annual V3Con Digital Media Conference honored Jennifer Yuh Nelson, the director of DreamWorks Animation Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) and Kung Fu Panda 3 (2016) with the Vision Award for being at the forefront of the animation space. Held by the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) of Los Angeles, the conference was an attempt to recognize the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who continue to contribute to the diversity of America’s digital media industry.
As a 4-year-old South Korean immigrant who used to sit in a corner and draw on any piece of blank paper she could find, Yuh Nelson could have never imagined herself being at the forefront of Hollywood’s animation scene one day. On summer 2011, DreamWorks’s blockbuster Kung Fu Panda 2 grossed over $650 million globally, making Yuh Nelson the highest-grossing female director at the worldwide box office.
However, Yuh Nelson’s story is more than about a creative introvert thrust into the glamorous limelight of Hollywood celebrities. Watching her interviews, panel talks, and conference speeches, one soon realizes it is Jennifer’s passion for art, calmness, modesty, and pleasant presence that makes her the strong pioneer she represents in the industry today.
Here are five things we all can learn from a woman who has reached such an awesome milestone in her life:
1. Focus on one task at a time
In their interview with Alessandro Carloni, Yuh Nelson claims that she was never the kind of person who looked at several jobs ahead just because the opportunities kept presenting themselves. Always focusing on one project at a time, Jennifer wanted to enjoy herself and do the best she possibly could with what she had on her plate in the moment.
2. Aim to achieve your fullest potential, and perfection follows
Nelson’s Kung Fu Panda is not about a perfect hero on high far away, but rather, about a humble one whose journey it is to make himself achieve his fullest potential by pushing the boundaries in whatever way possible.
3. Do what you love: Passion and dedication
When asked about whether she always knew whether she wanted to be a director of an animated film, Jennifer responded that she had no idea or any big initial plans. She just drew her whole life and had always loved drawing. For her, it was always a picture and an image before anything else. She drew for hours and hours with passion and dedication.
4. Keep the balance
Nelson teaches us that your professional job is important, but so is your personal family life. She tries to balance. She knows that she has a family life and protects that seriously. To go home and have a normal life is important to her.
5. One last thing
Try hard, but don’t kill yourself. Take Jennifer’s advice: “Creativity is a by-product of not trying so hard, because if you allow your brain to wonder, it can hook to certain frequencies and broadcast you may not actually be able to hitch onto otherwise.”