Vicky Jenson

Not to be confused with Vicki Jensen.
Vicky Jenson
Born Victoria Jenson
Occupation Director, production designer
Years active 1977–present
Notable work Shrek, Shark Tale

Victoria "Vicky" Jenson (born 1960)[1] is a film director of both live-action and animated films,[2] and has been said to be "one of Hollywood's most inspiring female Directors [sic]".[3] She has directed projects for DreamWorks Animation including Shrek, the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature,[4][5][6] giving rise to one of Hollywood's largest film franchises.[7]


Biography and early work

Jenson began painting animation cells at the age of 13.[8] She attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and California State University Northridge.[9] She "started as a background artist at Hanna-Barbera in 1977, became a storyboard artist for Warner Bros., Marvel and Disney Television, and variously worked as a production designer, art director and co-producer".[4] In the early 1980s, Jenson worked on the storyboard backgrounds on the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon series for Filmation. She was also a design and color stylist on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures, the influential Ralph Bakshi reboot of Mighty Mouse, in the 1980s. She held the same position with The Ren & Stimpy Show in the early 1990s, for creator John Kricfalusi.[4] For both Mighty Mouse and Ren & Stimpy, Jenson was among those "responsible for the development of the visual style" of the series.[4] In 1992, Jenson was the art director for FernGully: The Last Rainforest,[4][10] and the production designer for Computer Warriors: The Adventure Begins and Playroom. In 2000, Jenson began working for DreamWorks as a production designer and story artist for The Road to El Dorado.[4][8]

Directing career

Having worked on The Road to El Dorado (2000) for DreamWorks, the studio initially hired Jenson to work on Shrek as a story artist, with the directors to be Andrew Adamson (also a first-time director) and Kelly Asbury, who had joined in 1997 to co-direct the film. However, Asbury left a year later for work on the 2002 film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Jenson was selected by producer Jeffrey Katzenberg to be the new director of the film.[7][8] Jenson recalled her experience being brought into Shrek, and eventually tapped to direct, as follows:

For a long time, the movie didn’t know what it wanted to be. One problem was unavoidable: Chris Farley had died, and the story had been geared around him, so when he went, the story kind of went with him. It went through an upheaval while they tried to find the right tone for it. I think they were really close to shelving the project when a few of us came into story to try and find a tone that we could work with. When Kelly Asbury moved on to Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron I became head of story, along with Randy Cartwright. Along with Andrew Adamson, who stayed on as director, we started pulling little pieces together out of what remained, and part of the way through, Jeffrey decided that I should be directing. A few months later, we started production.[7]

Jenson described the directing process as one in which "we didn't try to figure out how to make adolescents laugh. You have to use yourself as the best judge and use your own instincts. We figured if we laughed at it, chances are good someone else would too".[8] According to Adamson, the co-directors mutually decided to split the work in half, so the crew could at least know who to go to with specific questions about the film's sequences: "We both ended up doing a lot of everything", "We're both kinda control freaks, and we both wanted to do everything."[11][4] Following the success of Shrek, Jenson went on to co-direct Shark Tale with Bibo Bergeron and Rob Letterman.[12] In 2003, while working on Shark Tale, Jenson received the first annual Kiera Chaplin Limelight award given at the Women's Image Network Awards.[13]

Live action work

She directed a live-action short, Family Tree, which "premiered at Sundance, screened at countless festivals, including Sundance, SXSW, Aspen and Malibu and went on to win multiple festival awards".[6] In 2009, she finished her first live-action feature directorial work for the Alexis Bledel-starring comedy, Post Grad.[2] The film received mixed reviews, but Roger Ebert awarded it three out of four stars, stating, "[i]f you're cynical or jaded, it might not get past you. But here is the first movie in a long time that had me actually admitting I wouldn't mind seeing a sequel".[14] Also in 2009, Jenson directed all of the spots for the year-long "Modelquins" ad campaign for Old Navy, including the "Supermodelquins Christmas" ads.[15] She was represented by the Anonymous Content agency for the campaign.[16]

In 2015, Jenson directed a stage production of the play, Time Stands Still, by Donald Margulies.[3] The Los Angeles Times wrote of Jenson's stage directorial debut: "the staging by Vicky Jenson successfully captures the script's broad contours",[17] and Broadway World praised the production, stating that "Vicky Jenson smoothly directs her uniformly skilled four-member cast".[18]


Year Title Position
1985 The Secret of the Sword storyboard artist
1987 Rock Odyssey background artist
Slam Dance storyboard artist
Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night storyboard artist
1988 She's Having a Baby storyboard artist
Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw designer
1990 Playroom production designer
1992 FernGully: The Last Rainforest storyboard artist/art director/layout artist/layout designer
2000 The Road to El Dorado storyboard artist/additional production designer/production designer
Chicken Run additional story
2001 Shrek director
2003 Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas additional story artist
2004 Shark Tale director
2005 Cerebral Print: The Secret Files actress
2008 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa development
2009 Post Grad director

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2001 Academy Awards Best Animated Feature Shrek Won
BAFTA Awards 2001 Children's Award, Best Feature Film Shrek Won
Annie Awards Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Feature Production Shrek Won
Cannes Film Festival Palm d'Or Shrek Nominated
L.A. Film Critics Association Best Animation Shrek Won
National Board of Review Best Animated Feature Shrek Won
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival Audience Award Shrek Won
2002 BAFTA Awards 2002 Best Adapted Screenplay Shrek Won
Critics' Choice Awards 2002 Best Animated Film Shrek Won
People's Choice Awards Favorite Motion Picture. Shrek Won
2003 Aspen Shorts Fest 2003 Audience Award, Glenwood Springs Section Family Tree Won
SXSW 2003 Special Jury Award, Narrative Short Family Tree Won
Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival Best Short Family Tree Won
Dragon*Con Independent Film Festival Best Magical Realism Family Tree Won
Empire Film Festival 2003 Audience Award, Best Short Family Tree Won
Malibu Film Festival 2003 Best of the Fest Family Tree Won
Malibu Film Festival 2003 Best Live Action Short Family Tree Won
DeadCENTER Film Festival Grand Jury Award Family Tree Won
Wine Country Film Festival 2003 Best Short Film (Novela Form Film) Family Tree Won
2004 Big Bear Lake Int'l Film Festival 2004 Jury Award, Best Short Film Family Tree Won
2005 Academy Awards Best Animated Feature Shark Tale Nominated
BAFTA Awards 2005 Children's Award, Best Feature Film. Shark Tale Nominated
ASCAP Awards 2005 Top Box Office Film Shark Tale Won

Personal life

Jenson is the sister of classical violinist Dylana Jenson.[2]


  1. "Vicky Jenson".
  2. 1 2 3 Biography for Vicky Jenson at the Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  3. 1 2 "Vicky Jenson to Direct TIME STANDS STILL at Secret Rose Theatre", Broadway World (December 17, 2014).
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Yoram Allon, Del Cullen, Hannah Patterson, Contemporary North American film directors: a Wallflower critical guide (2002), p. 2.
  5. Andrew Osmond, 100 Animated Feature Films (2010), p. 185.
  6. 1 2 ACME filmworks page on Vicky Jenson.
  7. 1 2 3 Michael Mallory, "Firsts Among Equals", Animation Magazine (March 6th, 2014).
  8. 1 2 3 4 Hillary Atkin, "Vicky Jenson: Filmmaker", Variety (November 14, 2001).
  9. "Vicky Jenson". ACME Film Works. Retrieved 23 June 2016.
  10. Andrew Osmond, 100 Animated Feature Films (2010), p. 71.
  11. Neuwirth, Allan (2003). Makin' Toons: Inside the Most Popular Animated TV Shows and Movies. Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
  12. Tom Sito, Drawing the Line: The Untold Story of the Animation Unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson (2006), p. 27.
  13. Ball, Ryan (November 3, 2003). "Kim Possible Wins WIN Awards". Animation. Retrieved June 1, 2013. The first annual Kiera Chaplin Limelight award was presented to Vicky Jenson, co-director of DreamWorks' animated blockbuster Shrek and the upcoming Shark Tale (formerly Sharkslayer).
  14. Ebert, Roger."Post Grad" (review), Chicago Sun-Times, August 19, 2009
  15. "Old Navy Supermodelquins Christmas", Inspiration Room (December 5, 2009).
  16. "Anonymous Content Launches Web and TV Campaign For Old Navy".
  17. Philip Brandes, "Unrealized potential in 'Time Stands Still'", Los Angeles Times (January 23, 2015).
  18. Kaan, Gil (19 January 2015). "BWW Reviews: Margulies' Intense TIME STANDS STILL Powerfully Provokes". Broadway World. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
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