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Director Brenda Chapman Says Being Removed From 'Brave' Was "Devastating"

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by Drew Taylor
August 16, 2012 11:17 AM
7 Comments
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The story of Disney/Pixar's "Brave" is a complicated one, fraught with battle-hardened debates and hurt feelings, and we're just talking about what happened behind the scenes of the Scottish-set fairy tale. Originally conceived as the first feature from a female filmmaker at the notoriously male-oriented studio, it was to be written and directed by Brenda Chapman, an animation vet who shepherded the second Disney Renaissance and directed "Prince of Egypt" at DreamWorks. However, eighteen months before the movie was set to premiere, she was removed from the project and, in subsequent months, the studio. (She recently got a job on a typically secretive project at LucasFilm.) Chapman hasn't said one word about her experience on "Brave." Until now.

In a wonderfully heartfelt essay she wrote for The New York Times about gender inequality in the film business, she opens up about her experience on "Brave" and how that made her feel, as a filmmaker and a woman. "It has been a heartbreakingly hard road for me over the last year and a half," Chapman wrote. "When Pixar took me off of 'Brave' – a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter – it was devastating." Yikes.

Chapman goes on to describe how she was at odds with the system itself. “Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors, who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them,” she wrote. “We are replaced on a regular basis — and that was a real issue for me. This was a story that I created, which came from a very personal place, as a woman and a mother. To have it taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels.”

And while Chapman does maintain that she is, at least, somewhat happy with the movie that was released this past summer ("In the end, it worked out, and I’m very proud of the movie"), she admits it was a difficult road, saying that at one point the movie, without at least her passing input, didn't work at all. And that the fact that her name is attached and she doesn't totally disown the movie doesn't exactly help take the sting out of the situation, which was based on her gender just as much as her creative ability. "Sometimes women express an idea and are shot down, only to have a man express essentially the same idea and have it broadly embraced," Chapman wrote, tellingly.

We wonder if we'll ever really get the full story about what happened on "Brave," given the studios involved and the egos attached to those that made the big decisions, but if it ever comes out it's going to be one hell of a tale. Even these tidbits Chapman dropped have given us a lot to think about.  

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7 Comments

  • sara | August 20, 2012 5:12 PMReply

    In response to DOOD,

    You are too scared to say it, with your comment that Brenda Chapman's vision was "off base from all Pixar movies before..." But this "off base" aspect is merely something called "femininity." Maybe you've heard of it. The actions of Pixar show that the studio is not the director-centric studio they brag that they are. Instead, it's a macho, Lasseter-controlled man-propaganda machine. If a director's vision doesn't fit with John L's boy-centric mentality, the director gets the ax (even if the original idea is brilliant. And I heard that Chapman's initial project was beyond brilliant. Same thing is true with Glen Keane's Rapunzel, back before it was about a dashing male hero.) For the sake of argument, rewatch that predictable, cliche-laden Cars 2. If storytelling was # 1 priority, how could THAT atrocious, cinematic wreck got the greenlight??? Pixar (like Disney, Dreamworks, and every major studio before) is playing the old gender game: diss women in high power, and pander to the boys.

    Pixar is sexist.

  • Dood | August 17, 2012 10:38 PMReply

    Brenda, let's just be honest. Your intentions with this story were completely off base from all Pixar movies before. You envisioned a great character and a tremendous world, but fell victim to lazy, predictable storytelling, far too modern for a tall tale you were telling. Pixar obviously saw issue with your direction, saw that you were incapable of making proper decisions for this story, and you were off base. As usual when a director leaves their own project at Pixar, the studio gets rid of you, as it did Jan Pinkava and Brad Lewis. I still enjoyed the movie, but it had a brashness about it that felt a little more Mark Andrews then Brenda Chapman.

  • quentin | August 16, 2012 8:44 PMReply

    I recommend reading what Chapman actually wrote since I think the quote are note quite faire to Pixar and to what she meant...

  • Cde. | August 16, 2012 1:21 PMReply

    I see that my phone interpreted 'Pixar' as 'poser'. How strangely appropriate.

  • Cde. | August 16, 2012 1:19 PMReply

    Well, I was interested to hear about this. It's good to see Chapman free from Poser's shackles to finally speak what she thinks.

  • yer | August 16, 2012 11:27 AMReply

    *yawn* tired of hearing about this. Move on.

  • Ambrose | August 16, 2012 12:01 PM

    Someone forced you to click on and read this? Better buckle up Dorothy because life's filled with people talking about things you *gasp* might have no interest in.

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