It was the best of times, it was the worst of times – Mark Andrews, who makes his feature directorial debut this weekend on Pixar's heavily hyped, medieval girl-power romp "Brave" (taking duties over for Brenda Chapman, who parted ways with the film – more on that in a minute) was also an assistant director and co-writer on "John Carter," Disney's massively budgeted sci-fi spectacle that crashed and burned like an out-of-control Martian spaceship. Few filmmakers have been in the unenviable position of being involved in huge (and occasionally troubled) productions this close together. But anyone who has seen behind-the-scenes footage of Andrews knows that he is so excitable and energetic that he makes a rocket-powered cheetah look lazy by comparison. We talked to Andrews about the difficult process of making "Brave," what he wants to bring to the fairytale genre, and how he feels about the lackluster response to "John Carter."
Animated movies are notoriously hard to put together – with productions that can often last the better part of a decade and utilize hundreds of artists and technicians. But for "Brave," the production was even more turbulent than most, with its original director, Brenda Chapman (a veteran on everything from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" to "Prince of Egypt"), who had developed the original story, being removed, and Andrews (who had previously directed the Oscar-nominated Pixar short "One Man Band") taking her place.
"I've been on 'Brave' since the beginning in this kind of outside satellite consultant kind of way. I'm a Scottishphile, history buff, everything Middle Ages and Celtic lore and myth are things in my wheelhouse," Andrews explained. "I went with them on their research trip to Scotland in 2006, and being a fellow director at Pixar, we're all there helping the directors with their film in what we call the Brain Trust. Every time Brenda got it up on reels we could look at it and critique it and add suggestions on how to make it better and where it's not working and all that jazz. About 18 months ago, Pixar asked me to step onboard to direct – to take over and to build upon what Brenda was doing."
What exactly happened (and why she was replaced) isn't some story fraught with drama but rather a clinical decision to get the movie done in the amount of time that was required. And it's not an uncommon practice in Pixar history (although this case might have been more sensitive since it was their first female director). "The story reaches a spot where you have about 18 months to go before a release date and it's time to really evaluate the movie and see where it needs to be," Andrews explained. "And in this case, 'Ratatouille''s case, 'Toy Story 2's case, there's been this moment where the story's not working as well as it should be and we don't have much time left and something drastic has to happen to get it going and get it up to that level. And sometimes that means a director change, which is exactly what happened. So I came on board and kind of treated it as an adaptation."