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Pixar/Disney rolled out an Astroturf green carpet for its Monday premiere of Brave, keeping in sync with the verdant theme of the lush, Scotland-set adventure.
A Pixar movie’s arrival has long been an event for critics and box-office observers, but Brave arrives with a bit of baggage. It’s the first Pixar movie after Cars 2, seen by many as a purely commercial play by a company known for its originality, and it comes after a very public switch of directors.
Brenda Chapman conceived the film’s idea — the story is set in a long-ago Scotland, where a feisty Highland princess with a penchant for archery places a curse on her mother after a nasty disagreement — and was set to become the first female director of a Pixar film until she was replaced by Mark Andrews in October 2010. The move drew a round of rare criticism for the admired animation studio.
“It’s sad that’s what was latched on to,” Andrews told The Hollywood Reporter at Brave’s premiere at the newly refurbished Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak Theatre) in Hollywood. “This happens all the time in the motion picture industry. Why doesn’t anyone go to DreamWorks and see how many times they change directors? Or Sony? Or anybody?”
In fact, Pixar has switched directors on several movies, including Toy Story 2, Cars 2 and Ratatouille, which won a best animated film Oscar.
The problem, according to Andrews, was that the story wasn’t where it needed to be when the movie was 18 months away from its release date. It tried attempted to accomplish too much with too many characters, producers said, and even with the Pixar brain trust of John Lasseter, Pete Doctor and Andrew Stanton helping, the project was stuck.
Enter Andrews, who had been consulting on the project as an expert on all things Scottish (he even wore a kilt to the premiere and beamed proudly as his son ate the haggis that was served). His solution was to focus on the daughter and strip away the rest.
To him, the gender storm over the director switch evidenced a double standard in Hollywood.
“We’ve replaced male directors. Where’s all the blowback for the male ones? It doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said. “We’re filmmakers, we’re storytellers, we’re genderless — or at least we should be.“
Pixar also raised a few eyebrows among loyalists by making its first female lead a princess. “Alas,” worried some hard-core fans, “Pixar was making a Disney princess movie!“
“On this one,” said producer Katherine Sarafian, an 18-year Pixar vet, “we really had to zone out all the outside voices: ‘You’re doing a girl movie.’ ‘You’re doing a princess movie.’ ‘You’re doing this and that.’ All those conventions of the genre would hit us, and we would break rules just to break rules. We had to stop and had to go tunnel vision and stop treating her as a ‘girl’ character but as a character.”
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