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In an honest and heartfelt essay published in The New York Times, Brenda Chapman — the filmmaker who conceived of Disney Pixar’s Brave only to be pulled off the project during production — opens up about the experience, which she calls “devastating.”
“It has been a heartbreakingly hard road for me over the last year and a half,” Chapman writes. “When Pixar took me off of Brave — a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter — it was devastating.”
When the project was announced with Chapman at its helm — a fairytale set in 10th Century Scotland about a young, athletic princess who defies convention — it was heralded as an exciting moment for women working in the animation industry.
The powerhouse studio had never employed a female director before — very much in keeping with the rest of the business, which was and continues to be dominated by men.
So when news broke of the re-shuffling in late 2010, with Chapman replaced by veteran storyboard artist Mark Andrews, it served as more than simply another tale of Hollywood creative differences: It was a symbolic blow to the kind of female-empowerment lessons Brave itself had set out to teach.
“Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them,” Chapman explains. “We are replaced on a regular basis. … To have [my story] taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels.”
Brave opened last June to a very respectable $67 million weekend haul and — if not the critical triumph of other Pixar releases like Wall-E, Toy Story 3 and Up — mostly positive reviews. Chapman, who attended the premiere, says she’s “proud” of the movie, and that “my vision came through” in the final product.
“It simply wouldn’t have worked without it (and didn’t at one point),” she writes. “So I kept my head held high, stayed committed to my principles, and was supported by some strong women (and men!).”
But that isn’t to say Chapman has made peace with an industry she says is too quick to validate her male contemporaries’ ideas over her own.
“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 writes.
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