Pixar's thirteenth feature film, Brave, is finally out in the U.K., and is truly a fantastic film, but there's been quite a bit of chatter about the behind-the-scenes politics of the film's production too. Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt, The Lion King) conceived the idea for Brave - originally as The Bear and the Bow - based on her own Scottish roots, and her relationship with her daughter. The film, therefore, was a passion project for her. So it had to have stung when, in 2010, she was replaced as the director of the film, by Mark Andrews (The Incredibles, John Carter).
The film turned out great, with "creative differences" cited as the reason for the replacement; we heard Brenda was staying on at Pixar, and everything seemed rosy. Not so much. People in the industry voiced distaste at the replacement (check out the comments section on Cartoon Brew's post about it - Home on the Range co-director John Sanford scathingly indited Pixar their, saying "Brenda was shoved aside because she was doing an unconventional movie in a studio that fears failure. They are second-guessing themselves to death."). However, we heard little from Brenda, or indeed Pixar, on the subject. However, last week we were told that Brenda had left Pixar, instead pursuing a role at Lucasfilm animation. The word then was that she had only stayed at Pixar that long to ensure she received her co-directing credit on the film.
No longer under employ by Pixar, Brenda wrote an article for the New York Times on Tuesday, called "Stand Up for Yourself, and Mentor Others". The original writer-director of Brave spoke candidly about the transition, the lack of protection for animation directors, and the role of women in Hollywood:
"It has been a heartbreakingly hard road for me over the last year and a half. When Pixar took me off of "Brave" – a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter – it was devastating."
It's a sad read, for sure, and it must've been very hard for Brenda, to lose such a personal project. It's little surprise she chose to leave; look at Jan Pinkava after being replaced by Brad Bird on Ratatouille. It's hard to judge, having only seen the final version, but word is that the changes are often for the best, in the best interest of the film, but it can't be easy, and it certainly does raise questions about the safety of directors at Pixar - it can never be easy having something you love taken away from you. To her credit though, Chapman, a lovely and talented person, seemed overwhelmingly proud of the film and the roles of all involved:
"But in the end, my vision came through in the film. It simply wouldn’t have worked without it (and didn't at one point), and I knew this at my core. So I kept my head held high, stayed committed to my principles, and was supported by some strong women (and men!). In the end, it worked out, and I’m very proud of the movie, and that I ultimately stood up for myself, just like Merida"
I, resolutely, have faith in Pixar, they are the gold-standard of animation, and indeed film, but this is tough to read. We wish Brenda the best at Lucasfilm and wherever she may lay her hat next.