When Pixar’s Brave arrived in theaters in June, two directors shared full credit for the film: Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. The project had originated with Chapman – who’d previously directed DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt – but at the beginning of 2011, the studio took the reins from her completely and handed them to Andrews, who’d worked on The Incredibles and Ratatouille.
It was a surprising development to say the least, given that Chapman had been Pixar’s first female director of a feature length film, not to mention that Brave featured the studio’s first female protagonist, a fiery Scottish archer-princess named Merida (Kelly Macdonald). But other than a brief comment to the Los Angeles Times in 2011 that the split was due to “creative differences,” Chapman has remained silent on the matter. Until now.
In an essay for a larger New York Times feature about women’s perpetual underrepresentation in all corners of Hollywood, Chapman wrote that the past year and a half had been “a heartbreakingly hard road” for her. “When Pixar took me off of Brave – a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter – it was devastating,” she writes.
While she still does not go into any specifics about why she was removed from the film, Chapman makes quite clear she did not agree with the decision. “Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors, who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them,” she writes. “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.”
Chapman does point out that ultimately her “vision” remained in the film, and that she remains “very proud of the movie.” But her last word on the matter (for now) would seem to suggest that after reportedly leaving Pixar to consult on an animation project for Lucasfilm, she’s not eager to return. “Sometimes women express an idea and are shot down, only to have a man express essentially the same idea and have it broadly embraced,” she writes. “Until there is a sufficient number of women executives in high places, this will continue to happen.”
When reached by EW, Pixar declined to comment.