The story of Disney/Pixar‘s “Brave” is a complicated one, fraught with battle-hardened debates and hurt feelings, and we’re just talking about what happened behind the scenes of the Scottish-set fairy tale. Originally conceived as the first feature from a female filmmaker at the notoriously male-oriented studio, it was to be written and directed by Brenda Chapman, an animation vet who shepherded the second Disney Renaissance and directed “Prince of Egypt” at DreamWorks. However, eighteen months before the movie was set to premiere, she was removed from the project and, in subsequent months, the studio. (She recently got a job on a typically secretive project at LucasFilm.) Chapman hasn’t said one word about her experience on “Brave.” Until now.
In a wonderfully heartfelt essay she wrote for The New York Times about gender inequality in the film business, she opens up about her experience on “Brave” and how that made her feel, as a filmmaker and a woman. “It has been a heartbreakingly hard road for me over the last year and a half,” Chapman wrote. “When Pixar took me off of ‘Brave’ – a story that came from my heart, inspired by my relationship with my daughter – it was devastating.” Yikes.
Chapman goes on to describe how she was at odds with the system itself. “Animation directors are not protected like live-action directors, who have the Directors Guild to go to battle for them,” she wrote. “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.”
And while Chapman does maintain that she is, at least, somewhat happy with the movie that was released this past summer (“In the end, it worked out, and I’m very proud of the movie”), she admits it was a difficult road, saying that at one point the movie, without at least her passing input, didn’t work at all. And that the fact that her name is attached and she doesn’t totally disown the movie doesn’t exactly help take the sting out of the situation, which was based on her gender just as much as her creative ability. “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 wrote, tellingly.
We wonder if we’ll ever really get the full story about what happened on “Brave,” given the studios involved and the egos attached to those that made the big decisions, but if it ever comes out it’s going to be one hell of a tale. Even these tidbits Chapman dropped have given us a lot to think about.