Friday, November 25, 2011


Directors get fired from animated features all the time for various reasons: they go over budget, they take too long or they have “creative differences” with studios.  Glen Keane got replaced after working for seven years on Disney’s RAPUNZEL, renamed TANGLED,  Jan Pinkava  was replaced on Pixar’s RATATOUILLE after five years of work and last year Brenda Chapman was replaced by Pixar after six years as sole director on THE BEAR AND THE BOW, renamed BRAVE.
    What made Brenda’s replacement particularly disappointing was the fact that, while most major studios have at least two directors on every feature film, prestigious Pixar often has only one and Brenda would have joined such illustrious solo directors as John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Lee Unkrich and would have been only the second woman solo director of a big-budget animated feature for a major studio in the seventy-four year history of Hollywood feature animation. On the other hand, she does join
other illustrious replaced animation directors like Glen Keane, Jan Pinkava, Roger Allers.   
    Nobody is saying that Brenda was hired or fired for being a girl,
but the animation industry has been watching her with great interest because she was expected to join the one solo female director of a big-budget animated feature film for a major Hollywood studio in seventy-four years: Jennifer Yuh, who directed KUNGFU PANDA 2 for DreamWorks.
    Brenda Chapman appears to be the first woman to to get a co-director’s credit, on DreamWorks’ PRINCE OF EGYPT (with Simon Wells and Steve Hickner) in 1998.  In 2000 Jun Falkenstein solo-directed Disney's modestly budgeted feature THE TIGGER MOVIE, in 2002 Lorna Cook co-directed, with Kelly Asbury, SPIRIT: STALLIN OF THE CIMARRON, in 2006 Jill Culton co-directed (with Roger Allers and Antony Stacchi) OPEN SEASON for Sony and, in 2012 Brenda will get another co-director’s credit (with Mark Andrews) for BRAVE.
    Five woman directors in seventy-four years.  Is this pathetic or what?
    Even though there are many female producers in the Hollywood animation industry, on the creative side breasts and ovaries seem to be impediments to heading departments and directing.  Well, most studio heads seem to think so anyway, with the exception of Jeffrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks, who hired Lorna Cook, Brenda Chapman and Jennifer Yuh.
    Another possible factor in Brenda Chapman’s replacement could be parent-company Disney’s change of animated feature template. A fairly sexist template too, when you think that their target demographic is twelve-year-old boys. As we know, Disney’s RAPUNZEL was reworked to fit this template and renamed TANGLED. Why reworked?  Because Disney allegedly blamed the lack of profits generated by THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG on the fact that it was too girly and isn’t that a bit sexist too? After all, the only thing wrong with girls in film is the way they’re portrayed. Ellen Ripley in ALIEN is the way to do it. Where is it written that a female animated lead must be a princess? And surely tougher princesses can't be the key to making more money? Anyway, Disney decided that adding a hero, a sidekick horse and a new Rapunzel, all behaving boyishly, would appeal to the target demographic. So Glen Keane was replaced as director, the beautiful but now “too girly” software Glen helped invent for the film was quickly sold off and hey presto––the profits of TANGLED did not exceed those of The PRINCESS AND THE FROG by much.
    Could it be that the same type of thinking is being applied to Pixar, forcing them into franchises and template film-making
(CARS2, PLANES,   MONSTERS UNIVERSITY)? Are we going to see a tougher, more boyish princess injected into BRAVE? And, if so, is it possible that Brenda wouldn’t have been fired if Disney hadn’t bought Pixar?
PS - How sophisticated is the software used to create the BRAVE character above? Parts of the face are soft, like the mouth and nose and parts are very sharp, like the eyes.  The hair is both sharp and soft.  Lovely.