A Dreamer Walking

The “Brave” Situation

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on October 22, 2010

Well I thought I might as well throw in my two cents about this whole thing that is going on at Pixar concerning the up and coming film Brave.

First, for those who don’t know. The first woman director for Pixar, Brenda Chapman, was scheduled to make her directorial debut with the film Brave. Brave is a original fairytale written by Brenda Chapman about Pixar’s first main female protagonist Merida, who is of royalty and has ambitions to become an archer against her mother and fathers will. It has been in production for several years now and was personally the movie I was most looking forward to seeing on the Pixar slate. A few days ago CartoonBrew posted a blog claiming that Brenda had been replaced at the helm by Mark Andrews (Co-Director of Pixar’s short One Man Band). This news has become HUGE and there are many people who are not happy about it. There is already 200+ comments on the CartoonBrew post and the majority seem to be quite disappointed, some to the point of being quite vulgar.

I can only imagine how hard it is to leave a story after several years of being its main authority. From what I know of Brenda, I like. She has been proclaimed by many to be an excellent story artist who is devoted to her art form. Brenda was part of the Disney story department that brought both Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King to life. She also was a co-Director for the Dreamworks film The Prince of Egypt. The reasoning for the change is yet unclear. All Disney has said so far is that the change was made for “creative reasons”. Many speculate that the movie just was not conventional enough.

There was one person particularly who I have come to very much respect, that has voiced his frustrations with the change. His name is Floyd Norman, he is a retired Disney/Pixar artist who worked with Walt Disney himself in the late 1950’s through the 1960’s (you can see the blog I did on him here). Floyd says on his blog , “[I call] this decision another bone-headed move that will send Walt’s wonderful company further down the rat hole”, when talking about the demotion of Brenda Chapman. As the closest insider I know and trust, I find this very concerning.

Pixar has long since proclaimed that they are a director driven studio. They claim to make movies that they want to see themselves. Pixar’s Creative chief, John Lasseter,  claims that “Story is king” at Pixar. Why then would they be getting rid of a critically acclaimed story artist? Floyd and a few others on CartoonBrew have claimed that they have watched the rough cut of the film and thought it was going in a marvelous direction. Yet the fact remains that Brenda is not in charge anymore.

The reason this brings up particular frustration with me is because I have ambitions of joining Pixar and sharing the stories that I have developed. I do not want to join a studio however that does not put the story first. I do not want to have my stories be taken away from be purly on the reasoning that they are “not conventional enough”. The question is, is this true? Has Pixar gotten rid of Brenda Chapman because they wanted to “play it safe”? I guess the bottom line is that I need to rely on what I know about Pixar so far.

I have done much study on the Pixar studio and those who work in it. I have found them to be full of vision. It was very comforting to hear Brad Bird, when he first came to make The Incredibles (2004), talk about Pixar’s dedication to protecting story. A good question now in 2010 would be does Pixar still put story first?

I personally do still think Pixar puts story first. At the moment I still think that Pixar’s heart is in the right place. And, at the moment I do not think Pixar deserves the criticism they have received from many of the people I have seen comment on the “Brave” situation. Pixar has made directorial changes before and they were on two movies that turned out to be two of the greatest films Pixar has ever created, Toy Story 2 and Ratatouille.  Pixar has shown time and again that they are artistically driven, creating some of the greatest films of this decade.

Those who claim Pixar is about playing it safe, seem to forget how Pixar became famous. Computer generated animation was a whole new field of unknowns when Pixar’s first full length feature Toy Story was being created. Nobody knew whether or not Toy Story would be a success and it was a movie that went against the typical animation story style of it’s time. The more recent Pixar movie Up had their two protagonists be a eight year old boy and a seventy plus year old man. Many people claimed that Up would not get a strong teen audience and would fail at the box office. However, this did not stop Pixar from creating the film and it did not stop Up from being a giant success. A movie about Rats or a film where the main protagonist was a garbage robot, probably didn’t sound like very safe storytelling either. However, that still did no2t stop Pixar.

We will have to see about Brave. As confused and even frustrated as I am at the moment about Brenda Chapman being demoted, I still have trust in Pixar. I still have ambitions at working at the Pixar studio and still think that John Lasseter and Ed Catmull (Presidents of Pixar animation) put story above everything else. We will see what happens with the movie Brave. I am hoping that Brenda’s voice is not extinguished and she stays to do great things for Pixar animation. I also hope that Pixar continues to be a artistically driven studio. Pixar should know by now the power of putting the film first. It is not fame or money that makes great movies, it is dedication to story.

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