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In Depth: Why These Female Pixar Characters Mean So Much To Me

30 Years of Pixar, A Bug's Life, Brad Bird, Brave, Brenda Chapman, Cars 3, Finding Dory, Finding Nemo, Pete Docter, Pixar Heroines, The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2

Posted by Nia • October 20, 2017

It’s been over two weeks since the New York Times article on Harvey Weinstein was published and the dam finally burst in Hollywood. It seems almost unbearable to comprehend all the allegations that are still stacking up against Weinstein, not to mention the plethora of other men in the industry and beyond. The “me too” movement on social media has also shown a disturbing amount of women who have been sexually harassed and assaulted by co-workers, friends, and family members.

This past week I’ve found it hard to focus and carry on with my life, job, and day-to-day activities.  It’s empowering seeing women come together, but also distressing to learn how it’s happened to us all, one way or another.

I needed inspiration and I needed something to lift my spirits up so I turned to what I know best to help me in troubled times: Pixar films.

Over the years not only has Pixar produced some of the greatest animated films of all time, but they’ve also created some of the strongest and most relatable female characters in the business. I was going to try and talk about all of them, but then realized how long the post would be (actually this would make a wonderful book some day). Instead, I decided to pick my three most important female characters and share why they mean so much to me both as a woman, and as a professional working in the animation industry.

Merida

Brave came out at a perfect time in my life, I was a sophomore in college and I was struggling with trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do. I was feeling the pressure of comparing myself to other people my age; be it with work, relationships, and even school.  I was even feeling pressure from certain family members about my love life and if I was going to be getting married anytime soon (this is a true story for any Greek woman).

Then Merida arrived, with her ridiculous hair goals, amazing horse-riding skills, and sassiness I wish I had when I was a teenager.

Merida broke the mold when it came to princesses – she had her own goals and her own motivations that she wanted to achieve in life, even if it went completely against what her family has wanted for generations. She didn’t care what her family thought and she was ready to fight against her mom if it meant being able to do what SHE wanted to do in life. Maybe she didn’t really have any dreams or goals at the moment, and that was OK – as long as she wasn’t stuck being a princess and fitting the mold, then she was content. That was Merida’s life, and she wanted to pursue those dreams of being free and exploring the countryside with her horse.

I also really appreciated how independent she was and how she didn’t need romance in her life to be successful. She was content with being alone, even if that meant being isolated from her own family or off in the forest basking in her solitude, that didn’t matter to her; she didn’t need a man in her life to tell her what to do or to be content.

I was the biggest tomboy growing up, I got dirty rolling around and play fighting and spent most afternoons playing sports with the other kids. But I still liked to dress up and get pretty; that didn’t mean I had to do it all the time. I really appreciated how Merida didn’t always need to be pretty or dainty or wear fancy dresses and spend her time curtsying to all the men; she wanted to roll around in the mud, dance in the rain, ride on horseback, climb mountains, and shoot arrows. I loved that adventurous side of her and I loved that she didn’t let anyone tame her.

I wish I had Merida to look up to when I was that young tomboy.

 Cruz Ramirez

It’s a shame Pixar wasn’t able to create a character like Cruz until now. She is one of the better things to come from this summer’s Cars 3 release and she might actually be one of my all-time favorite characters now.

Like Merida, I wish I had someone like Cruz to look up to when I was growing up and dreaming about coming to work in the animation industry in Los Angeles.

What I love the most about Cruz is that she showed me it doesn’t matter where you were born or who your family is, if you set your mind to what you want to achieve in life then you can fulfill your dreams.

People might keep telling you no, no, no; and you might continue to get rejection letter after rejection letter, but you have to keep going, to keep pushing forwards; hearing no or getting a rejection letter does not mean you’ve failed, but giving up does. It’s okay to have doubts, to feel bad about yourself, but you can still carry on and push forwards.

I also really loved the signal she sent to boys and girls alike, how it’s OK to be a girl and be really interested in boy things (like racing cars) or vice versa. In a typical male dominated world, it’s important to show young children that you can do whatever you want; it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl.

Cruz is the type of female character we need in film and TV now – a woman who stands up for herself, who goes against the norm, and who never gives up her dreams when obstacles are in the way.

Helen Parr AKA Elastigirl 

Helen is important to me, not only because I’ve always dreamed of being a superhero and kicking all sorts of butt, but because she’s a wonderful mother and person to look up to.

At the start of The Incredibles she’s living a pretty normal life, only having to deal with the typical mom duties that come with any parent. But soon it’s clear that Helen can balance both the mom and superhero life when she’s forced to follow and rescue her husband, Bob Parr AKA Mr. Incredible, when he’s off trying to deal with his midlife crisis.

It turns out that Helen actually saves her husband, brings her family closer together, and in turn, is a huge part in actually saving the world from the supervillain Syndrome. Where would we be without her? I’m really excited for The Incredibles 2 and having some more focus on Helen; which is a good sign that Pixar is definitely moving in the right direction regarding female characters.

One of my favorite things about Helen is that she doesn’t take crap from anyone, not her husband, children, or even Edna. She wasn’t about to sit around and wait for her husband to come home, making up different stories in her head as to why he’s been acting so strange lately. She was also not afraid to go against the societal norms at the time and take things into her own hands – she had every right to know what her husband was doing and to go and find him.

Helen is the type of woman and mom I aspire to be one day, with her, anything is possible. She gives me the confidence that I can balance both my work and home life completely if I chose to go down that path.  I work in the animation industry and have hopes of gaining as much experience as I can and moving on to different studios and jobs in the future. Thanks to Helen, I know that I don’t need to wait around for anyone to make the right decisions for me, and it’s possible to have a family and a career at the same time and be happy.

Each female Pixar character has taught me something different about myself throughout the years. What I love most about Pixar films, and the female characters they create, is that they provide a plethora of diverse characters from all ranges of life. Yes, fish and robots and superheroes are all incredibly different, but when you look at the stories that surround each character, and the struggles each woman (or ant) has to overcome, it’s all universal.

Who are some of your favorite Pixar female characters? And why are they so important to you?

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Brenda Chapman Parts Ways with Pixar!

Brad Lewis, Brave, Brenda Chapman, Cars Land, Lou Romano

Posted by Brkyo614 • August 7, 2012

Despite being pulled from the head directorial spot during the production of Brave in 2010, Prince of Egypt director Brenda Chapman remained at work at Pixar through 2012. As of late last month, however, the mind behind Brave has joined a growing list of Pixar employees, including Doug Sweetland, Lou Romano, and Brad Lewis, who have left the studio.

Pixar Portal claims that Chapman is now working as a consultant for Lucasfilm’s animation department. A creative talent who worked in the story department on classics like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, we wish her luck at Lucasfilm and can’t wait to see what she works on next.

Still, the growing amount of talent leaving the studio could be a cause for concern. Disney cited "creative differences" as the reason for Mark Andrews taking the helm of Brave, which, combined with Andrews’ action-oriented directorial style, leads me to believe that executives wanted to broaden the appeal of the film to male audiences. A since-removed piece of art on Lou Romano’s blog depicted Pixar characters in chains beneath a Mickey Mouse caricature. Something could definitely be going on behind the scenes at Pixar following the 2006 acquisition by Disney, but we know little for sure.

New talent continues to be cultivated at Pixar, however. Dan Scanlon, Ronnie Del Carmen, and Peter Sohn, who are working as directors on upcoming Pixar productions, are all first-time feature directors at the studio. Brave and La Luna both prove that Pixar continues to release creative and exciting films, and all of their upcoming projects sound inventive and promising.

Regardless of any controversy at Pixar, Brenda Chapman and her creative contributions to Brave should be celebrated. Clearly one of the most talented women in the animation industry, we hope the best for her at Lucasfilm and anywhere else she goes in the future.

Your thoughts?

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Pixar’s First Female Director No More? Chapman Out, Andrews In? [UPDATE]

Brenda Chapman, The Bear and The Bow (Brave)

Posted by Martin • October 18, 2010

Is Brenda Chapman out of the director’s chair for Brave?

The popular animation blog, Cartoon Brew, points to an unnamed "reliable source" for today’s big reveal. In fact, the site reports that she has left the studio for good. 

Brenda Chapman would have been Pixar’s first female director, but I would assume the change had nothing to do with her gender. Regardless, I’m willing to bet that a controversy is in our midst.

Brew also reports that One Man Band director and story vet, Mark Andrews, is actively replacing Chapman in the role of helmer. No further details were mentioned as to why a change was implemented.

As you may know, directorial swaps aren’t anything new at Pixar. I’d point to Toy Story 2, but the best example is Jan Pinkava’s flailing Ratatouille which was subsequently turned into an Oscar-winning masterpiece by Brad Bird.

Hopefully, everything was done for the best— you can trust Pixar on that end. We wish Brenda Chapman the best of luck in her future endeavors, assuming the news isn’t simply hogwash.

Update: I’m glad to report that Brenda Chapman has NOT left Pixar Animation Studios. However, The New York Times confirms confirms today that she has stepped down as director on Brave. A Disney rep commented, "the decision to remove her was made for “creative reasons.”

Your thoughts?

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Brave Talk with Billy Connolly!

Brenda Chapman, The Bear and The Bow (Brave)

Posted by Martin • September 30, 2010

Billy Connolly, the Scottish-born actor set to provide his voice in Pixar’s Brave, was recently asked about the upcoming project in an interview with The Star.

On Pixar’s first female director: "It didn’t dawn on me for ages, because… I just found (animation) directors absurd and immensely likable… So it didn’t become a matter of male or female to me."

On recording lines for Brave: "It’s good fun, the rehearsals have been really funny… [Pixar is] terribly good at what they do.”

He can say that again!
Click here to read the full article. 

Connolly’s comments come just days after a (usually) reputable source "reported" that Brenda Chapman would become Pixar’s first female director. Subsequently, it became "breaking news" across the web. The funny thing: Disney/Pixar announced her title over two years prior!

Brave is set to hit theatres on June 15th, 2012!

Your thoughts?

(via The Toronto Star)

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The Bear And The Bow To Be A Disney Princess

Brenda Chapman, Business, Disney, The Bear and The Bow (Brave)

Posted by Thomas • May 6, 2008

During the Walt Disney Company Earnings webcast today, Disney CEO Bob Iger mentioned that Brenda Chapman’s 2011 Pixar feature film, The Bear and the Bow, will be incorporated into the Disney Princess franchise. 

More information on the Q2 financial results can be found here.

Set in the rugged and mythic highlands of Scotland, The Bear and the Bow is the tale of a princess, Merida and her battle with the unpredictable forces of nature, magic and dark, ancient curse to set things right in her kingdom.

[via The Pixar Blog

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