Brenda Chapman Becomes First Woman to Win Feature Animation Oscar [UPDATED]

A writer couldn’t have scripted a more Hollywood ending to the saga of Brenda Chapman, Pixar’s first female director. It was over two years ago when Cartoon Brew broke the story about Chapman being unceremoniously dumped from her film Brave. Last night, Brenda made history after becoming the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, a prize shared with co-director Mark Andrews.

It took only twelve years of the Best Animated Feature award before the Academy recognized a film directed by a woman. By comparison, it took 82 years before the Academy awarded an Oscar to a live-action film directed by a woman. That happened in 2009, when Kathryn Bigelow won both Best Picture and Best Director for The Hurt Locker. Let us hope that Hollywood leaves behind its pathetically homogeneous history and continues to embrace diversity and fresh perspectives on storytelling.

[UPDATE]: For the record, I should point out that Vicky Jenson co-directed Shrek, which won the very first Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2001. Sadly, Jenson did not receive an Oscar because the award was given to the film’s producer in that first year.


  • wildeyed

    I’m curious why the Director(s) get the Oscar for Best Animated Picture when it’s the Producers who get it for Best Picture?

    • http://twitter.com/LombardLoyLand Diane Morales

      …because there is a Best Director category…

    • Recent Grad

      Probably because “best director” usually applies to only live action movies, so animation directors don’t have their own category to shine.

    • Mac

      Best Picture going to a producer is an acknowledgement that the producer made it happen, with all of these other professionals doing their jobs. For most cartoon industry animation the producer would make more sense.

  • Klyph14

    OR, maybe we shouldn’t tie the value of an artist’s achievements (man or woman) directly to how many awards they win.

    • Recent Grad

      Surely women do not suck that much at directing that a good one comes around only once every 85 years or so.

  • Stefan

    Really, a female director should have been awarded the first time they introduced this category. However, because they were still trying to figure out who should get the Animated Feature Oscar, the producer of Shrek won instead of the directors, one of which was Vicky Jenson.

  • Alberto

    If this fact has had some weigh in the award, I don’t care if she’s a woman, a man or a creature from outer space.

    • Ara

      It matters because women directors are heavily underrepresented/recognized in the animation field, especially when it comes to special awards like this. It SHOULDN’T matter that she’s a woman, but in this case, it DOES. Until more women are recognized in animation, such a fact will always be noteworthy.

  • Lefty

    OR, maybe we shouldn’t believe that the gender of a director is the sole determinant of a film’s quality.

    • Jonah

      Nobody here even said that, or anything even close to that.

      • Lefty

        The snotty implication in the second paragraph is that the Academy was under some sort of obligation to award the Best Animated Feature to a woman much sooner than they did (“It only took 12 years”), even though (as updated) the first award WAS shared with a woman).

  • HalSolo

    Interesting – I thought the first woman director for an animated film would have been Vicky Jenson for co-directing SHREK when it won in 2001, but turns out only the producer of the movie accepted the award that year. I was impressed Brenda got deserved credit after all the “controversy” surrounding her involvement.

  • jonhanson

    So happy for her! Also the first I’ve heard of Vicky Jenson, I hate it when artists get cheated like that.

  • Mesterius

    Ah, so THAT’s why Brave won the Oscar this year… because someone at the Academy finally realized it was time for them to recognize a film (co-)directed by a
    woman! That makes sense, actually. Because Brave was certainly not the best animated movie this year… both Paranorman and Wreck-It-Ralph were far superior.

    Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s wonderful that a woman finally wins the Oscar for
    best animated feature. But I think it would have been more wonderful if it had
    been won for a movie which was *actually* a really great movie. Brave – in its finished, co-directed state – was a rather mediocre film, even more so when compared to its contenders.

  • http://twitter.com/SarahJesness SarahJesness

    I still think a different movie should’ve won, but it is nice to see female animation workers getting more attention.

  • BillCrystal

    To be fair, directed by a man or woman, not sure Brave encapsulates “diversity and fresh perspectives on storytelling” in many ways, one of Pixar’s weakest films to date. Paranorman was much more creative. And don’t get me started on Paperman.

  • Toonio

    Without pointing at the obvious. How much of the Brenda direction we really got to see?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Urvy1A Urvy Jaramillo

    One word for that night-Redemption.

  • Kirk Wise

    Woo-hoo! So happy for you Brenda!

  • Recent Grad

    I agree that artists should receive awards based on talent, not gender, but if you think that that’s whats been going on all along, and that women haven’t had to fight for the opportunity to even become directors, then I think you are putting a very narrow viewpoint on what has happened. Getting recognition for good work is a victory for equality. I’m not saying she deserves it for being a woman, or that women need special assistance or recognition, I’m saying that its about time women are getting the chance to achieve as directors, and I look forward to the day that women winning Oscars for directing is as common and unsurprising as men winning Oscars for directing. Same goes for people of all races and sexualities.

  • Miles Thompson

    MAN! … i mean “WOMAN!” … Makes me so happy for Brenda and all women. The more things have changed the more they have stayed the same, this however is definitely a step in a new “direction” that deserves to be followed up with more creative opportunities for women. As the father of the planet’s most amazing daughter, this win fills ME with hope for ALL people everywhere ! ! !