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Brenda Chapman Acccuses John Lasseter of Micromanagement

Yesterday’s New York Times delivered a glowing profile of DreamWorks chief creative officer Bill Damaschke. The pieces describes how CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is relinquishing oversight of creative matters to Damaschke, who for his part is trying to make the studio more creator-friendly.

It reads like your typical puff piece until it gets to the part about Brenda Chapman. The article reveals that Chapman, who co-directed the first DreamWorks film The Prince of Egypt before jumping to Pixar where she made Brave, has recently returned to DreamWorks. First, Chapman explains why she left DreamWorks:

“I left in part because I felt like I was being asked to do the same story over and over. I look at the movies DreamWorks is doing now, and I see the exact opposite happening.”

Then, it gets juicy when she places the blame for her removal as director of Brave squarely on the shoulders of John Lasseter:

She was pushed out of Pixar after clashing with that studio’s chief creative officer, John Lasseter. Although she could have joined another studio, she said she chose to return to Glendale in part because of Mr. Damaschke, who started at DreamWorks Animation in 1995 as a production assistant on The Prince of Egypt.

“As Jeffrey has gained experience and age, and DreamWorks has grown, he has stepped back and allowed other people to run creative,” Ms. Chapman said. “At Pixar, it’s all John’s show.” She added of DreamWorks Animation, “you can butt heads here and not be punished for it, unlike at another place I could name.”

It’s not exactly news that there was some kind of a conflict between Lasseter and Chapman, but it begins a new chapter in the story when Chapman publicly claims that Lasseter’s micromanagement was the cause of her rift with Pixar. And on another note, who would have ever thought that directors like Chapman and Chris Sanders would begin migrating to DreamWorks for its liberal creative environment. In the animation world, the times they are a-changin.