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.


  • http://the-animatorium.blogspot.com/ Natalie Belton

    This is a bit off topic, but who snapped the photo on the left? It looks like Lasseter is growing Merida’s hair.

    • Hankenshift

      Now that’s what I call “micro management!”

  • http://samfilstrup.tumblr.com/ Sam

    Sounds like a clash of personalities, either way I wish Brenda the best. Looking forward to see what she does at Dreamworks.

    • jmahon

      Some parts of me can’t help but fantasize about what the Bear and the Bow would’ve been if made by the team who helped make the Croods, Rise of the Guardians or HTTYD, after this article.

      • William Bradford

        Justice League and or Sitcom family adventure team series pilot. I honestly felt the biggest crux to Brave was that it was too short, and didn’t have enough of a journey with the Mother and Daughter to take advantage of both the relationship AND the daughters adventuring skills

  • Outsider83

    I thought she joined Lucasfilm.

    • Try To Keep Up

      Kathy Kennedy brought her in as a consultant. Then Disney bought the company. You can guess where it went from there.

  • Roberto González

    I have never been in Dreamworks or Pixar, but that’s completely my impression as a viewer. Dreamworks used to be accustomed to the Disney formula when they worked in 2D and to the Shrek formula when they started CGI which made their movies look like they were mostly done for the money and quite often not very good as a whole , but since Kung Fu Panda every project from Dreamworks has been pretty different and usually pretty good. While Pixar still delivers good films they seem to be stuck in one kind of story and one kind of message over and over, and now even the Disney movies like Wreck It Ralph or even The Muppets seem to have some Toy Story influence. It’s ok for a studio to have personality but things shouldn’t get too predictable. Very interesting article.

    • http://voyagesextraordinaires.blogspot.com/ Cory Gross

      “While Pixar still delivers good films they seem to be stuck in one kind of story and one kind of message over and over”

      YES!! I have been saying this for years. Toy Story was a good movie, and Pixar has been following that formula up to at least UP and Brave. The formula also infected other CGI animation studios, to the point where it has made the medium a genre more rigid than Disney ever made 2D animation.

    • Bob Harper

      I don’t know – Dreamworks still has a prevailing theme – “Misfit Makes Good” I think both companies have done well with their themes, although it seems that Dreamworks is growing in how they tell their stories whereas Pixar has seemed more complacent.

  • Lil_Nemesis

    I’m rather surprised she said anything, particularly with that very audible tone. Burning bridges is never a very smart move. It’s not a particularly attractive trait either.

    I will say that although micromanagement can be difficult to work under, there have been cases where it’s the element that keeps a brand or production consistent and strong. It’s thrown around like a dirty word, but with a project full of a ton of creative people trying to create one cohesive work? Sometimes that’s what you need.

    Of course, there are always limits.

    • Grrrrr

      Outside of the debate as to whether or not it was unprofessional or unwise for Brenda to “burn bridges,” PLEASE don’t point out your opinion of it’s attractiveness. You would never, NEVER make that particular criticism of a man in the exact same situation. Women make professional choices for the sake of their careers, not for the sake of being pretty. We don’t care if you think we’re attractive. How insulting.

      • Simple

        It is is not inwardly or outwardly attractive for anyone to be hugging an Oscar and verbally slamming another talented person who made it possible.

      • J

        I’m a woman and I also find Brenda’s behavior unattractive. I would also not hesitate to say that about a man if he were behaving as Brenda is. It’s completely unprofessional for someone in her position and with as much experience in this very small industry to throw a fit. If your boss doesn’t like your work you can get fired, it’s that simple.

      • Lil_Nemesis

        “Attractiveness” not in a physical sense but in a broader sense. It’s not a personality trait that is likeable or desirable. Were she a man I would still say it’s not an attractive quality.

        I’m a woman myself, I’m not about to make the mistake of judging a person on how visually appealing she is.

  • Riu Tinubu

    It all sounds so bitter, but it’d be foolish to assume there isn’t any truth in her words. I mean, even before reading this article I always assumed it *was* John’s show at Pixar… every documentary or insight piece sure as hell made it seem that way.

    I doubt it’s very tyrannical at Pixar though.

    • hannah

      Didn’t john fire someone for complaining about the cereal bar a year or two back?

    • Read Between The Lines

      Watch Toy Story 3 again. The day care center is as perfect a parable for life at Pixar as one could imagine. The irony is that John didn’t seem to notice.

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com ElliotCowan

    Pixar makes a particular kind of film whereas Dreamworks seems to have a broader reach.
    There’s not a lot of difference between the world of Toy Story and the world of Monsters but Kung Fu Panda and Shrek are barely 3rd cousins.
    It’s not surprising that artists would be interested in working there.

    • jmahon

      I don’t really like all Dreamworks films. But the fact that there are so many different Dreamworks films, the serious and dramatic, the comedic and silly, the beautiful and touching, with different stories and characters and lessons, and how this overlaps some times. The huge difference is something to fight for even if you don’t like every one of the Dreamworks films, and you’re guaranteed to have at least one right now that you really enjoy. The whole “I don’t like what you’re [saying] but I’ll defend your right to [say] it to the death” deal. A Dreamworks film can be ANYTHING!

      In the end, they take risks on movies, which is so much more of a great thing than landing a massive hit and doing it again and again.

      • Barrett

        That’s a good point. In their first few years, Dreamworks 2D and Dreamworks 3D seemed to have a certain “house style” even if the kinds of stories being told differed (Prince of Egypt and Road to El Dorado for instance.) By the late 00′s, Dreamworks had a wide range of visual styles and types of stories. I will also say that for all of the multiple sequels they have had to franchises like Shrek and Madagascar, they have also kept trying different things throughout their existence.

        Both Pixar and Dreamworks seem sequel-heavy right now, but that’s partly because some of the original projects that had been brewing like Newt and Me and My Shadow were cancelled or sent to development hell. However, Dreamworks seems to now have a wider range of types of stories they tell. I hope both studios keep working to develop more original films, and that those films push outside of the comfort zone relative to what they have produced previously. It feels like it’s been a while since there’s been a HTTYD or a Wall-E that really expanded what to expect onscreen. “Brave” could have been that, but in all honestly really wasn’t.

  • Team COCO

    in the words of Conan O’Brien…

    “All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

    • z-k

      I’m sure he’s reconciled with Rod Stewart and Kevin Costner* by now, to name a few.

      (*Though part of this falls on John C Reilly’s lap. He hinted at how difficult it was to work with Costner on whatever film, but Conan kept egging him on; “C’mon, it’s – what – midnight? He’s not watching! [looks offscreen] Are we ever going to have him on the show anyhow? No? Ok, go on.”)

  • Jason

    A lot of people are blaming Disney for the decline of quality and creativity of Pixar films, but it’s actually John’s fault. He is also ruining the creativity at Walt Disney Feature Animation, he booted Chris Sanders out of American Dog and sabotaged hand drawn animation by putting those films close to Avatar and The Deathly Hallows Part 2.

    • Hankenshift

      Except the FACTS are that Sanders wasn’t booted. Sanders quit American Dog. It was a complete mess, If only Dean Dublois had been there more to help.

      • William Bradford

        People who say Disney’s “Decline in Quality” obviously haven’t remembered “Home on the Range” or “Brother Bear”. I agree the John, arguably like Disney himself, liked his films his way or the highway, and unfortunately that tends to bring about unintended formulaic films; but Tangled and Wreck it Ralph (don’t ask my WHY Frog had to be as bad as it was) were, I think GOOD. Though yes, for goodness sake WHY did they have to put them up against such BIG RELEASES. Especially Pooh, which was so modestly budgeted and quite charming that I can’t help but think it could’ve turned a profit if they hadn’t put it up against Hallows.

        • http://voyagesextraordinaires.blogspot.com/ Cory Gross

          Wreck-It Ralph was a totally formulaic Pixar-style film. I got about a half-hour or so into it and recognized that all the payoffs they were setting up would not be worth my watching the next hour.

          • Hunter

            Except if you learn enough about movie formulas, you can do that with 90% of the films Hollywood churns out.

            I was able to guess most of the plot to Hotel Transylvania based on the trailers alone. That didn’t stop me from seeing the movie to see HOW they executed it.

    • Max C.

      I don’t think he’s to blame for the hand-drawn sabotage. Disney not only put Tangled up against Deathly Hallows Part 1, but The Muppets against Breaking Dawn Part 1, which means that a film about fans saving their childhood that marketed itself everywhere made less money than a film about abortion.

  • Dano

    and he will be the one to blame for their new disney-non pixar movie “Planes” :S

    • yep!

      Again…Three things that Lasseter promised:

      -A traditionally animated feature every 5 years
      - No more Princess Movies
      - No more direct-to-landfill sequels/prequels

      What’s he done?

      • holycow
      • Scott550

        Exactly WHERE did Lasseter “promise” these things? Facts, please.I don’t believe he ever “promised” these things.

        • z-k

          “WHERE did Lasseter “promise” these things?”

          Meeting with the story department a few days after the acquisition. Don’t remember if the traditional animation thing was stated, but the other two on the list are almost verbatim.

  • John

    Sounds like sour grapes.

    Pretty sure is says in Illusion of Life that is you have a very strong creative vision and are dead set on a particular look that animation at a big studio might not be for you because animation is a collaborative endeavor where you are trying to tell a story that will appeal to the widest audience possible.

    Whenever I read the Brenda Chapman interviews it always sounds like she wanted to make a deeply personal version of her relationship with her daughter. Well, disney is not bank rolling her to do that. They are bank rolling her to make a film for everyone.

    Article also sounds odd given that Dreamworks make just as many sequels and certainly less quality sequels than pixar. Guardians was boring and Turbo looks like an absolute dud and totally predictable.

    • Gwen Rae

      So many other Pixar films have been about the director’s deeply personal relationships or emotions–Finding Nemo, for example. When women do films inspired by their own lives it’s exclusive, but when men do it, it’s universal. That blows.

      • rob

        What blows is that perspective. Off the top of my head, “Me and you and
        everyone we know,” and “My big fat greek wedding” are films by women
        inspired by their own life that I would call universal. So, please, be
        aware of when you’re using hyperbole.

        I think John made an excellent
        point about the relation between big studios and strong creative
        visions. It’s worth thinking about before you bring up Finding Nemo as a
        tu quoque. Finding Nemo was a deeply personal story, yes, but it
        changed a lot. Who knows how things went between JL and Brenda, or how willing
        she was to make necessary changes? Not you, John (the commenter) or I.
        Still, to John’s point, I would wager that it depends more on the
        flexibility of a director and their personal vision, rather than their gender. She’s not the first to have to give up the director’s chair at pixar – just the first woman.

    • d. harry

      Don’t agree with you 100% on that. It absolutely helps that the person helming the film has a strong vision for it. If not the powers that be will easily start to meddle and dilute that vision. That’s my take on that.

  • Get over it

    Personally I think Brenda needs to find something else to hoot about, she has has made it known to the whole world that she had a conflict. OK Brenda you did and so do many other people at other studios. Get over it and move on. The pity party is getting old and sorry to tell you this but “Brave” was a pretty bland movie so it is not like you broke any new ground with that picture. Please just direct your next movie and knock it out of the park without all the drama of what went wrong on “Brave” and nothing more.

    • SarahJesness

      The “Brave” that Chapman wanted to make was not the one that was eventually released. There was a lot of influence, some of it unwanted, from others at Pixar. So it’s hard to fully blame her. Too many cooks spoiled the soup; everyone wanted to make a different movie.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/loverlydarling Sam C.

      With all due respect, if you were a director of a film and had your name attached to a production that you did not feel responsible for, you might feel differently. Particularly if it was inspired by your relationship with your child, and then had a male director directly negate your work. Brave broke a lot of ground for having a heroine who was not defined by being a princess – and was supposed to be Pixar’s answer to Disney’s tradition. It also introduced a positive mother figure who remained alive for the entire film (an achievement, sadly). When you take as a given the tremendous amount of passion and work required of this medium, I am unsurprised and supportive of the fact that she is equally upset. We need people who are that devoted.

  • whitestatic

    This really isn’t a surprise, nor is it exclusive to the animation industry. Pixar, once the young, upstart has now become a pillar. In order to continue being successful, they’ll continue doing what’s worked (i.e. their business model/animation formula) and will protect and defend that strategy against all naysayers, external AND internal. This allows other companies, like DreamWorks, to try something different, or rehash old paradigms (i.e. liberal creative control). It’s a business cycle as old as business itself. As companies age, they become more conservative until market conditions force a change. For an adjacent, in more ways than one, comparison look at the history of Microsoft and Apple.

  • William Bradford

    I’d say it sounds like a combination of sour grapes AND having somewhat of a point. One hopes that John might take it to heart and, if not get less involved in the films at LEAST make an effort to make a deliberate attempt to try different tones for the films

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    Geez. She is really choked about her experience at Pixar. I have never heard so much from a let-go director in the news so much. Heard her on CBC last month in discussion about sexism in Hollywood.

  • Jacob

    This is such an interesting debate. It would be hard for Pixar to argue that the whole Brenda Chapman experience has not taken away from Pixar’s draw of being a “director driven” studio. It is like Brenda had her child taken away and I can only imagine how angry and hurt that would make someone feel.

    However, I think people are jumping the gun just a little bit by calling Dreamworks more diverse and creative then Pixar. A bunch of people are saying Dreamworks have more unique stories, I would love to hear examples of that. There most successful films in the past few years, How To Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda, have very basic protagonists with well known character arcs. I am not saying they weren’t well made or told in a wonderful way.

    I think the big problem is John Lasseter is more personally involved with animation then Jeffery Katzenberg. He has directed his own animated films and has received a huge amount of success. Because of this Lasseter is more likely to be more personally involved with the animation process of other films which could be both a blessing and a curse.

  • Skip

    Nobody is perfect. I think that John Lasseter has a tough job with an immense amount of responsibility. While I am No fan of the Cars franchise, I still think that both Pixar and John Lasseter have an awfully high batting average.

  • Rufus Chickenplight

    Trouble is that there’s almost nowhere to hide. Not even Lucasfilm.

    I think it’s perfectly OK to disagree with Lassater’s visions etc, but the industry is at this point almost monopolized by Disney/Pixar/Lucasfilm stronghold. The other companies are barely hanging on and usually rely on outsourcing parts to the conglomerate.

    Dreamworks sacrifices some amount of artistic integrity in order to make their movies more popular and push them out faster. The end result is that even now, when Pixar films hit the law of diminishing returns (coughSEQUELScough), Dreamworks movies aren’t even in the same ballpark as the films that Pixar releases.

  • Chris

    Pixar > Dreamworks

  • Hammy

    As a woman in the industry I appreciate her ‘letting a political debate define her career’. Maybe it will get better.

    • zac leck

      I dunno, It’s one thing to let the debate go on, it’s how inequality issues come up after all, but there’s still no real info on whether or not this was a gender issue or if it was, as originally stated, a creative difference. And if Lasseter is a micro-manager then maybe he just really didn’t like her direction. it’s not the first time a director has been replaced mid-movie.

      • JK

        Yeah, exactly. John Lasseter lets Chris Sanders go, people are sad but that’s about it. John Lasseter lets Brenda go, suddenly it’s a sexist thing?

        It’s like, is it actually a sexist thing or do people just WANT it to be a sexist thing to have some argument to use when talking about women in the industry? There are many other places to find those and this isn’t one of them.

  • Ant G

    The comments here are funny. “She should stay quiet, at least she has a job/movie under her belt (implication: for a woman)”, “that’s unattractive (read: as a woman)”, “she’s cynical” or “she shouldn’t burn bridges.” If you read the article and all the others that have come out since last year, it’s clear that bridge tanked long ago. It takes two to tango and instead of lashing at her for speaking out, maybe take your rose colored lenses off and realize the charm of Pixar and Disney (and even Dreamworks) can be a facade.

    Woody in Toy Story was only nice to the other toys since they all knew their place and he was the top dog until Buzz came along. And looks like Brenda thought she deserved a place in Andy’s bed too, not just as a woman, but as a creative voice who thinks her opinions have their own merits. Well, Toy Story is just a movie, in real life, people don’t change like Characters like Woody do, no matter how much room in that bed there is to share.

    • mick

      [Comment removed by editors. Per our commenting guidelines, "Defamatory, rude, or unnecessarily antagonistic comments will be deleted."]

    • Reals

      They are not funny comments.

      Because Brenda was a trail blazer it’s sad to see her acting like a forest fire of the industry by being so opportunistic of her gender or commenting on facades to defray the truth- that she was not doing what Pixar wanted her to do and so they needed to move on.

      A female producer helmed the project so I doubt that gender was the reason of her dismissal.

  • SarahJesness

    DreamWorks does put out more movies than Pixar, so it isn’t too surprising that they’re a bit more lax. Also, DreamWorks has always seemed to do kind of an “lol we’re nonconformist!” thing, so again, not surprising that there’s a little more variety. It’s not that Pixar movies are repeats of each other. Pixar is great and they do have a better track record than DreamWorks. But DreamWorks does have more variety in the types of stories, characters, and settings that they do.

    Speaking of Pixar having a better track record, that’s probably another reason for this. Due to their long streak of success, people hold Pixar to a pretty high standard. Can’t really blame Lasseter for wanting to play it safe.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/loverlydarling Sam C.

    This lady? This lady deserves your respect, if nothing else. She was the first woman ever (of a handful, I might add — Yuh-Nelson, Reiniger, Batchelor, and Selznick are the only ones that come to mind immediately) to direct an animated feature for a major studio [Dreamworks].

    I wish you would think more about what you’ve been entitled to thanks to your sex (not gender) before you speak, if we’re working off your claimed identity. You have never experienced being female in this industry. Fact of the matter is, Pixar was never gracious about it. They acted ashamed by keeping it hush, and were publicly bashed by media for the decision – Brenda was practically serendipitously replaced her mid-production several years in, with Mark Andrews, who had never once helmed a feature production. His directorial experience? “One Man Band” and the never-heard-from-again “Violet”. Given that we never saw *her* final product, it seems presumptuous to assume Lasseter always knows best, especially when matched against someone who in many ways his equal.

    The question that remains for me: when will those who hide behind the name of a character from The Big Lebowski learn she has been complete graceful, on-point, and mum until this point. Oh wait, you want to tell me to be quiet now, right?

    • Karl Hungus

      What I’m supposed to be shocked and horrified that she was replaced as a director???
      Look at her behavior since the event.

      VERY unprofessional. VERY petty. And VERY trite. Its clear that there is nothing surprising or wrong about her ousting. It all makes sense.

      And this latest comment comes after acquiring a gold statue that so many of us in this industry(women included) strive so hard to even have a piece of. It says a heck of a lot about one’s character when they put their feelings of being slighted in from of their sense of accomplishment at the highest achievement. No matter what their gender(or sex) is.

      And let me fill you in on something: I’m not a fan of John Lasstere’s but he DOES always know best. You know why? Because he built the company from the ground up. Walt Disney was the exact same person. And so is Steve Jobs. You’ve got a lot to learn about being a professional if you think that you are entitled to anything you are invited to work on.

      • https://twitter.com/#!/loverlydarling Sam C.

        Good grief, do you think she was selected at random? That Lasseter didn’t know her game plan before she was ever selected to create her own project, that she didn’t “sell” it? At one point, he clearly was sold. I’m not necessarily the biggest fan myself, but it seems pathetic that you would degrade his own judgment that much, since he basically hand-picked her.

        Try empathy for a moment, if you can: how would you feel being forced to vacate a project like that, which you’ve put your heart and hours into? Particularly one so public? Pixar put Brenda in the media spotlight, proudly announcing her as their first female director (and heck, Brave as is its first, female-protagonist-led film). Every professional who worked with her on the film has sung her praises, internally and publicly. So yes, I think the opinion of her peers is more worthwhile than yours being fixated on a golden statue that is ultimately less meaningful.

        Please, do send me any trashy gossip where she has singled anyone out except management, or derided the work of her team. Send away your proof of petty triteness from this wanton wench who is happy she to be recognized for her work but disappointed the public never saw how fantastic it could have been. How damnably human of her to be complex rather than single-minded!

        Finally: Lasetter has been riding off the backs of tech geniuses like Catmull, Ray Smith, etc. for years, who put him in a position to take advantage creatively. “Building” has nothing to do with it; this industry demands people who are willing to collaborate (or apparently steal the talents of others and use them). Frankly, of late, Lasetter’s record of replacing directors mid-project has been startling – male and female. Bird for Pinkava, Williams and Howard for Sanders, and I’m sure it will continue. He seems to be having some sort of creative crisis, where he can’t loosen his grip enough to trust his people to do good work (gee, micromanagement?) – something those other gents you mentioned struggled with a lot towards the end of their lives.

        • Karl Hungus

          You don’t hear a lot of static about Brenda from people who worked for her because of a very simple truism in the professional field:
          You keep your sour grapes to yourself. Most everyone knows this.(except Brenda Chapman)

          You say there is no reason to believe that there was a valid reason to replace her. I say there is no reason not to believe that.

          And if you have worked in the industry for many many years, as I have, her public statements strongly suggest she is petty and trite – and difficult. LOTS of other directors have been replaced on personal projects (how long did Chris Sanders work on American dog?) and haven’t run to the media to point a finger and complain.

          Life’s not fair. Get a helmet.

          • https://twitter.com/#!/loverlydarling Sam C.

            Dude, you are the one who is openly criticizing her without owning up to your own identity. How completely hypocritical. What are your sour grapes?

            I’d say the simple fact that Pixar hasn’t come out with their own statement regarding the situation is reason enough to believe they’re being mum to save their own behinds. Or, alternatively, that the real reason would draw media criticism for them, not Brenda.

            It seems equally difficult to suggest she would be where she is if she is that challenging to work with. I really encourage you to track down some of the people she worked with (given your industry connections) and see what they have to say. Twitter types have already been pretty vocal about their support for her, if you’re interested.

            I’m all for equal treatment, but it’s unfair to cry wolf that she’s been the only one to speak to the media this way. This whole article from the NYTimes with Lasetter speaks volumes (especially in hindsight) regarding Chris Sanders’ departure, and other creative control issues: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/04/movies/04hols.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

            If you’d like more links, I’m all too happy to provide. Standing up for yourself doesn’t equal complaining, and I’d argue that’s what Brenda did in the first piece she broke the silence with (coincidentally also in the NYTimes) where she still predominantly focuses on mentoring and why she needs to be vocal on behalf of others: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/08/14/how-can-women-gain-influence-in-hollywood/stand-up-for-yourself-and-mentor-others

            (Apologies for the belated response; life got in the way.)

    • Karl Hungus

      And another thing – a directors job is not only to direct, its to SELL their ideas, and if they can’t sell their ideas without butting head and being confrontational, then they aren’t very good at their job.
      You can’t just have a vision, you have to sell it to your superiors. Pixar has taken plenty of risks and you can bet dollars to donuts that they all had to be sold to Lasseter. Some people are goo d at it and some aren’t.
      No matter what their sex is.

  • jay

    The biggest joke here is saying that Dreamworks is promoting creativity more than Pixar… The Dreamworks that is churning sequel on sequel and giving us Turbo ? Brenda Chapman lost all credibility here.

  • William Bradford

    Agreed: maybe it was just a hard thing to market. I have to say I personally thought it was quite charming, even if Rabbit’s animation needed to be reeled in. One of the funniest animated films I’ve seen in a while, if only because they new they HAD to be because they new how old hat and soft the subject was

    • Barrett

      Agree that rabbit seemed to go over-the-top from time to time. I love me some Eric Goldberg, but when the “plussing” becomes distracting and out of character with the established animation style, I would say that’s a negative for the film.

      I believe Pooh was never going to do really well because it’s kind of an un-exciting legacy property. I was surprised it did as poorly as it did, because I assumed that parents still show their young kids the existing Pooh films and TV series, and would probably have had requests from the kiddos to go see this new Pooh movie when they saw the (admittedly sparse) ads. It might be that the target audience was too young to realize that this film was something they had not already seen before, it did such a good job of re-creating the look and feel of the 70s-80s Pooh movies. I enjoyed it as a nostalgia trip but I’m not sure how many 20-40 year olds without kids would feel the same.

  • zac leck

    The lack of information was the only thing I liked about his whole debacle when it first came out. And I was exaggerating with the ‘spread gossip around town part’, but that is what this is, gossip. She just waited until she got a new job to start doing it.

  • Scott550

    I doubt that. Wishful hearing on eager artists part. There’s just no proof anywhere he said that from anywhere.

  • Scott550

    Baloney—he abosolutely did NOT say there would be no more direct to video sequels in THAT article.

    Not to mention, if anyone uses a hack like “jim hill” as source for anything, they should have their heads checked….

    • facts

      Given that myself and around 100+ students from various colleges were there at a sanctioned (and recorded) Disney Studios event at the time when the message was passed along, I guess I’m just going to have to leave it at that.

      • Scott550

        And until there is proof provided, it won’t be considered a fact. There’s a whole lotta wishful hoping in those kinds of meetings.

        • Matthew Broussard

          As the above commenter noted, around 100 students heard the same message, and as a result it was widely reported on animation blogs at the time. Disbelieve it if you wish, you’re only being willfully obstinate.

  • Hankenshift

    Except sanders wasn’t “fired.” He quit. Please get your facts straight.

    • Christian Z.

      Yeeeeesss. He’s in a bunker and may not be getting the most accurate information. It’s about his *reaction* to whatever he heard, truthful or not. The whole thing is a joke, including the bit about how it must be true if Jim Hill posted confirmation (once again, it’s not even about if Jim Hill is untruthful, just about the henchmen clinging to his every word). Having said all that, I highly doubt Chris Sanders left when everything was all rosy. The likelihood is that it was because of John Lasseter micromanaging. Thus making it relevant to this article.

  • Hankenshift

    And remember, almost half off all directors on films at Pixar have been replaced. And more so at Dreamworks. This is not uncommon.

  • Shari F. B.

    John is following in the footsteps of one of the most successful micromanagers ever – Walt Disney, a man whose story instincts were also impeccable. And although Pixar’s films may seem formulaic, they are also consistently groundbreaking from a technological point of view as well as consistently funny, clever, and heartwarming. Pete and Andrew definitely mix things up (“Up” is NOT a “Toy Story” remake) and there are other Pixar directors in the wings. We all benefit from the wonderful films that both Pixar and Dreamworks produce, so who care where Brenda decides to work, as long and she and John and others are making movies.

  • http://www.elliotelliotelliot.com ElliotCowan

    He doesn’t see very far ahead into the future…

  • Meet the new boss…..

    The difference being, John Lasseter is creative. Jeffrey Katzenberg is an executive. Its taken Jeffrey 18 years to figure out that he shouldn’t be making creative decisions, which is good. What is bad, he’s handing over the reigns to another executive to run creative, Bill Damaschke. Jeffrey still doesn’t get it.

  • SarahJesness

    True. The only reason I knew the movie even existed is because I often check Wikipedia’s list of Disney films. Disney gave it no marketing and I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise.

  • SarahJesness

    Pretty much. Really, I think that’s what messed up the movie. Brave’s big flaw was that it was all over the place in terms of pacing, tone, and story. It’s VERY clear that there was trouble behind the scenes, where different people working on the film wanted to make different movies. Somebody wanted the movie to be about the relationship, somebody else wanted a cool action fantasy, etc. Brenda’s version of “Brave” may or may not have turned out to be a great movie but I doubt it would’ve been as much of a mess as the final product that we got.

  • d. harry

    It probably wouldn’t have been so drastically different, and so they could have avoided all of this controversy and just let Brenda finish her version.

  • Hunter

    I would call traits I don’t like “gross”, “ugly”, or “unattractive” for anyone, regardless if they’re a man or woman. Being so defensive about the word “unattractive” used towards a woman is exactly the kind of inequality we DON’T need.

    Seriously, focusing on that aspect is more sexist than calling a woman’s personality unattractive (Which I still think is not sexist at all).

  • IJK

    So Pixar tried to ease the pain of being replaced by still giving her some director credit and an Oscar to let her know “Even though this isn’t the film you wanted, you still helped to make it possible”, both of which she graciously accepts…

    Then she turns around and badmouths them only after getting the security of getting a job at another studio?

    Yeah, gee, wonder why her and John Lasseter didn’t get along.

    Kind of surprising people here are excusing that behavior BECAUSE she’a a woman and “they don’t get many chances in the industry”. Well, yeah, especially not if they act like /this/. I guarantee if Chris Sanders had done the same with American Dog, people would be disgusted with his attitude and making comments like “He’s lucky to have worked with them in the first place!”.

    But he didn’t, and he got less for American Dog/Bolt than Brenda did for Brave. So why the hell can’t she leave graciously?

    • D. Harry

      It was only after public outcry that john let her be a part of the oscars. Why should she be gracious – he wasn’t being.

  • Austin

    The main point is that the original comment had a smell of “act like a lady, Mrs. Chapman,” which of course would be sexist.

  • Riu Tinubu

    … Pixar had nothing to do with the Tinkerbell franchise. And Cars, a film I hate – is something I’d take over many of Dreamworks hit and misses any day. It’s bad, but ‘Pixar bad’.

    I can’t comment for your own personal experience at Pixar, but if you can only do it behind a pseudonym on this comment thread of all places, I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

  • http://samfilstrup.tumblr.com/ Sam

    I think awful is a bit harsh, it had various story problems but still told a decent tale. There are other animated films I would classify as awful before I would Brave.

  • Kevin Martinez

    “Directors are changed all time time”? That’s a good thing? That’s a status worth fighting FOR instead of against? The Stockholm Syndrome inherent in that comment (and most of the pro-Pixar ones) is embarrassing. They trained you guys well.

    I’m sure a lot of the same folks who accuse Brenda Chapman of “unattractive” behavior would never ever begrudge, say, John Kricfalusi for grousing about being fired and taken off HIS project.

    No wonder change in animation isn’t in the cards. If this thread is any indication, animation people don’t want it.

  • Riu Tinubu

    But if the world is so against her as you’re implying, John could have very easily commented against her and have a lot of rallying support. Yet he didn’t, not one thing. What Brenda is saying could very well be the absolute truth, or not, and still treated as such, and John has made no rebuttle or comment on her character.

    You’re actively demonising one half to make Brenda look better, you have absolutely no idea if they’re keeping quiet to save their hides, or because John simply doesn’t want that kind of acid to be thrown.

    We’ve all been through this in our own lives, someone says something against our character, and now we have a choice to respond, mist of the time we do. Some of the times we don’t.

    But we’ve never seen John publicly battle someone before, so I have no idea where you’re getting this image of him from. Actually, you’re getting in from Brenda, since she’s been the only mouth piece to this situation and despite the essential character assassination, John has chosen not to do the same. That’s fairly ‘gracious’. He’s had the opportunities, and he hasn’t taken it.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/loverlydarling Sam C.

      Precisely. So, why wouldn’t Lasetter rally support? Why not simply get it all over with from the get-go, before this ever started, by being blunt with the media, and establish his word over hers? (Keep in mind her comments come months and months after the film was released – say, after a contractual obligation expired.)

      From the small quote this whole article is feebly based upon, I see no comment on his character from her. I don’t even read doubt of his ability as a professional from her comments. Honestly, I barely understand what the fuss is about on some level. What I *do* see is criticism of his leadership style, from her vantage point, and her desire to present Dreamworks as a contrast to that. There’s no demonizing of John or his character in my words (or even mention of him in my last comment), but I *am* curious as to why they wouldn’t hold a press release at the outset.

      Now, when it comes to “gracious” – I can’t imagine someone who’s a CCO of one of the largest corporations in America beating down on a singular employee, John or otherwise. He’s really only second to Iger. How ridiculous would it appear if John did the same? And draw him endless amounts more criticism than she ever would. That’s called biting your tongue to save you more backlash.

      • reals

        A woman produced Brave, women animated on Brave so it just makes no sense that it was a gender based decision. You as an intelligent person can realize that there are people that do a good job and those who say they do. It sounds like you liked the movie, so you can thank Pixar for putting the money and the loads of talent up to make it. Many people contributed to the story and the characters. It never is just one person who makes a film no matter what is said. Animation is a very collaborative process and if you don’t like that, well it’s not the industry for you.

        There are many women out there who you can look up to. Look up Vicky Jensen for one. Relax, the industry is not going anywhere for women.

        • https://twitter.com/#!/loverlydarling Sam C.

          I don’t think that it *was* a gender-based decision, to be entirely honest; I think there were probably strong differences in vision, and one of those differences happened to be sex. What I don’t like is people turning it into one, and I don’t think Brenda makes it into one in the above comments.

          But, at times, I empathize with Brenda’s other statements and worry about the isolated environment the animation industry seems to create for itself by restricting women from climbing to that top tier of creative leadership. It prevents a variety of stories from being told, and same goes for any other minority in the film industry. Most women in a leadership role [from what I have seen] tend to be producers rather than directors; directing being where you are truly able to determine and control larger creative decisions (however collaborative the medium is). One would think that a plethora of female producers would mean more female-driven works, but it hasn’t happened just yet. (Something that is fascinating to me, and I’d like to put more research time into it.) Having diverse leadership, female and otherwise, is a matter of incorporating and being inclusive of more types of taste than the same ones we’ve been fed and digested for years.

          It’s also funny that you mention Vicky Jenson (Shrek, right?), who has most recently gone off to do live-action work. Her case seems indicative of the intolerable climate the animation industry creates for certain types of people, even if they led in past – her IMDB only mentions her recent story work.

  • D. Harry

    Smelly and boreds point was that john cave in to raping a classic property to bring us tinkerbell, and making sequels instead of concentrating pixars efforts on new original material. I can tell you why – he’s come to enjoy that 20 million a year and doesn’t want to piss his boss off and lose that.

  • rob

    Thank you for sharing that article. There were a few film makers who I hadn’t heard of, but sounded very intriguing who I’ll have to look into. Admittedly, though, there were a few that seemed exclusive – but I feel the same way about many male, independent directors, too.

    I wasn’t defending the brain trust as much as I was exploring the validity of John’s point. I don’t think it was making a statement about women, he clearly was reflecting on things he had read about Brenda in particular. To take what he said as a transitive relation, I believe, dilutes your cause. Yes, there are not enough female directors but that has nothing to do with what he’s saying and should not make Brenda impervious to criticism.

    PS I’m working for a female director right now and there are no apparent attitudes regarding her gender, so I may be a bit unsympathetic when I see the gender card being played preemptively.

  • Justin Sloan

    I just hope they fired whoever it was that added that ‘Change my fate’ talk that made no sense to the film (or titled it, for that matter).

  • Dan Wilson

    Once again Disney/even Pixqual is slowly finding it’s grave to dig…Olie Johnson once said in a statement …animation popularity runs in a 10 to 15 year cycle…the end is near…

  • Lillian Killingbeck

    Can’t agree until I see the whole picture. And as someone who would love to be in this field, I would want liberal creative environment to work in as well. If I was someone like Lasseter I’d want the same for my employees.

    But people change as they get older (look at George Lucas) and soon they’re pumping out the tired boring plot clichés.

    I saw Cars. Didn’t care too much for it. I saw the trailer for Cars 2 it looked worse than Cars. And I just saw the movie Planes a couple of minutes ago. And man did that film SUCK!!!

    And now I’m cringing at the future of Pixar because Lasetter now wants to to do TRAINS! Yes I said TRAINS. And then BOATS. He wants this garbage to be really big. Most likely, Star Wars BIG.

    You know I had so much respect for this man as I did Lucas. But times change, these directors fall away from the dazzling scene and fall into the boring overused scene. Boring plot, boring characters, unfunny dialogue, annoying plotholes, predictable elements in story.

    As I was watching Planes, I knew RIGHT OFF THE BAT WHO THE FREAKIN’ VILLAIN WAS! And if you people do watch this crap you’ll probably figure it out before the movie actually STARTS!

    The plot is this, lame hero, race, loser villain, hero ***. I censored it because it’s just so bloody obvious. Think Lightning McQueen VS Chick at the end of Cars. Ffftt, yeah. That predictable are the roles of Dusty and Ripslinger.

    And hey I love airplanes! And that’s probably why I gave it a chance! The cute little propeller planes are my favorite!

    Ha ha actually I went to watch this film a month ago. Got only 5 minutes into the story before switching it to another boring film. Tonight I forced myself to watch it, predicted things, had my predictions come true, got angry (I COULD’VE WROTE THIS!!!), Could not WAIT for the film to be over.

    Then one question posed in my mind…”What exactly is it that we are trying to teach our kids with movies like this?” Think about it.

    And now that I think about it there could be some truth in this article about Lasseter.

    Gone are Woody, Buzz, Russel, Mr. Frederickson, etc.

    Hello to boring smarmy inanimate mobile objects. *sigh*