Here it is a month into 2015 and I still haven’t picked an Honorary Lady of Comicazi? It’s about time I did something about that.
Without further ado, here’s my addition to the growing list: Brenda Chapman.
You may not be familiar with Chapman’s name, as is the case with so many people in the world of animation. But you almost certainly know her work. After graduating from the venerable California Institute of the Arts and getting her start working on TV productions like Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats and The Real Ghostbusters, Chapman began working at Disney’s story department. She boarded several notable scenes in Beauty and the Beast and other Disney films before heading up the story department on The Lion King. Chapman left Disney to join the nascent DreamWorks Animation as one of three co-directors of the studio’s first film, The Prince of Egypt. This made her the first woman ever to direct an animated feature film from a major Hollywood studio.
She was most recently in the news for becoming Pixar’s first female director and becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, both for the 2012 film Brave. The achievement was not without controversy, as Pixar had replaced Chapman as the movie’s director two years before its release. This was not the first time that Pixar had removed a director from a film, but a studio that prides itself on making personal films taking its first woman director off a film inspired by her relationship with her daughter was a black mark on Pixar’s usually strong track record of supporting its creators.
Chapman returned to DreamWorks in 2013 and is currently working on an adaptation of a children’s book with a female lead. She’s also working on a children’s book of her own and a memoir. While I doubt you have any doubts about why she’s an ideal choice for an Honorary Lady at this point, she also devotes much of her blog to discussing women’s equality and gender issues.
I’ve talked before about the importance of seeing women working in animation to the animation world in general and me in particular. For decades, American animation studios have largely been worlds of men outside of the ink and paint departments. While that has been changing, the shift is slow. The more women we see working in all aspects of animation, the more young girls will get the message that they too can have this job someday.
Beyond her place in the larger history of women in animation, Chapman is an amazingly talented artist whose work speaks for itself. Though studio animation relies on collaboration, Chapman’s fingerprints are all over some of the best known and best loved animated films of recent years and will hopefully be on future classics. That’s why I’m pleased to add her to the illustrious ranks of the Honorary Ladies of Comicazi.