Our friends at Cartoon Brew are hearing from their “reliable sources” that Brenda Chapman is no longer directing Pixar’s Brave (previously titled The Bear and the Bow).

We hear that she was pushed aside from full directing duties a while back, and that story artist Mark Andrews (who also co-directed the Pixar short One Man Band) has taken over directorial duties. We understand that the change officially happened last week, although it had been inevitable for some time.

Now don’t jump to any conclusions. This doesn’t mean that Brave is going to be a bad movie… Any employee of Pixar will be the first to tell you that every movie they’ve made has been a disaster at one point, that the key to their success is reworking and reworking a project until it becomes something great. In fact, this is what happened with Ratatouille and Toy Story 2.

Czech-born Jan Pinkava got his start writing and directing the 1997 Pixar animated short film Geri’s Game, which I absolutely loved, and went on to win an Oscar. He served as an animator and story artist on A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, and Monsters Inc, and was set to make his feature directorial debut with Ratatouille. Pinkava came up with the idea for the film, and developed the project for five years. He created the core story (a rat who cooks), designed the sets and created the key characters. However, it is somewhat debatable how much of the final film he was responsible for, as Brad Bird was brought in to take over the project and essentially rewrote the entire story using the sets and characters created before hand. From what I understand, the entire movie was drastically changed. For instance, the a big portion of the story was originally set in the catacombs of Paris, but was moved aboveground. Bird took the basic premise and characters/designed and reworked everything. Pinkava was left with a story writing and co-director credit on the final film. And the final film was released the critical acclaim, being named the best reviewed film of the year, and was nominated for five Oscars including Best Animated Feature Film, which it won.

The same type of situation happened with Toy Story 2. Here is the story from wikipedia:

Toy Story 2 was not originally intended for release in theaters. Disney asked Pixar to make a direct-to-video sequel for the original Toy Story with a 60 minute running time. The task was turned over to a secondary production team at Pixar, while the primary team focused on the production of A Bug’s Life. When Disney executives saw how impressive the in-work imagery for the sequel was, they decided to convert Toy Story 2 into a theatrical movie. However, many of the creative staff at Pixar were not happy with how the sequel was turning out. John Lasseter, upon returning from European promotion of A Bug’s Life, watched the development reels, and agreed that it wasn’t working. Pixar met with Disney, telling them that the film would have to be redone. Disney, however, disagreed, and noted that Pixar didn’t have enough time to remake the film before its established release date. Pixar decided that they simply could not allow the film to be released in its existing state, and asked Lasseter to take over the production. Lasseter agreed, and recruited the creative team behind the first film to redevelop the story. Over the course of a weekend, the script was completely rewritten. To meet Disney’s deadline, Pixar had to complete the entire film in nine months. Some animators got repetitive stress injuries rushing to complete the film, which taught the Pixar managers to arrange breaks between each project from then on.

So for Pixar to rework a film in the 9th or 10th hour isn’t unusual, and definitely isn’t an indiction of bad things to come. After rumored troubles on Cars 2, John Lasseter recently came aboard to co-direct, helping out Brad Lewis, who is making his directorial debut with the film.

That said, Pixar has long been touting Brave as the first film in the company’s history both written and directed by a woman filmmaker, and featuring a story starring a female character. The animation company has long been criticized for lacking good female characters. Disney/Pixar Animation head even responded to the criticism in a video blog:

Brave (formerly titled The Bear and the Bow) is Pixar’s first fairy tale, from acclaimed filmmaker/writer Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt). Chapman began as an additional animation artist on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and contributed story for The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Fantasia 2000, Chicken Run and Cars.

The Bear and The Bow

A rugged and mythic Scotland is the setting for Pixar’s action-adventure “The Bear and the Bow.” The movie is being touted as Pixar’s first fairy tale. The film stars Reese Witherspoon as the “impetuous, tangle-haired Merida, though a daughter of royalty, would prefer to make her mark as a great archer. A clash of wills with her mother compels Merida to make a reckless choice, which unleashes unintended peril on her father’s kingdom and her mother’s life. Merida struggles with the unpredictable forces of nature, magic and a dark, ancient curse to set things right. Director Brenda Chapman and the storytelling wizards of Pixar conjure humor, fantasy and excitement in this rich Highland tale.”

Witherspoon’s character is apparently the “brave” character referred to in the title. A much better better title, in my opinion. The film originally had a Christmas 2011 release date, but has been pushed back to Summer: June 15th 2012.

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