Brenda Chapman is an American writer, animation story artist and director who in 1998 became the first woman to direct an animated feature from a major studio, the DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt. She also co-directed Disney/Pixar animation Brave, becoming the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, in 2012. Brenda graduated from Lincoln College in Lincoln, Illinois, receiving her Associate of Arts degree, and moved to California to study Animation at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts).
Having begun her professional career working in syndicated television animation during her summer break, she graduated with a BFA in character animation and became a story trainee on the Disney animated film The Little Mermaid. One of several key story artists on Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Chapman worked closely with the studio future director Roger Allers. She later served as head of story, and was the first woman to do so in an animated feature film, for Disney’s classic The Lion King. During her time at Disney, Brenda was also involved in other animated films such as The Rescuers Down Under, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Fantasia 2000. In the fall of 1994, she joined DreamWorks Animation.
Chapman developed several projects while at DreamWorks, among which was the famous Chicken Run movie in the year 2000. In 2003, she moved to Pixar, where she had briefly worked on Cars before starting development on and directing Brave, a project that made her the studio’s first female director. In 2013, she returned to her old company, DreamWorks Animation, and helped in developing Rumblewick, a film with a strong female protagonist that was described as “funny with magic and heart.”
Having achieved several “firsts” in women’s history, Brenda Chapman opened the way for women who desire to build a career in animation, an industry dominated by male workers, and encourages them to follow their dreams, the way she did.