Sadly, we’ve gotten used to hearing about stories where women are discriminated against in the hiring process or on the job. That makes this story from Brenda Chapman, the woman behind the Pixar movie Brave, feel like such a surprising one: Chapman writes that when she was hired by Disney in 1987, she was explicitly told it was because she was a woman.
“We need a woman. And you’re the right price,” Chapman says she was told by an executive at Disney Animation. At the time, Disney was getting bad publicity about the fact that it had no women in its story department.
Chapman was hired as a “story trainee” right out of college, so she came cheap. She immediately loved the job, and she writes warmly of the friendly reception from her male colleagues. Once in a while someone would notice she was the only woman in the room — and the department — and they consistently told her she should be proud of the distinction.
Chapman worked on The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. She was a bit disappointed in the happy ending tacked onto Ariel’s story, but Disney is Disney. “I was just happy that Ariel had an obsession with the human world, and not just waiting around to get married,” she writes. “She saves the prince she falls in love with and then gets what she’s always wanted and her prince, too. She didn’t wait around for her prince to show up like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. She was a go-getter.”
Like many true stories, Chapman’s has a complicated ending: She was ultimately removed as director of Brave, and a name named Mark Andrews ultimately finished the job. As Alyssa Rosenberg writes in a perceptive post about Chapman’s story for Slate, “Women, it seems, may change the way men think about fairy tales. But men still get to be in charge of the final draft.”