Few women have had a greater impact on the animation world in the last 20 years than Brenda Chapman. A Disney and DreamWorks veteran, she is the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and she has had a long, successful career in the industry since joining Disney in the 1980s.


Like many filmmakers at Disney, Brenda Chapman earned her animation chops at the California Institute of the Arts. There, she studied character animation before going on to work on “The Little Mermaid” as a trainee in the story department.


Her work as a story board artist on “The Little Mermaid” and “The Rescuers Down Under” impressed her peers at Disney, and subsequently she became a key component to the story development of the 1991 masterpiece “Beauty and the Beast.”


Continuing to climb the ranks at Disney, Chapman was appointed head of story on 1994’s “The Lion King.” No woman had ever held that title on an animated feature, and the success of the film assured Chapman a career in the industry for the foreseeable future.


Shortly after working on “The Lion King,” though, Chapman left Disney to join the newly formed DreamWorks Animation. Her first job at the company was as director of “The Prince of Egypt,” which she made alongside Simon Wells and Steve Hickner. An underrated and beautiful film, “The Prince of Egypt” performed decently at the box-office and purposely stood in stark opposition to people’s perception of what animation was. There were violent, dark elements to the film that had been mostly absent from what Disney was doing during the 1990s.


Chapman worked on a number of projects at DreamWorks before moving to Pixar in 2003. At Pixar, she worked on several films in varying capacities.


It was also at Pixar that Chapman would eventually conceive, develop, and direct her very own project. The 2012 Disney film “Brave” was a product of Chapman’s imagination. Though she was replaced part way through production, she still earned a directing credit and an Academy Award for her work on that film.


Following the release of “Brave,” Chapman returned to DreamWorks, where she is in development on a project that she is expected to direct.


Have you seen anything by Brenda Chapman? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.