I Was Hired Because I Was A Woman

women in animation Yep. You read correctly. I was hired because I was a woman.

I’m not making assumptions. I was simply told that by the executive at Disney Animation with the cold blue eyes who sat behind his desk. It was 1987. They were getting some flack because they didn’t have enough women in creative positions–especially their story department – their current count: 0.

“We need a woman.  And you’re the right price.”  His exact words – I kid you not.

I was hired fresh out of CalArts as a story trainee. Definitely the right price. Luckily, I’d learned a good hard working ethic from both of my parents (especially my mom, who worked twice as hard as my dad, holding down a full-time job, then came home to be the resident housekeeper, cook, etc.), and I had some talent to back me up. I just wanted to be a story artist – not “the first female story artist” at Disney.

Once I was in, I felt at home. I loved it. My fellow story artists welcomed me with friendship and acceptance. It was only on rare occasions that one of them would suddenly notice, “Hey.  You’re the only woman in the room.”  Then the other light bulb would switch on, “Do you realize you’re the first woman in Story?!”

“Only when you remind me.”

“That’s really cool  You should be proud.”

I tried to be, but mostly I was embarrassed by the distinction. (And technically, I don’t think I was the first… just the first in many years.)

Looking back, I can see now that my inherent “femaleness” may have had an effect on my work and the work of those around me. I think by just having my presence in the room, and because we had such a mutual respect for each other, the men were more aware of what might be condescending, or to put it bluntly, “sexist” toward women in their work. Or… as I assumed at the time, it could have just been that they were all just really nice guys who had open minds. Who knows? Whatever the reason, we all seemed to work together trying to move the Disney fairy tale into a more contemporary point of view for the heroines – and the audience.

I was thrilled to work on my two favorite fairy tales from my childhood – The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. I thought it was fate. Now, I was a little disappointed that we had to give a happy ending to The Little Mermaid. But hey, it’s Disney. What do you want? Sea foam? Or would it have been better if the real ending of Sleeping Beauty was added? You know the one… where the prince takes her home after he wakes her, marries her, they have a couple of kids, then he leaves to fight a war – leaving her with his half-ogre mother (yes, the prince is ¼ ogre!) who tries to eat the kids – then the prince comes home at the last minute and kills his own mother by boiling her in the pot she intended to boil her grandchildren in! Nice, eh?

I was just happy that Ariel had an obsession with the human world, and not just waiting around to get married. 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.

And Belle. She was my favorite. She was smart and brave. She wasn’t fooled by good looks. She rescued her father, making a huge sacrifice to save him. She stood up for herself and was able to break through Beast’s angry exterior to see that he was a good soul beneath it all. She wasn’t waiting to be saved. In fact, Belle saved the Beast at the end.

I know some hardcore feminists have ripped both of the above to shreds. But I consider both films a huge step forward compared to the old ones from the 30s and 40s. Can’t have it all at once – never seems to work that way. Just know we tried the best we could.

What’s been your experience? Have you ever been hired just because of your sex? Or your skin color? What was it like for you—I’d love to hear.

Image by Crystian Cruz via Creative Commons

  • http://www.melaniecrutchfield.com/ Melanie Crutchfield

    I was the only female printmaker at the studio I worked at for many years. My colleagues were amazing and welcoming, but it did feel a little lonely. I felt like I had to prove myself a little more—especially to the clients.

    I had the great fortune to meet Ruth Bernhard before she passed. After she took the tour of our studio, I caught her and her assistant alone for a moment, and asked her how she dealt with being a woman in such a heavily male-dominated field. She told me something along the lines of, “I didn’t notice. I was working too hard.” Noted, Ruth. Noted.

    • Brenda Chapman

      I like Ruth’s attitude!

  • Ines Almeida

    Until very recently I was part of the executive team of a wonderful IT consulting firm with a huge social mission. When I was hired I was shocked to find out I too was hired because I was a women (well not exactly, but that there were quotas for female roles), at the time I was upset as this company hires 1 in 400 and I was so happy to be part of this exclusive group. I did not want to be different or to stand out or have special treatment. A few years later I realised how important it is to have quotas, and how quotes do not mean in ANY way that the bar is being lowered, it means that they are looking harder, as they should be. As part of the global executive I hired hundreds of amazing women, we had to push real hard for internal and external recruitment to provide us with the CVs, it is so easier for them to find men. We a got 50/50 CVs for every role. It is very hard to be the one receiving the benefit of quotas, it is very hard to trail blaze in careers that are associated with men, but every time I felt uncomfortable I would just look at the women that were following me, I was a female leader, a role model for them. And of course from a capability and performance point of view I was as good as my male peers. The big issue for me was the stereotype threat, I had events where I froze in meeting, I could not communicate with the precision I wanted to, because of course things like quotas do have an impact on your mind, but I am hopeful that we are all working to ensure that the next generation of women and girls do not have to deal with this. All of the above was one of the reasons I created TowardTheStars. Keep doing an amazing job, you rock!

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thank you for sharing you experiences… And for striving to be a role model! You rock, too!

  • Paris

    I was a transport driver in the Canadian military, after two years my time was up and I decided to go to university… They tried to bribe me to stay in… ‘We’ll give you a promotion to corporal and we will give you a more non traditional role!’ They didn’t come out and say it but it was 1990, but it really made me feel like I was helping them reach some sort of quota. Until that point in time I hadn’t even realized that was an issue…I just thought I was ‘one of the guys’

    • Brenda Chapman

      it is hard to come to terms with, isn’t it? But then, trying to find the right way to look at it like Ines and Ruth can help put it in he right perspective.

      • http://www.facebook.com/kimberly.zamlich Kimberly M Zamlich

        I worked in clean up at Disney. My first scene was a late one in Mulan (I was in California). I think by the time I came in, women, in animation were encouraged~or so that is how I saw it. In fact, there were a few animators who were up and coming, one of them Mike Disa, who was willing to take extra time to help me learn the basics of animation and was very helpful, as well as humorous. As I saw and felt it, anyone, male or female, who was willing to stay the even more extra hours to learn more, was welcomed. I heard some cliques of women grousing about how hard it was to break in from clean up to rough animation, but I believe no matter what gender or heritage you might be, if you worked really hard at it, put in the long hours, really showed that you are going to be successful, it does not matter who or what you are. The environment will respond, it’s just a matter of time. Eventually people see your hard, persistent, determined drive, and will assist you by demonstrations, advice or mentoring. You are as good as you practice. As a woman, you can pave the way for all people with your talent, calm confidence, and your willingness to help others step up.

        • Brenda Chapman

          I felt the same way for the majority of my career, Kimberly – and that was my experience, as well. I worked really hard, stayed the extra hours and managed to be successful. But I have witnessed and experienced things since then that made me see what a lovely bubble I was lucky enough to have worked in – with great guys who were willing to be mentors and respected me for my hard work and what I had to offer creatively. Many other women have not been so lucky, no matter how hard they worked and didn’t complain. And I have experienced it myself. I hope you never do.
          What I am trying to do is make other women aware… and men… so that we can work together to educate and mentor and change those incredibly ancient attitudes, that sadly still do exist.
          I do not condone women using their sex as an excuse to have a job or promotion handed to them as their right. That is stooping low, indeed… and yes, I witnessed that when I was at Disney years ago, as well. But I will not make the mistake again, of putting them all in the same box. I will look at each case individually, because there might just be some truth to an individual’s complaint.

          • Karen Keller

            Hey Brenda, I just have to chime in a little. While I was not the first woman hired into the layout department at Disney, I was the second one ever hired into the department way back in 1978. I was excited for the opportunity and the younger guys were, for the most part good coworkers and are still my friends. Some of the old guard were very sweet and gallant, but singled me out from the guys and caused me some professional discomfort. Throughout my career at Disney, I tried to be the best and most committed layout artist I could be. I trained more than a few artists who came in after me. I found out, however, that the male dominated politics of the company resulted in a very real “glass ceiling” for women artists. I don’t think it was intentional, I don’t think the guys were even aware of their bias. I think we all got a little bit of short shrift at Disney in comparison to the opportunities the men were given. It was an honor to work with you and Sue and all the great women artists. I only hope the ground was laid for women artists of the future to be creative leaders at Disney/Pixar in the future.

          • brendachapman

            Hi, Karen. The feeling is mutual about working with you, too. Let’s hope it does continue to get better for those that follow. I just feel lucky that I was able to get in – and have the chance at all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hamish.downie Hamish Downie

    This is my grandmother’s story. She was hired as a draftswoman in an engineering firm in the 1960s. She was the only woman there. One of my favourite pictures of her, is her working at that drawing office. She had to put up with the jokes, and and the girlie pictures on the wall, plus the fact that she was forty and earning less than what the boys in their twenties were earning. She was a single mother at the time, so I think she just did what she had to do. She was a dressmaker in the 50s (and made a few for some TV performers), but she wanted to get out of it as she was tired of dealing with bridezzilas. She went to night school and retrained, and she worked in the drawing office until she retired. I’m really proud of her.

    • Brenda Chapman

      I’m glad you are proud of her. Sounds like she deserves it. And I can only guess that the feeling is mutual. Thanks for telling her story.

      • http://www.facebook.com/hamish.downie Hamish Downie

        Thank you for listening to it :) I can’t believe that someone like you would be so friendly with her fans. I take my hat off to you, Brenda, you are a class act all the way (just like your fabulous movie)!

        • Brenda chapman

          Aw… Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/Pogie_Joe Joe Kowalski

    I am neither an adult nor a woman, but stories such as these and the ones in the comments give me hope that maybe one day these gender issues will dissolve and we can truly live in equality. Perhaps it’s “unrealistic” but the progress cannot be denied!

    • Brenda Chapman

      If more young people like you think so, we are on are way. Thanks, Joe. xo

      • brendachapman

        I meant we are on OUR way. Sheesh!

  • drawn2life

    I don’t think I’ve ever been hired for my gender etc and I can’t believe they told you that in your interview! I’m so glad they did hire you, not because you are a woman but because of everything you have contributed! We would have missed out for sure (okay enough of that you’ll be blushing ;) )

    There still a long way to go for women I think! You have opened up my eyes for sure. To gender issues especially the influence on my children and also to the idea of also working as a story artist one day maybe. Why would women not have been included to story before you?? I remember reading that in the early days at Disney the ink and paint department was the only position open to women artists! Argh!

    Sian x

    • Brenda Chapman

      I think it is much better now. I wanted to show that we have come farther into a better place.
      Back in Walts day, ther were ads in the newspaper placed asking for artists to apply for animation positions with a caveat that “women need not apply”.
      So progress has definitely been made… Just more slowly than it should have.

      • sianychick

        ‘women need not apply!’ can you imagine the uproar if they wrote that now lol I’m glad its not that bad now x

        • Brenda Chapman

          Me, too!

  • Victoria Heckman

    I can’t recall having an experience like that. I’m twenty-three and I’ve recently returned to college after taking a couple years off. At the start of this year I had my first paying job working at the Oakton library, and from what I could tell I was one of the youngest employees.
    I came to UArts to continue studying animation because when I was studying it at the Delaware College of Art and Design I actually enjoyed many of the classes because a lot of it seemed to come so naturally. Not to mention I’ve loved animation since before I knew how it was made.
    Even if my animation isn’t that great, I do know that I like storyboarding and I’m good with character gesture and expression.
    I honestly don’t know where I’m going to go from here, but I do know that I’m making more progress here than I was at the library.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Good for you! Keep going! Thanks for sharing.

  • Sue Nichols

    I don’t think I was hired as a woman. I mean they already had gobs of females – you and development artist Jean Gillmore! Quota filled in both creative departments. But When I started boarding as well as designing, I was female story artist #2. So I think that is why for the time we both worked at Disney, I was often called “Brenda” by people who didn’t know better. Frankly, I took it as a compliment and smiled and answered back without correcting the name. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be Brenda Chapman? Everybody loves Brenda! :)

    • Brenda Chapman

      just so you all know, Sue has been one of my closest and best friends since back in the day at CalArts… And she has always ribbed me with that last sentence! Aaaargh!!! (Love you, too, Sue!)

    • David Wilson

      To be mistaken for the talents of either one of you would be a compliment. I was at CTN-X’s first year women in animation panel and had a blast, can’t wait for more this year.

  • Sue Nichols

    Seriously, I do love the stories below of women working hard to make room for other women. Good for you! Keep at it, ladies! Disney was the only company I worked for that made me feel like a “female”. I have always felt like an artist – not a gender – when I work. But there have been times at Disney when I had to have a male repeat my idea in order for it to be heard. And I have been told that I could not do something because I was a woman. It’s frustrating, but a fact of life that someday will no longer be a fact. Already, I can see that women starting work today are not hitting the walls we hit when we started in animation. Let’s keep going, Girls!

    • Brenda Chapman

      Good advice! xoxoxo

  • Darcy Vorhees

    Hi Brenda- I have been the only female artist on a TV production before (The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, just before Nickelodeon bought it)- I started out doing assisting with timing then moved to storyboard revision. While it did seem awkward sometimes to be the only female artist, there were female production staff so I wasn’t alone but I couldn’t help but notice how flirting was used and also how they seemed more like mom figures rather than authority figures. I was very happy to have gotten the chance to work on this production and learn from all of the boards passing across my desk- the show was obviously geared toward boys and the subject matter wasn’t something that I felt confident with but I developed an interest in it after studying it for the sake of the show and as a result I know I can do anything and don’t have that sort of fear anymore of working on subjects that i can’t identify with personally. I was lucky to have a director who gave me opportunities and was also told that I could have been in a board supervisor role one day with more experience in boarding but unfortunately the season ended with no guarantee of another! I had also seen people start out working with me and magically hop to board positions in literally weeks and had also seen how others moved from TMNT into higher positions or managing other shows within the company. I myself moved sideways from there to MTV so I decided after the MTV job was up to leave NYC and move back to my hometown, with the possibility of a move to CA after a rest to see what could happen there- then another season of TMNT was requested and I was asked to board from Ohio! I am very glad I got the chance to do so but there is a nagging feeling that if I had stayed in NY I would have been doing revisions again because I did that job successfully. I don’t know if that nagging feeling is accurate or not though. From there I stayed in Ohio and started my own animation company and have basically been finding my own projects to direct, design, animate, and manage. Hopefully if I ever enter the studio system again I will be considered for a more creative contributing roles due to my work at my company and not just for fixing everyone else’s work like I was doing before (though that was very helpful in me learning about the process of animation). Anyway so that has been my solution! Do it myself! My dad said once that there is more than one path to getting your goals accomplished so i am basically taking the side road, and it turns out that the general public can look at my portfolio and trust my opinions and work though somehow I wasn’t getting the same response in the studio system after 9+ years of working in it (I am an introvert, that also has to do with it i am sure)! I am trying to have an equal balance at my company but am finding that women approach me a lot less often than men do which is a real problem that needs to be examined by the female animation population! We need to be aggressive, b-e aggressive! Thank you Brenda you are an inspiration to me and have been for years though you didn’t know it ha:)

    • Brenda Chapman

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! Your dad had some words of wisdom to offer… And thanks for the kind words. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/nassim.ispaniouley Nassim Ispaniouley

    Thanks for sharing your stories, women are the best in everything!

    Sue Nichols; I’m a big fan of your art and gorgeous style, I just love your amazing and beautiful work! <3

    • Brenda Chapman

      Now, Nassim… let’s not go overboard. :) Let’s just say we’re just as good. :) Thanks for the shout out to Sue!

      • http://www.facebook.com/nassim.ispaniouley Nassim Ispaniouley

        Haha… :)

        Love all the movies you have worked on, very impressive indeed, like wow! Keep up the great work! :) <3

        • Brenda Chapman

          :) Thanks!

  • Maxine

    Dear Brenda, I was hired by a network owned and operated television station in 1973 precisely because of my gender. I had an FCC first class license and no experience but they were desperate to hire women to avoid a lawsuit. It was not easy to be one of the first female technicians hired but I did manage to last for 38 years, four stations and three Emmys. Over the years, I did my best to mentor both women and men. Congratulations to you.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Wow!! Congratulations to you! 38 years! Well done! I am humbled. Thank you.

  • Horror_Princess

    I won’t mention which program it was, in case my situation was unusual and I’d hate to condemn them if that is true.

    My writing is hardly the typical “feminist” style, in fact much of the time if my name didn’t appear on it, my works are commonly assumed to have been written by a guy. I work with genre, like raunch comedies and horror, many lacking a strong female protagonist. It became clear as schools began to recruit me that some were interested in me based on the fact that they could increase their male to female ratio, without having to deal with rom-coms or “women” films.

    I do not mind being the only girl in the room, nor being asked whether or not a piece is offensive to women. But I do take offense that based on the content of my work it surprises others that a woman wrote this.

    • Brenda Chapman

      I know – that is really hard to take, especially when so many men write the “rom-coms” and “chick flicks”. What? We can’t write a good action or gore-fest flick? Really?
      Thanks for your example.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.quaife Kathleen Quaife

    Brenda, You asked for stories, here is one that I can
    relay about one of my experiences relating to gender and work in the
    animation industry.:

    When I
    applied to work at Disney on Mermaid ( I had already worked as a senior effects
    animator and an effects supervisor on feature animation projects) I was told by
    Bill Matthews that the written reviews from the review board included ” She’s the best female effects animator in
    Los Angeles” then he looked at me straight in the eye and said: ”
    But right now we are not hiring any
    female effects animators.” Other male friends of mine were being hired on as FX animators at that time. So apparently there were openings in the job
    category of “male effects animator” but not “female effects animator.” The
    culture at Disney during that era just made the occurrence of what happened to
    you, Brenda, and what happened to me
    seem normal, and ok.

    Eventually,
    I was hired and my job rank in my
    contract was “senior effects animator” but
    the room assignments were by gender so
    I was assigned to room with a female who was an assistant animator. I
    loved my roomie,we got along great and we are friends to this day, but it felt like gender discrimination
    to be segregated from the other animators because I was female. I did
    not like that from the start, as all the other animators in the dept shared a
    room with other animators, ( all male) and I was the only animator sharing a room
    with an assistant rather than with another animator. Often the boys neglected
    to call me in when animators meetings were called saying “they forgot.” I had to represent that I should be assigned
    in a room with another animator, ( not related to gender, but to job
    classification) and finally I was roomed
    with a male ( FX animator) the issue of not being called in to animators meetings
    resolved itself after the room assignment changed.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Wow. I had no idea. That was just wrong. I don’t know if you’re still working in the industry, but I certainly hope things are better for you now!

      • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.quaife Kathleen Quaife

        HI can you delete the post above ^ I did not mean to post twice.. I was just trying to format.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.quaife Kathleen Quaife

    Brenda, You asked for stories, here is one that I can relay about one of my experiences relating to gender and work in the animation industry.:

    When I applied to work at Disney on Mermaid ( I had already worked as a senior effects animator and an effects supervisor on feature animation projects) I was told by Bill Matthews that the written reviews from the review board included ” She’s the best female effects animator in Los Angeles” then he looked at me straight in the eye and said: ” But right now we are not hiring any female effects animators.” Other male friends of mine were being hired on as FX animators at that time. So apparently there were openings in the job category of “male effects animator” but not “female effects animator.” The culture at Disney during that era just made the occurrence of what happened to you, Brenda, and what happened to me seem normal, and ok.

    Eventually, I was hired and my job rank in my contract was “senior effects animator” but the room assignments were by gender so I was assigned to room with another female who was an assistant animator. I loved my roomie and we are friends to this day, but it felt like gender discrimination to be segregated from the other animators because I was female. I did not like that from the start , as all the other animators in the dept shared a room with other animators, ( all male) and I was the only animator sharing a room with an assistant rather than with another animator. Often the boys neglected to call me in when animators meetings were called saying “they forgot.” I had to represent that I should be assigned in a room with another animator, ( not related to gender, but to job classification) and finally I was roomed with a male ( FX animator) the issue of not being called in to animators meetings resolved itself after the room assignment changed.

    • brendachapman

      Wow. I had no idea. That was just wrong. I don’t know if you’re still working in the industry, but I certainly hope things are better for you now!

      • http://www.facebook.com/kathleen.quaife Kathleen Quaife

        Yes I am still working. I stay in the trenches and do the work that needs to be done. If you want more stories just ask. Here are some things I’ve worked on. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0702784/ I have been working all my life. In 2012 am currently working on getting an MFA, ( just nine more units! yeah! ) and working on my thesis. I do freelance animation and teach university classes in animation studies.

        • Brenda Chapman

          Good for you! Obviously you’re not giving up! :)

  • Isabel

    Sometimes I wonder if holding back, not getting too impatient and appreciating the snail paced progress, is a way of just continuing to be “good girls” who are grateful for a few crumbs that have been thrown our way. We actually should be *outraged* at the current situation!

    I left the business years ago, tired of the super-mom producer/bad-boy director teams that seemed to be ubiquitous at the time. And it has hardly improved! It’s scandalous really. I am in science now, but it is not nearly as sexist (though it was just as bad in the past) as the animation business.

    Not to criticize anyone for sticking it out…

    • Brenda Chapman

      It’s just that there is only so much you can do without losing your job for being a “trouble-maker” or some trumped up excuse to either be demoted or laid off. But there a so many more young women coming into the industry that it’s getting harder for the studio boys to play the same game. And that is a good thing.
      And for some, this career is a passion and they’d rather stick it out than walk away from it, know what I mean?
      Glad you found a niche for yourself in science!

      • Isabel

        Thanks. I don’t think I exactly lacked passion. Just not good at playing the game (too introverted yet proud and rebellious-because of my hardscrabble background? who knows…). And I appreciate what you have done. I actually think the outrage should come from other sources. I agree it cannot come directly from a woman working as a creative person in the industry, at least not one using her own name. Although I think some female producers who have gotten pretty powerful could do more. But what about film critics? Parents who take their children to the films? MEN in the industry? Like I said, it really is completely unacceptable, and yes, far behind other art fields (the Whitney Biennial showcased over 50% female artists this year, after 0% in the 1970s!). I guess I did object to your use of the term “hardcore feminists”. Let’s not criticize people who are not in the hot seat (unlike women in the industry) who are telling it like it is! I noticed a lot of buzz about Lotte Reiniger on Fb recently because of a retrospective on TV; I wonder if she would agree women animators in 2012 have made progress?

        • Brenda Chapman

          Hard to say. I would love to know what she’d think!
          I wasn’t using the term “hardcore feminist” in a derogatory or critical way… At least that was not my intention. One of those hardcore feminists is a good friend of mine who hates Beauty and the Beast. I have no problem with her opinion. I was just explaining my take on how we “tried”. :)

      • Isabel

        Also, (sorry for the multiple posts!) but I didn’t mean to imply there was no sexism in science in general; progress in physics and other math-related fields for example is similarly glacially paced. And even in some biological fields where women are doing great numbers-wise there is still a lot to be done and the representation of women drops as power increases, particularly in biomed.

        You might be interested in this incident from just last week: While attending a major conference, a prominent academic neuroscientist posted semi-publicly on Fb the observation that there was an unusually large concentration of unattractive women in his field. Someone anonymously posted a screen grab of his status and it went viral. This blog post sums up the many, many responses, and in her follow-up post (just scroll down for link) she discusses the danger of retribution when pointing out sexist behavior, as has been discussed here already.

        http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/doing-good-science/2012/10/19/reading-the-writing-on-the-facebook-wall-a-community-responds-to-dario-maestripieri/

  • Youth Arts Underground Radio

    Just as bad in the music industry. Ive been in industry meetings where I was the only female in the room.

    • Brenda Chapman

      Let’s hope it gets better while we bring attention to the issue.

  • http://twitter.com/teganclancy Tegan Clancy

    Brenda I just wanted to say thanks. I first heard about your artistic journey at CTN 2010 and for the first time thought I could maybe have a shot at the animation industry. I am still learning but wanted to thank you for helping put me on this journey and hope to see you at CTNX this year.

    • brendachapman

      Thank you, Tegan. I’ll be there!

  • Jorgen Klubien

    I have to say that the point of H.C.’s Mermaid story was completely changed, in that he was saying you can’t have your cake and eat it too… Where as our Disneyfied movie said|: oh sure you can! I was never a big fan of her Broadway singing, her anorexic look or the re-imagined ending.. I have a small daughter, and many Disney films from our generation, I’m not comfortable showing to her. In contrast, I feel good about all the stuff made by Walt and the original Disney team.
    For a truth seeker like myself, I must say, the Disney studios was not an easy place to work. Didn’t find the culture there to reflect my sensibilities. But it’s good you had a great time there, good for you Brenda. Different strokes for different folks.

    • brendachapman

      Hi, Jorgen. I know it’s different for everyone. And I understand your concerns about Ariel. I didn’t like that she was so thin, either. I’m sorry your time at Disney wasn’t particularly your cup of tea. I can empathize having experienced that feeling at other places.
      Hope you are doing well and happy now!

  • David Wilson

    Brenda, what a disappointing world we live in. I’m raising two girls and two boys now and shudder to think that they won’t be afforded the same graces in life due to gender or any other physical trait. I’ve been given the unfair advantage of being a totally average white guy, so I admit I may be blind to many of discriminations that occur.
    I appreciate your openness and being willing to bring some of your struggles to the public eye regardless of the pressure I’m sure you feel.
    Could you identify some things you’ve identified about both positive and negative environments? I’d love to teach my kids ( and myself) how to recognize when extra work and patience may be needed to change a toxic environment and how to create the ideal setting where people can just do their work.
    Thanks again for the post and sharing your journey. Happy trails!

    • brendachapman

      All I can say was that I tried to be professional in my work ethic… and just treat everyone as I would like to be treated. I also stood up for myself and/or my co-workers when I didn’t think something was fair – for any reason – not just discrimination.

  • Josh Ryan

    Im curious if you would have not been a cal arts student, if they still would have hired you just because you are were a woman?

    • brendachapman

      Good point… maybe not.

  • Jesse Hamm

    For more interesting anecdotes and insights into working at Disney as a woman, let me recommend Animatrix, by the late Heidi Guedel. She was hired there in the ’70s, and talks about the goods and bads. Fascinating stuff, especially in contrast to histories of Disney published by Disney.

    • brendachapman

      Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out.

  • Thalia

    Totally feel your frustration here. I will say that I haven’t necessarily been hired because I was a woman – actually I was denied a job several times because I was a woman or in one case “Not the kind of woman we’re looking for.”

    It’s always frustrating to find out a guy or incredibly beautiful woman who have less training than you end up with the job. On one hand – good for the new hires because it’s not their fault! on the other hand shame on the people behind hiring.

    It seems like sometimes you can’t win and it definitely screws with your self confidence.

    Here’s to things getting better in the future.

    • brendachapman

      Cheers!

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  • http://twitter.com/themusicalnomad themusicalnomad

    I’m still at university, but it frightens me to think this is the world I will be entering.

    • brendachapman

      Don’t be frightened. Be strong. Men have their issues and problems, too. You’ll be fine. Stand up for yourself and help others. Didn’t mean to frighten you… just meant to prepare you. :)

  • Cain

    My dream has always been to work at Pixar. What you’ve done inspires me to continue and pursue it knowing that anything is possible. I love story-telling, it’s something I’ve always loved to do.

    I’ll forever believe it’s worth fighting for, and for everyone to begin their own story that’s worth telling. Deep down inside a message locked up inside us needs to be let out to the open and spread all around. Being a black american in France has only been making things uneasy when it came to school. I just used to see myself the same as other kids and I hadn’t seen a difference until it was mentioned that I had a differen’t race, It made me loose my confidence.

    I also hope that someday race and gender won’t have a meaning. I can imagine how much pressure it should be when you’re a women working at big company’s like Disney and Pixar. Now I know to stay strong and keep at what I enjoy the most.

    I find that you’re stories are fascinating, and have subliminal messages that are unforgettable and important all our lives.

    You’ve been a huge inspiration.

    • brendachapman

      Thank you so much. I hope the same. Good luck and stand strong!

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