A Peek into my Mind: My Interview with SplineBomb.com

It can be both exciting and humbling to reflect on my career and look back at how I got to where I am today. There were both thrills and bumps along that road, but I’m very thankful to where it’s lead. Recently artist and character designer Ryan Adams interviewed me about my career. He covered some topics I haven’t visited in awhile, so it was a great trip down memory lane. An excerpt is below, and you can click through to SplineBomb for the whole interview. Thanks for allowing me to share my reflections with you!

From SplineBomb.com, originally published March 12, 2014


Here’s one of many interviews that has been coming for a while. Our awesome friend, Ryan Adams, took time out of his busy schedule to chat with Brenda Chapman. In 1998, she became the first woman to direct an animated feature from a major studio, DreamWorks Animation’s The Prince of Egypt . Her latest project was in 2012 where she wrote and directed Disney Brave . Other writing credits includeFantasia/2000  (story), 1996 The Hunchback of Notre Dame  (story),  1994 The Lion King  (story supervisor),  1991 Disney Beauty and the Beast  (story)…

– Tell me a bit about yourself, when did you first know of your passion for Animation?
Well, like most of us old folks in animation, I loved to draw since I could hold a pencil without putting it in my mouth. I also loved watching animation all my life. I didn’t put the pieces together that people actually created animation until I was in high school. Once I realized that – I had my life’s goal in front of me.

– The Prince of Egypt  is one of my favourite animated films, it has a vibrancy yet has a darkness trickling through it! It also has epic scenes and great songs. What attracted you to the story of Moses and how did you begin to visualize such a vast land?

Thank you!

It was a story that was chosen for me by Jeffrey Katzenberg. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been something I would have chosen for myself. I was worried about how many times it had already been done – and the one with Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston is an American staple at Easter time. Also, I was worried about doing a biblical subject matter and the controversy that might cause. However, I’m not one to walk away from a challenge and such a great opportunity.

In trying to visualize the film, I wanted to create a visual difference between the architectural world of the Egyptians, even in their character design – and give the Hebrews and their world a more organic look. Everything outside of Egypt I wanted to feel driven by nature – everything in Egypt, more geometrical, except where the slaves lived. That difference was conceived just by looking at the amazing structures the Egyptians had created in that time.

That is why I had Derek Gogol designing the Egyptian world and Richard Chavez designing the Hebrew world – and the desert. They are both brilliant in their own ways and strong in those areas. Casting of the artists is very important.

I have to give credit to Simon wells for pushing the epic look and cinematography of the film. He took the lead there.

Read more at SplineBomb!

  • So cool! – So much to learn from you! I completely relate as I am also cursed with stories always brewing in my brain. I don’t know how to turn that off either … can’t say that I want to. 😉

  • Priya Sridhar

    I am trying not to squeal when reading this interview; that scene with Cody and the Eagle was probably one of the best parts of the opening sequence, and this is coming from someone who prefers the first Rescuers movie. Thank you for linking to it, Ms. Chapman!

    • brendachapman

      Aw, thanks! I like the first one, too. 🙂

      • Priya Sridhar

        You’re one of my role models for art and animation, and I admire the storytelling approaches used to humanize characters in the films you’ve written and directed. I’d like to learn how to animate without going to art school, though every time I think of using Photoshop to animate one of my friend’s musical works, I freeze up and worry that it won’t be good enough. How does one get over the learning curve, and to face the reality that initial efforts will be imperfect?

        • brendachapman

          Practice, practice, practice. I still struggle with that! Just keep going. 🙂 Good luck!

  • sianychick

    I REALLY enjoyed this insight into you and your process. I wish I could buy you a coffee and ask you question after question. But i’m sitting here drinking my own coffee and reading your blog and that’s pretty awesome too 😉

    ‘Bring yourself into your work.’ That jumped out at me, I will try to remember that 🙂 xxx

    • brendachapman

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the read. Maybe someday we’ll be able to meet for coffee. 🙂

      • sianychick

        ahhhhh don’t tease me Brenda that would be so exciting 😀 xxx

        • brendachapman

          LOL! 🙂

  • Ryan Adams

    It was great to interview you Brenda! Be great to get an insight in person one day! Take care! Ryan

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