An Open Letter to Mark Andrews:
This is my effort…a meager attempt if you will…to try to promote some good faith and generous spirit to someone in a high place in the animation community. I want to ask you something as the current, credited director of “Brave”. Putting aside industry politics, and putting aside what the corporations of Disney/Pixar ask of you: If the film “Brave” wins the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature on Feb 2, 2013, would you be willing to the right thing by declining the award and give it to Brenda Chapman, the original director who conceived the idea for the film? What I am asking isn’t a plea. I am asking you on the level of your conscience if you are willing to do what is right.
You may be wondering who I am. Well, my name is Mike Caracappa. We met once, I had dinner with you and some friends of mine while I was a student at Cal Arts in 2005. It’s been almost 6 years since I graduated and I am still working on getting my career started in the industry. Except for a few close friends, the rest of the Cal Arts Character animation graduates I know who are working in the industry are for the most part aquaintences. There are Cal Arts grads/animators working in the industry who don’t wish to associate with me because of my strong opinions. I have argued that many of the industries biggest problems are not just coming from studio executives, but from animation artists themselves, who are rarely willing to take action and speak up when something important and unspoken about is happening right under their noses. These are things they know are true, and yet turn a blind eye to out of fear that their job and reputation in the industry would be at stake. I feel very strongly that this situation with you accepting the Annie for Best Animated Feature is one of those moments where something needs to be said.
You should know I am not well known in animation. I get very little feedback for my opinions on my blog. As far as my credibility goes in the industry, and my lack of experience in the field, you have every right not to listen or take any of what I have to say seriously. But I ask you anyway that you hear me. You may have seen this article:
Director Reveals Agony of Getting Kicked Off “Brave”
In that article it talks about how you accepted an award from the people of Scotland, while Brenda Chapman was present but had to sit in the back and watch as you received the credit for her film. I have a general understanding when it comes to industry politics and how awards season works. When you are receiving an award, it is not just for you, but a matter of studio politics to help support the promotion of the film for The Walt Disney Company. But the key point of all this is that when you accepted the award in Scotland, you were listening to your studio bosses in that moment and not necessarily yourself. You did not consider another option you could have made of your own free will: Decline the award, call Brenda Chapman forward, and give it to her. She deserved it, because the original conception and the majority of the production time was done by her. It’s her film.
I’ll tell you something funny about me writing this. I actually didn’t like the movie “Brave” at all. To be honest, I was very angry and frustrated by the films story (MY “BRAVE” REVIEW) So I am not writing to you about this because I have any passion for the movie itself. I do not know Brenda Chapman personally, and apart from the fact that she was nice enough to add me on Facebook, I have never met her personally. This has nothing to do my views on the message of Brave about female enpowerment, or anything to do with the industry politics saying that there aren’t enough woman working in animation or the fact that no woman has ever directed a Pixar animated feature before. This has nothing to do with that at all.
If “Brave” wins the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, you need to give it to Brenda. Not accept the award and acknowledge in your speech Brenda’s role in the film. Give the award to her. It’s her movie. By not giving her the award and the credit she deserves, you are listening to the voices of The Big Studio. They are not your own voice. For a passionate professional artist such as yourself, I’m sure you know the dangers of what happens when we don’t listen for ourselves at important times, and the paths that could personally lead us to, which is a place we may regret. When you were offered the directors seat on Brave, whatever opportunity Disney may have offered you to advance your career, either getting a promotion or making your own film after this, you will have to live with the notion that you achieved it at the expense of Brenda. She is an amazing director, but she was also promised one thing by the studio and then was burned by them when they took her project away from her. The same will happen to you once you decide you want to direct and tell an animated story for Pixar that you know is truly unconventional. Brave was a happy accident which was dropped into your lap at the last minute for you to fix. But you need to tell yourself that’s all it was. You did the job you were asked. Now let it go. Telling people during interviews in magazines out of politeness that the film was really Brenda‘s is not enough. You can do better than that. Giving her the award publicly is a symbol to everyone that you are truly sincere to your word, and that you really mean what you say.
If you make the choice to give the award to Brenda, and the studio gets upset with you, takes away your next project or never promotes you past Head of Story, then you will see the true face of the people you’ve worked for all this time. You’ve seen what’s happened to those before you. You know what‘s happened to directors who were handed somebody elses project and then took all the credit for it. I bet Brad Bird was stuck in the same corporate position you’re in now, after was forced to take credit for a movie that was really started by somebody else. How does an honest, decent person in the industry live with taking all the credit for a success that shouldn’t have been theirs to begin with? Especially when they spent the whole time listening to “higher powers” instead of listening to themselves? They deny their choice to use their God given free will to step up and make the right choice for somebody else.
I would like to guess that you and Brenda have had a good working relationship, and that you respect her as a colleague and a friend. If you truly respect Brenda as an artist and as a fellow animator in our community, would you be willing to break the cycle of those before you and publicly give her the award and the credit? Would you be willing deep down to do what you know is the right thing, regardless of what anyone tells you? Either choice you make, even if you listen to the studios, you won’t come out of it completely unscathed. There are those people in the industry will remember the choice you make. But if you give Brenda the award, the one thing you will gain even more of is the respect of other animators and artists working in the industry…and it will let those artists around you know there are still good people in high places, who are willing to support their artistic peers out of compassion, respect, and support.
It’s your choice.