Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Darlie Brewster talks about life, gender and cartoons

Darlie Brewster
Darlie Brewster is an animator with a vast wealth of experience in Hollywood. Her film credits include Fern Gully, The Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, and Brave. Some years ago she made a huge change in her life and underwent gender reassignment. FLIP asked her about her remarkable journey.

FLIP: Some years ago you made a major change in your life. What prompted that decision and was it something that took a long time to figure out?

Darlie: Actually it didn't take that long really, after it was finally diagnosed. My issues were not just "there", which I'm sure everyone just assumes . It started majorly in puberty because nothing felt right. My mother reacted pretty violently against my pleas for help about what I considered serious emotional problems. Really, there were no people like me back then that I knew of and I hadn't clue what I was going through so I was totally on my own.

FLIP: Have you experienced discrimination in the industry as a result?

Darlie: Discrimination ? No, actually what makes this story funny is how wonderful everyone has been. There has been no discrimination at all. After the transition I got all my friends back, my family, I got jobs. It's amazing and, worse, it was like my entire life began for the first time.

And all the stuff you hear about having to "change"? All that is baloney. You don't change really; the world does. Even with all the medical things required; this was the easiest thing I have ever done, given the result. Happiness is too small a word. You need something gigantic to describe how I feel about life now. My sister said "Oh that's what that was". End of story.

FLIP: You have worked as an animator on some of the best animated films ever made – what is your favourite project and why?

Darlie: Ferngully, because of the director Bill Kroyer and the animation leads Tony Fucile and Doug Frankel. It was the first time I was given freedom to lead a character and it was an amazingly generous production, given the situation. It was more like doing things with family than doing work.

Designs for Merida
FLIP: You worked recently on Brave at Pixar – how was that experience?

Darlie: My time on Brave was short but I really liked the work. Pixar could not or would not send me the script, so I felt a little out there, given that I was working in Los Angeles. Although, in fairness, they may not have had a script at that point - it was 5 years ago.

Merida Turnaround

At the time, Brenda Chapman was running the project and I was also in contact with Steve Pilcher, the art director. I got some rough designs from [character designer] Carter Goodrich, but I was really tweaked when I saw Steve's painting for Merida.

I did a quick rotation and some expression sheets, but then I found out that Merida was actually much younger in the story than I had known. I apologized and said that I felt like being outside Pixar wasn't going to work out, so I begged off.

FLIP: What projects are you working on now?

Darlie: Right now I'm the animation director for Duck Studios in Los Angeles. We're doing a show for Sony - The Smurfs special Smurfy Hollow. Duck Studios is really a great little studio.

(Editor's note: to find out more about Brave, click here to read our interview with writer-director Brenda Chapman, discover why director Mark Andrews wears a kilt, and learn about the secret Irish roots of Merida's hair....)


  1. Darlie is one of the smartest, most creative and interesting women in the world, but better than that, she is my little sister. Way to go kiddo!

  2. Her commentary on family guy's "road to the multiverse" is fantastic and full of facts. From fern gully to paranormin, pure genius.- Film fan, Mike Cooper