Chapman was one of a team of three Directors who worked on 1998's The Prince of Egypt, along with Steve Hickner and Simon Wells. She became the first woman to land a directing role in an animated feature by a major studio; three others had helmed independent efforts before her (Lotte Reiniger of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Joy Batchelor of Animal Farm, and Arna Selznick of The Care Bears Movie).
Chapman also worked in story and development for other Disney animated films such as The Rescuers Down Under, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Fantasia 2000. She joined DreamWorks Animation at its inception in the fall of 1994.
Chapman moved to Pixar in 2003, where she had a brief stint on Cars before beginning development on and directing Brave. Chapman conceived the project and was announced as the Director of the film, making her Pixar's first female Director. In October 2010, however, she was replaced by Mark Andrews following creative disagreements. There were rumors that she subsequently left Pixar, but she remained on staff until shortly after the release of Brave, and started work as a consultant at Lucasfilm at the end of July 2012, where she helped solve story problems of Strange Magic. When asked whether she will return to Pixar, Chapman responded: "That door is closed. I made the right decision to leave and firmly closed that door. I have no Desire to go back there. The atmosphere and the leadership doesn't fit well with me." She has stated a sequel to Brave is inevitable.
In 2013, she returned to her old employer, DreamWorks Animation, where she helped in developing Rumblewick that had a strong female protagonist and was described as "funny with magic and heart." As of 2016, she is developing projects for Chapman Lima Productions, with her husband Kevin Lima.
Chapman is married to Director Kevin Lima (A Goofy Movie, Tarzan, Enchanted), whom she met at California Institute of the Arts. They have a daughter, Emma Rose Lima, who was the inspiration for Merida, Brave's young Princess. In April 2014 Chapman, who has never lived in Scotland but does claim Scottish ancestry, urged Scots to back Independence in the referendum vote in September 2014.