Pixar films are almost consistently outdoing their predecessors at every turn. And the brief glimpses of Brave so far have had a lot of pundits asking why they’d look to create a very familiar ‘Disney feeling,’ princess story with a Celtic flavour. Personally, the entire back catalogue of (arguably) the most influential animation studio in the world – that’s carried on the torch from Disney & Studio Ghibli – hasn’t made me lose faith yet.
Princess Merida defies her mother Queen Elinor and a betrothal custom that brings her kingdom to the brink of chaos. Thinking that she has no other option Merida seeks out a witch and a spell to change her fate. In light of the spell’s beastly consequences – Merida must use all her wits and bravery to undo the spell.
Brave is about generations of mothers and daughters. And despite using a familiar succession tale it diverts the Disney route entirely. Instead of a ‘diamond in the rough’ or ‘prince charming’ coming to Merida’s ‘rescue’ Pixar flips the dynamic and instead tries to instigate generational change. So instead of male characters being the complex characters and the women fulfilling archetypes it’s these Highland rough warrior men that are caricatures (save for Connolly’s King Fergus – The hulking bear-like physique of King Fergus is contrasted by Connolly’s sweet and tender brogue).
Visually the Celtic iconography and mythology is so conducive to the Pixar treatment. The rich evergreen forests, the dark stone totems and battlements all pop from the screen and despite the exaggerated characteristics of the characters, and anthropomorphic qualities in the wildlife looked incredibly authentic and organic.
Was there ever a doubt that Pixar couldn’t deliver on the fairytale? Yes. Should there be? Not in the slightest. Brave breaks Disney fairytale legacy and in doing so finally creates believable female characters that form the emotional core to the whimsy, terror and tradition of this magical Celtic tale.
and a half
Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell
Written by: Mark Andrews (screenplay), Steve Purcell (screenplay), Brenda Chapman (screenplay/story) and Irene Mecchi (screenplay)
Starring the vocal talents of: Kelly Macdonald: Merida (voice), Billy Connolly: Fergus (voice), Emma Thompson: Elinor (voice), Julie Walters: The Witch (voice), Robbie Coltrane: Lord Dingwall (voice), Kevin McKidd: Lord MacGuffin / Young MacGuffin (voice)