Directors: Mark Andrews et Brenda Chapman.
Writers: Brenda Chapman.
Producers: Katherine Sarafian.
Composer: Patrick Doyle.
Production Company: Pixar Animation Studios et Walt Disney Pictures.
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures.
Release date USA: June 24th, 2011.
Running time: 1h33.
Budget: $185 million.
Worldwide gross: $538,9 million.
USA gross: $237,2 million.
In the mythical Scotland of yesteryear, impetuous Princess Merida would rather prove herself as an archer than follow the strictness her rank imposes upon her. Differences of opinion with her mother Queen Elinor lead Merida to make a reckless choice that puts the kingdom of her father King Fergus in jeopardy and her mother’s life in danger.
About the movie.
The voice cast.
Brave, previously titled The Bear and the Bow, is Pixar’s first “fairy tale”. It is the first Pixar film to star a female character, Merida, as the lead. On October 19th, 2010, Brenda Chapman (who was Pixar’s first female director) let Mark Andrews take over. The film was described as “dark and intense”, but there was to be comedy through the characters.
With five dresses, a cloak, a quiver, a hand wrap, a necklace as well as some torn dresses, Merida has a total of 22 different costumes. She also has five different hairstyles throughout the film.
Merida has more than 1500 curly red locks, each individually sculpted, that make up a total of around 111,700 hairs.
Several castles served as reference for the DunBroch family castle: Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands most notably, and Dunnottar Castle which is located just south of Stonehaven.
The artists at Pixar came up with a new, unique tartan design for each clan.
The Brave production team took two separate research trips to Scotland. They visited specific historical sites, took thousands of pictures and attended cultural events to try and soak up the culture.
Out in Scotland, there is a natural phenomenon whereby gasses seep up through the earth and emanate from swamps and bogs. They are blue in color, like the flames of a pilot light. Scottish lore states that some people followed these lights, having thought they were little fairies. The production team took this myth and created the “Will O’ the Wisps“. The will o’ the wisps light a path and draw Merida into the forest, leading her to alter her fate.
Located on the Isle of Lewis, the Callanish Standing Stones are one of the oldest of Scotland’s mysterious wonders. They served as a reference for the mysterious Ring of Stones Merida comes across.
111,394 storyboards were drawn, 84,421 of which were passed over to Pixar’s editorial team to make story reels of the work in progress.
So Brave is Pixar’s thirteenth release, and most of all their first film to feature a female lead character. While Cars 2 was a disappointment, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman’s film has brilliantly set things back on track.
As per usual, Pixar starts off powerfully with a very beautiful and emotional sequence showing Merida as a child with her parents. The viewer discovers the strong bond that connects them, and it is hard to resist the heartwarming side of this family. The next few minutes feature the (too many) promotional videos with the archery tournament. It is interesting to view the in-depth research the artists put in to bring this Celtic world and its codes (tartan, traditional games…) to life.
The foundations of the story are set out, things start to get serious, and surprises occur. Merida’s wish costs her dearly and enables the film’s theme to be elaborated upon: the relationship between a mother and her daughter. At first their relationship is very strained, and they will learn to genuinely get to know one another over the course of their adventures. Many families will definitely be able to identify with this rebellious aspect that sets in between parents and children.
As the director says, there is a lot of duality in this film: mother/daughter, rules/freedom, good/evil… and this duality introduces a new Pixar feature which sets this film apart from the others: the dark side. For the first time ever, some of the scenes reach a pinnacle of terror each time Mor’du the bear appears. Very young children may get a little frightened watching these sequences, but they do weigh in on the story: rebelling can lead to regrettable consequences. The climax is obviously towards the end of the film when the emotion is at its peak: fear, anxiety, tears, questioning… you will experience all of this. It does not reach the sadness that pervades the opening sequence of Up, but it is hard to stay unmoved.
Cars 2 featured a large number of characters; in this new Pixar production there are less of them, and so they are far more intricately designed. This way you grow much fonder of them, and each one of them has their own distinctive personality. Merida obviously has the most interesting personality, and she thus adds a new facet to the other studio heroes. She might be viewed as a tomboy, but that would not be true. She has her girly, dreamy side and truly refuses to abide by the codes her rank as a princess imposes. Many young teenage girls might therefore identify with her by wanting to defy the rules. However, one must not forget that being too rebellious entails responsibility. Merida therefore finds herself facing her problems, which enables the character to change throughout the story and become more mature.
The first teaser that was shown a year ago exuded a very dark atmosphere, but a Pixarian put viewers’ minds at rest by assuring there would be comedy thanks to the characters. This is indeed the case, as the ensuing promotional videos corroborated, and the triplets are now becoming cult Pixar characters. It is fun to observe that Toy Story had the three aliens and that Brave has three little rascals. They are nevertheless not the only ones to add humour to the film, as Pixar subtly uses small touches here and there as they are so good at doing.
Cars 2 had set a very high standard regarding graphics and scenery. Brave even takes it one step further by depicting a positively breathtaking Scotland. Photorealism is achieved and enables viewers to immerse themselves even further in this Celtic world. Each detail has been meticulously elaborated, and the finishing touches are truly stunning. Disregarding the highly Pixarian style the characters are endowed with, the film’s bestiary deserves a special mention, with bears and horses (including Angus) that are very lifelike. But let us go back for a second over the characters’ graphic design. When the videos and screenshots were first shown, it was often decried that Pixar had copied Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon (or even the thieves from Tangled). A Viking as a Celt… caricature is often the same in people’s imagination. Pixar therefore went in for this common picture people have in mind by of course adding its personal visual touch. Should we broaden the debate, you could also say that Pixar has a style it has endowed its characters with since its early beginnings which has left a great impression on audiences. Brave therefore retains the Studios’ signature style without them having to be accused of copying rival studios. In addition to the graphic design, the photography is magnificent, with lighting effects that strengthen the scenery’s aesthetic quality and enhance the Scottish landscapes. If you take away the characters and their highly Pixarian style, you feel as though you are watching a live-action film.
A film about the Celtic world calls for music of a similar kind. After regular composers Randy Newman or Michael Giacchino, Pixar called on Patrick Doyle. For his debut with the studios with the hopping desk lamp, he successfully proved his talent by presenting us with a very beautiful soundtrack that arouses many feelings. The songs are also an absolute success. We especially kept in mind “Touch the sky”, performed by Julia Fowlis, and “Learn Me Right “, which is the most Celtic-sounding with its bagpipes, those distinctively Scottish instruments. This is definitely Pixar’s finest soundtrack.
It is now all the rage in cinemas and movie theaters, and so Brave is meant to be three-dimensional. There will always be two audiences thereon: those who love it, and those who do not. For this film, the 3D effect works wonderfully on the landscapes and really immerses you into the Scottish scenery. But apart from that, it remains minor.
The end credits are more minimalist than previous ones and feature Celtic patterns.
In conclusion, Brave has reached a very high standard of quality and will quite definitely upset your order of Pixar preferences. It is a success in all respects. The studio with the hopping desk lamp, following its first “failure” last year, confirms its expertise thanks to talented artists. Their first “Princess movie” breaks all codes, which makes it a work in its own right.
It should be noted that some of the film extracts that were shown during the promotional phase are not to be found in the film (at least three of them). They will probably be added to the DVD/Blu-ray editions. And a small fun detail finally, a major challenge that Pixar successfully took up: featuring the Pizza Planet truck, which we spotted for you.