Welcome to the Pixar Rewind! Over the next couple weeks, we at Rotoscopers.com will be reviewing every Pixar film and celebrating what makes each one so great. At the end of the series, and after the release of Pixar’s ‘Inside Out,’ we will have a fan vote to determine which film our readers think is the best of them all!
Brave, Pixar Animation Studios’ 13th animated feature film, is about princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), the Scottish princess of clan DunBroch. While Merida is a horseback riding, mountain climbing, and adventuresome free spirit, her mother wants nothing more than for her to be a proper young lady. Merida is horrified to discover that she is to be betrothed to one of the sons of her father’s allies. While the boys compete for her hand in the traditional Highland Games, Merida decides to take her fate into her own hands. After she defeats each of her potential suitors in the games, Merida visits a “wood carver” witch and receives a cake enchanted to change her fate.
After the witch’s spell turns Merida’s mother into a huge, black bear, Merida learns she must “mend the bond torn by pride” in order to set things right. If she fails, her mother will remain a bear forever. Merida and her mother are then lead by a blue, ghostlike will-o’-the-wisp to the terrifying and bloodthirsty bear of legend, Mor’du. Upon their return to DunBroch, Merida discovers that, as result of her rash actions, the clans are on the brink of war. Between the warring clans, the pressure to choose a suitor, the reappearance of Mor’du, and the final day to break the curse coming to a close, Merida must use all her strength to set things right!
Brave is Pixar’s first film to have a princess protagonist, something audiences are more familiar with seeing in Walt Disney Animation Studio’s animated films. However, while Brave might have a princess in its staring role, it is certainly not a typical “princess” film. As was the trend with princesses over the past decade, Merida does not conform to princess norms, doesn’t seek a prince, and isn’t swayed by any romantic notions. Just as all the Disney princesses reflect the eras in which their films originated, Merida reflects the modern day and was created to reflect a modern woman. She’s confident, strong, and knows what she wants. One of the things I love most about Merida is that she is not perfect. Merida is silly, messy, and learns that sometimes making one’s own choices results in making one’s own mistakes, too. I truly think Merida is one of the most realistic princess characters in animation.
Brave sports many technical achievements, the most noticeable being Merida’s red, curly hair. Considering that Pixar animators faced the great (and some believed impossible) challenge of animating Violet Parr’s straight and relatively short hair in The Incredibles only eight years earlier, Merida’s curly-haired design really shows just how far Pixar – and computer animation in general – have advanced over the past decade. Merida’s 1,500 individual curls get wet, bounce, and reflect light in a way that is unlike that of any other CG animated character. The time, research, and work Pixar animators put into Merida’s curly hair really paid off; her hair is amazingly beautiful and incredibly memorable!
However, Merida’s iconic hair is only one of many technical achievements in Brave. Production began on the fishing sequence, in which Merida tries to help her transformed mother catch fish in a river, a year before Brave’s completion. The lengthy amount of time spent on this sequence was due to the scene’s complex water effects. The resulting scene depicts a river with flowing water that looks uncannily realistic.
The year of its release, Brave won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. This win made Brave co-director Brenda Chapman the first woman to ever win the award (the second – and only other winner – being Jennifer Lee for her co-direction of 2013’s Frozen). Brave also marked another animated feature first; Merida became the first “non-Disney” princess to be included in the official Disney princess line-up. For those who don’t know, the Disney Princess line is a media franchise that includes all the official Disney (and now Pixar) princesses. Not only was Merida the first “non-Disney” princess to be included in the line-up, she was also the first princess that didn’t have a love interest.
Overall, I think Brave is a beautifully animated film with a unique storyline that doesn’t get as much appreciation as it deserves. Rarely do we see animated films that focus on mother/daughter relationships (or even parent/child relationships, for that matter). Often parents are barely present in the story at all (like in Disney’s more sibling-focused Big Hero 6 and Frozen). Brave doesn’t shy away from telling a new type of story that focuses on different types of family relationships. While the challenges Merida faces are riddled with fantasy and fantastic circumstances, one can’t help but relate to her struggles. Ultimately, Merida triumphs and is finally brave enough to acknowledge her strength and her role in the creation of her own destiny.
Do you love Brave? Where does it fall in your ranking of Pixar’s best films?
More from the Pixar Rewind:
- Toy Story
- A Bug’s Life
- Toy Story 2
- Monsters, Inc.
- Finding Nemo
- The Incredibles
- Toy Story 3
- Cars 2