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‘Brave’: Pixar Movie or Disney Princess Movie?

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What’s the debate?

If you’re confused by the title, I’ll explain. Brave is, of course, under the company name Pixar, but the main protagonist, Merida, became officially part of the Disney Princess lineup. This got me wondering, is the movie Brave better suited in the Disney-Pixar category or the Disney Princess category?

The Character

First off, Merida is a princess by title. That’s an easy one on the checklist, but it does go further than that. Eilonwy from The Black Cauldron and Kida from Atlantis are princesses, but they aren’t part of the elite Disney Princess group due to lack of popularity. When I heard Merida was going to be an official Disney Princess I didn’t believe it. It didn’t make sense at the time. It wasn’t until she was officially crowned at the coronation at Disney World that I saw the rumor was true. I realized they must have wanted more diversity in the group. You can see Merida’s official crowning ceremony at Disney World below:

She was also chosen to be represented in ABC’s Once Upon a Time series. Surely this makes her more a part of Disney’s classic movies than Pixar’s? Can you imagine Woody or Lightening McQueen in this fairytale television show? Clearly it is Merida herself that fits perfectly into the Once world even though she’s not based on a traditional fairytale like Snow White or Beauty and the Beast.

Amy Manson portraying Merida in the fantasy television series ‘Once Upon a Time.’

So what does she not have that other Disney Princesses have? There are diegetic songs, but she doesn’t sing. She has a horse that she treats like a horse and not an anthropomorphic animal that can actually understand her. She’s not exactly sweet and kind either. She punches first and asks questions later. She’s certainly not the perfect representation for femininity and perfection that we associate with a Disney Princess. There is also one big different that makes her stand out from the rest. She has no love interest.

The official Disney Princesses, including a 2D design of Merida.

The official Disney Princesses, including a 2D design of Merida.

The Story

Elsa from Frozen is hailed as being a great role model for little girls for not needing a man. However, in the exact same movie, her sister Anna ends up with a good-looking ice-seller. That’s cheating. There’s still a love story in that movie. So Brave feels much more Pixar in that respect. It’s the opposite in fact, Merida is trying to find a way to get out of a marriage. Not because there’s someone else she loves – or might love in the future like Jasmine in Aladdin – but because, as her father so perfectly puts it, “I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind while I ride through the glen, firing arrows into the sunset.” It’s this humorous line that sparks the idea that it’s a Pixar movie, along with the animation and the depth. There is, in my opinion, a classic “Pixar Moment”  when Merida and her mother – now a bear – are catching fish. Take a look at that scene again and tell me whether it fits more into Pixar’s canon of animation – with depth similar to WALL-E and the “Define Dancing” scene – or whether it fits more with the likes of Tangled and the “I’ve Got a Dream” sequence.


Okay, so she does wear pretty dresses (though reluctantly) and she does have a pretty face that can sell dolls. She’s on lunch boxes and pencil cases with all the other princesses and there’s nothing outstanding enough to suggest she doesn’t belong there.


The 2D re-design of Merida, with a more girly and glittery look.

However, there was uproar not long ago about how her new design for the princess lineup was “too pretty.” When joining the pantheon of Disney Princesses she had to have a new two-dimensional look to fit in, as Disney did with Rapunzel before her. Unlike the long-haired blonde beauty, however, there was a backlash (mostly by parents) that Merida’s waist was too skinny, her hair was too perfect, and her stance was too evocative. Even Brave‘s co-director, Brenda Chapman, disapproved of the change. Surely this is a little red flag that tells us that she’s not the traditional perfect princess. Think about the princess’s accessories too. They all have the gloves, hairbrushes and tiaras. Merida has these too but do you know what else you can also buy at the the Disney Store? Merida’s bow and arrow. Since when did a Disney Princess come with a lethal weapon? Even Mulan doesn’t come with a sword. It’s pretty obvious what this is all about. She is the Disney Princess of our modern time.

The Conclusion

I’ll be honest, I already had an answer in mind before I began. I think the movie makes a much better Disney Princess movie than a Pixar movie. This is not only for the reasons mentioned above. It’s much more basic than that. Allow me to explain. Do you remember the original teaser trailer?

When I first saw this I was in insane hype-mode. A fantasy movie. A kick-ass female as the main character. It looks like a great Pixar movie! When I saw it in theaters I remember thinking it was “good.” It was no Ratatouille, but it was good. Since I am a Disney DVD completest, I purchased the movie and watched it again, but this time with a different point of view. Once I found out that she was an official Disney Princess I watched the movie with different eyes. It was silly, I know, but I was no longer watching it as a Pixar movie because of this little fact. I quickly came to the conclusion that she was actually the best Disney Princess because of her differences. She might even be my favorite Disney Princess. So, to me, this movie could either remain an “okay” Pixar movie or one of the best representations of a modern Disney Princess. I chose the latter.

What do you think of Brave? Do you think it makes a better Disney Princess movie or a better Disney Pixar movie?

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About MJ Edwards

MJ is a writing and film graduate who loves to relax with scented candles and herbal teas. She is a dog-walker by day and a pie-maker by night. She loves movies starring Christopher Reeve and her favorite animated film is Meet the Robinsons. MJ also loves anything that LAIKA and Tim Burton come out with.