As the tile suggests, this is a bold new animated concept from pioneering Pixar that moves away from the fantasy characters children and adults alike delight in, and more towards fabled ones that could come straight from the campfire stories of Scottish folklore. It’s also quite fitting with our women’s triumphant medal glory in 2012 that the lead character is a fiery, independent sportswoman of considerable talent herself, as handy with a bow and arrow in any archery competition as any Korean gold medalist. In fact, Merida our heroine (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) – who sadly bares a striking red barnet resemblance to shamed newspaper boss Rebekah Brooks – could give any of the Koreans a run for their gold in Rio in 2016.
Merida is a free-spirited princess who has the usual strained teen relationship with her parents, with the added pressure of having to be married off young to a suitor that will unite the clans. However, Merida who wants to make her own way in life has other ideas and doesn’t want to follow tradition. She suggests an archery competition to select the worthy male specimen from a very sorry trio. Even with duty calling, Merida still defies her mother, Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson), and flees into the forest, only to stumble upon a witch and her spell to that promises to ‘change’ her mother’s outlook. The result brings chaos to the kingdom and Merida must rely on her bravery and archery skills to end the curse and reunite her family and the clans.
As 3D effects should now be – subliminal and not the focal point of any film anymore, what Brave is left to do well is concentrate on the storytelling with some great characters to journey along with. However, the story is less fanciful and imaginative than the likes of Toy Story, which allows it a more ‘realistic’ quality. There is a lot of utterly charming humour and banter to enjoy with this tale that is naturally peppered with family values and morals that fit in nicely with its aim, rather than drum home the obvious in an eye-raising snooze fest.
American filmmakers Brenda Chapman, Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell really show an understanding of the Scottish ways of old, without sugar coating it for US audiences in some whimsical fashion. It’s easy to see how the Scottish tourist board will benefit from this film and its salt-of-the-earth characters and Highland landscapes – as well as a predominantly all-Scots cast. In true Pixar style, the colours are also as rich as is the scenery that adds to its enjoyment and our immersion into Merdia’s forested world.
There is a wonderfully unique touch to the whole affair that sees a mother-daughter relationship take the helm and restore equilibrium, rather than the usual male-dominated Pixar characters. The fact that the writers have also added a healthy dose of humour to female leads’ adventure too, along with lots of fun, gives Brave a strength of character to add to its characters’ appeal. It’s also great to see how Pixar handles a standard fairy-tale princess story in a modern way, giving little girls a heroine who can handle her own and deal with her own disappointments. As for adults, though the jokes and sequences may not be as fresh as expected in a Pixar vein, it’s the heart of Brave that keeps the story beating along nicely.