Brave new world for animation
The story of Princess Merida, the fiery red-haired heroine of Pixar's animated adventure epic 'Brave' is a tale of bravery.
But it’s also more than that - the movie represents the most daring and complex feature film to date from the studio that so famously brought the world ‘Toy Story’.
It is Pixar’s first film to feature a female protagonist, its first period piece in which historical references intersect with a fantasy world, and the studio’s first epic adventure set in a natural human world.
Passionate and fiery, Merida (voiced by Kelly MacDonald, ‘Trainspotting’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’) is a headstrong teenager of royal upbringing who is struggling to take control of her own destiny.
She’s most at home in the outdoors, honing her impressive athletic skills as an archer and sword fighter and racing across the iconic Scottish countryside with her faithful horse, Angus.
Just as Merida rallies against convention, so too did the Pixar animators. One deceptively simple example of this, is how they fought to capture the heroine’s flowing curly locks for the big screen.
“Merida’s wild, red curly hair is so much a part of her character,” says director Brenda Chapman. “And I had no idea what a nightmare I was asking for when I said, ‘Nope, she’s got to have curly hair’.”
In computer-based animation such as ‘Brave’ and Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’ simulation programmes are used to predict the movement of loose items on characters, such as hair or clothes.
“When I began work on ‘Brave,’ the thinking was that a simulation programme couldn’t handle curly hair and maintain the volume,” says Chapman.
The director wanted the curls to move and interact with each other in a semi-realistic way, yet still maintain the overall volume, adding: “You don’t want the hair to look like springs. You want it to stretch and still maintain its body. We had to devise an entire new hair simulator.”
While Brave’ has a technical creation process, the story comes from distinctly human beginnings. Chapman was inspired by a
“I was dealing with a very headstrong daughter,” she says.
“She was so passionate and so strong - and she was four at the time. I thought,
‘What’s she going to be like as a teenager?’
“I started to imagine what a fairy tale would be like, with a working mum and a really willful daughter whose strength you don’t want to squash - but sometimes you do want to squash it a little.
“But in the end, it wasn’t a fairy tale. Brave turned out to be more of an epic action-adventure.”
Chapman knew instantly where she’d set this new action-adventure fantasy tale.
“I have a love of Scotland,” she says. “It’s my ancestry, though I’m one of the great American mutts and my family has been around since before the Revolution, so I can’t find that old country family connection. Scotland’s just such an amazing place. It’s beautiful. The people are really hearty and they have an incredible spirit.”
And Scotland is hoping ‘Brave’ will be a movie it can bank on.
The Scottish government and its outspoken first minister Alex Salmond have been in on the act from the start, with £7 million pumped into marketing the film amid hopes of a boost in tourism and the economy to the tune of
The tie-up is unique for the Disney studio.
“It is going to give everybody a really warm glow when they think about Scotland,” Salmond said at the recent LA premiere.
“So for the people who know about Scotland already it will reinforce the image,
and for the people who don’t know, or have never heard about Scotland, it will give them a great introduction.”
It remains to be seen if an animation as opposed to box office blockbusters such as ‘Braveheart’ and the Harry Potter series will expand Scotland’s tourism coffers.
‘Brave’ hits cinemas in the UAE today.
Film buffs also stand a chance to win a family trip to Scotland. Emirates Holidays has teamed up with Visit Scotland, Rocco Forte Hotels and The Balmoral, Edinburgh, for the competition. To enter, sign up for a free Vox Rewards card at any Vox Cinema in the UAE.