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When a tomboy princess has a misunderstanding with her mother, she resorts to magic to teach her a lesson.


Merida, of the clan Dunbroch, is a princess of Scotland. Her mother, the queen, is pestering her to be a proper lady. Merida finds out she is paired up with one of the sons of another clan for marriage and decides this is not the best thing for her, taking a different course of action. She runs into the woods following wisps until she comes to a hut with a witch inside who makes a cake that will cause her mother to learn a lesson from Merida. In fact, this cake turns her mother into a bear. Merida and her mom are then forced to work together to reverse the spell before it is permanent.

Brave breaks the norms PIXAR set in place for itself over the years. PIXAR never made a fairy tale, never had a female lead character, and never had a female director. Brave is a mother daughter story at its core. Both Merida and Elinor need to learn lessons from each other, especially listening to one another’s opinions. Their shortcomings cause a rift between them and end up getting them into the magic mess they face together. That being said, magic and legends make Brave a fairy tale. Fairy tales were untapped ground for PIXAR, as most of their films have been adventures, comedies, and buddy films. Magic was not ever present in any other PIXAR film, nor were princesses or legends. PIXAR has had a phenomenal track record with their story telling abilities and character development.  Brave is definitely all about character development.

Throughout Brave, the main characters learn lessons and the audience gets to see true growth in them. While in other PIXAR films the character development was apparent, this seemed the clearest possible. Merida is a stubborn teenage girl who just wants the freedom to do what she wants and learn at her own pace. Elinor is just a mother who wants the best for her daughter and to make sure that she turns into a respectable young woman. Both of them are terrible at listening to each other are both are impatient with each other. After Elinor is turned into a bear, Merida realizes that it is up to her to take care of her mother. Since she is no longer human, she has lost certain abilities such as speech and opposable thumbs. As the time goes on with Elinor in bear form, moments of her just being a “mindless beast” keep happening and light a fire under Merida to find the reverse of this spell. While Elinor is in her bear form and being taken care of by Merida, she comes to learn that Merida is a very capable and confident young woman and deserves respect and to be listened to in times of trouble. Brave is fun to watch because of the depth that PIXAR brought to those characters.

PIXAR did not stop there with their depth. They went into serious research on Scotland and Scottish lore and culture, so much so that they even got the tartan (plaid pattern associated with Scottish clans) for the clan of Dunbroch registered with Scotland. PIXAR developed the tartans from existing patterns and used colors pertaining to historic Scottish elements and time periods. PIXAR went so in depth with things that there even is a character with such a thick brogue he sounds as though he could be speaking Scottish Gaelic. PIXAR also stuck with history by understanding that Scotland has had clan wars and legends passed down through the years about those clans. In Brave, the viewers are presented with a brief history of the clans in the movie. This story even comes full circle at the end of the film when another character who had suffered a similar bear fate finds closure.

As per usual, PIXAR did an incredible job with the animation and overall look and feel of the film. The most dazzling of the picture would be Merida’s fire red hair, the incredible floating and glowing blue will-o-the-wisps. The scenery is especially breathtaking. The ability to harness the entire environment and make it look like Scotland is a monumental task, but PIXAR did it. The textures of the stones, the moss on the rocks, the waterfalls, the fog, the wood: it all comes together to give this film a feel of a particular period in Scotland’s history. PIXAR continues their other tradition of having an all-star cast for this film. Although Reese Witherspoon was supposed to voice Merida, Kelly MacDonald did a wonderful job. Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, and even Craig Ferguson lend their talents to help breathe life and humor into these characters, making the film even richer. Humor is not hard to find in Brave: it may be a relatively serious topic of mother-daughter relationships, but the men of the clans, and even Merida’s three younger brothers, add quite a bit of laughter and charisma to this film. While Brave stands alone in the PIXAR line-up as the only fairy tale and female dominant film, it is an all-around good heartfelt film with good messages and great heroism. Brave may not be the best PIXAR film or the most amazing in all aspects, but it is a good film to enjoy time and time again.

Directed By: Brenda Chapman and Mark Andrews

Written By: Brenda Chapman,

Produced By:  Katherine Sarafian

Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson

Distributed By: Disney/PIXAR

Release Date: June 22, 2012

Run time: 93 minutes

Rated: PG

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