Dir: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman
This could have so easily been called Disney’s ‘Mother Bear’… thank goodness it wasn’t that!
‘Brave’ is Pixar’s first foray into parent company Disney’s staple genre of fairytales. It follows Merida, a young Scottish princess in the highlands who despite her mothers best efforts to train her up in the skills of a young lady, would rather be a tomboy riding and shooting her bow in the woods. When it comes to the matter of betrothing the young lady however, the friction of this is too much for the mother and daughter, and Merida enlists the help of a witches spell to change her fate by changing her mother’s point of view… unfortunately the change takes on an unexpected form, turning the Queen into a bear!
Does anybody remember Disney’s 2003 film ‘Brother Bear’? In that, a man gets turned into a bear, and though I’ve not seen it myself, I was reminded of that much which I knew by this. I think that’s where the comparisons probably end.
The storyline of ‘Brave’ was conceived by (original) director Brenda Chapman, who has stated in interviews that it was inspired by her own relationship with her daughter. Though I doubt that she’s ever been transformed into a giant furry bear, there was an unmistakable ring of truth in the interactions between mother and daughter, and without doubt it has to be the films greatest strength. I’ve never been a mother, or a daughter, but I have three sisters of different ages and with very unique personalities, and saw first-hand how they spoke and sometimes argued with our mum, and I was distinctly reminded of them in some moments and lines in this film.
The production of this was beset by some ‘artistic differences’ that eventually led to Chapman departing the film, but Mark Andrews owes the Academy Award for ‘Best Animated Feature’ (that both directors received) to the solid foundation that her work had undoubtedly built.
I loved the voice talents. Kelly McDonald (who I’m sure my brother has a soft spot for) has a more mature voice than that of an 18-year-old, but she’s got such a melodically lovely voice and genuine Scottish accent, that the voice soon fits Merida perfectly well. Then there’s Billy Connolly who is inspired casting in his role as Merida’s loving father, this brilliance can be best heard in the part where he is role-playing Merida with the most wonderful girly voice saying “I don’t want to get married, I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind”.
Unsurprisingly the film looks visually stunning, partly as Pixar reworked their software for it. But is it really up to their usual standards? I remember when ‘Cars’ came out, it was criticised for not being good enough, it was widely held that it looked great, and was still a high quality of animated film, but just not as good as we had already come to expect from Pixar. A few films on, the first ‘Cars’ film saw people warm to it as the inspired genius of the merchandising and how it worked for children, especially young boys, became clearer with hindsight. I think the same will have to happen for Brave. It is Disney’s absorbed ‘partner’ taking on the classic sort of story that made the ‘House of Mouse’ so famous and beloved. However that’s not what some of us wanted for Pixar, who really were the people who could work magic with the stories that classic Disney could have only turned into disappointments at the time. This is such a change again for Pixar, not that their films are in any way of a specific type or genre, but rather that they are usually the opposite, defying expectations.
Will Brave be able to kindle added fondness with time?… Probably.