Brave is the latest movie from the creation of the Disney/Pixar team. Disney/Pixar already has quite a stellar reputation of churning out first-rate animated movies since 1995 and they promise Brave to be another story with a top quality cast, top-notch animation and a story that’s thrillingly entertaining. The question is do they deliver well enough to keep the Disney/Pixar legacy happening?
The story revolves around Merida: a young Scottish princess who’s first-born of King Fergus of Clan DunBroch and Queen Elinor. Merida is an energetic princess from the start as she gets a bow and arrow for her birthday and her passion for archery grows. Her pursuits include encounters with a will-o’-the-wisp to the demon bear Mor’Du. The bear is successfully fought off at the expense of the king’s leg. Years would pass. Elinor would have triplet boys who are totally mischievous. Merida would grow up to be a free-spirited teenager who has a passion for archery and sword fighting. This charms her father but doesn’t go well with the mother as she wants Merida to grow up to be a traditional princess. Merida doesn’t look forward to the traditional life of the princess. She wants more to be the hero and the fighter instead.
Then the day comes. Merida learns that she is to be betrothed to a first-born son from one of her father’s allied clans. Even though Merida is disappointed, Elinor tells Merida the story of a boy who did his own thing and it led the kingdom to ruin. Even though Merida is still unhappy, she decides for archery at the Highland Games to be the decider for her future husband. Disappointed with the contest Merida openly declares open to compete for her own hand and devastates the efforts of the other boys. This disappoints Elinor greatly and the two have a falling out as Merida goes into the woods.
In the woods she’s led by will-o’-the-wisps to a witch disguised as a wood carver. The witch agrees to give Merida a spell to change her mother but in the form of a cake. To both of their surprise, Elinor turns into a bear after eating the cake. Merida heads back to the witch’s cottage only to find the witch gone. The potion in the cottage contains an automated message from the witch that the spell will be permanent unless undone by the second sunrise. She also leaves a riddle to undo the spell: “mend the bond torn by pride.” As Merida attempts to patch things up with the mother, she sees how her mother has become more bear-like. She also flees an attack form Mor’Du and learns that Mor’Du received the same spell from the witch many years ago. She learns she has to mend a family bond to prevent her mother from being like Mor’Du. To make things crazier, her brothers discovered the cake, ate it, and turned into cubs.
Meanwhile tensions grow at the castle as the clans fight over Merida’s behavior. Merida quells the fighting by declaring that children should get married in their own time. The suitors and the lords all agree. Meanwhile the time for Merida to restore Elinor into a human is running out. Merida and Elinor try to head out of the castle only to be stopped by Fergus who mistakes her for Mor’Du. Fergus pursues Elinor while Merida has to free herself to stop them both. It isn’t until all are confronted by Mor’Du that something has to happen. Elinor lures Mor’Du to a falling menhir which kills him. It isn’t until one final professing from Merida that the spell can be cast free and peace can be restored amongst the clans.
Overall Brave does not rank as one of the best Disney/Pixar movies ever nor does it have one of its best-ever storylines. In fact it was Pixar’s goal to make a more mature movie as compared to their mostly kid-friendly movies like Cars, Up, Ratatouille and Toy Story. That could be why many may feel the typical Disney/Pixar magic is lacking here. What it does do is live up to the promise of a story entertaining for any movie audient of any age even with its darkness at times. It also delivers in bringing charming characters to the table and a heroine that succeeds in making the audience want her to win in the end. That is reason enough to consider Brave an excellent movie in its own rite. The unique thing about Merida is that she’s Pixar’s first ever female protagonist in a feature-length film.
The story itself was even written by a woman: Brenda Chapman. She wrote the story to have it in the same tradition as Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. She was also to be Pixar’s first female director but was replaced by Mark Andrews following creative disagreements. The presentation of Merida as a strong young woman who defies traditional convention but has a heart of her own also gives a positive female role model for young girls. Good to have since reality show bimbos seem to be the popularity contest winners right now.
The voice acting had excellent choices in terms of picking some of the biggest names to come from Scotland: Kelly MacDonald, Billy Connolly, Craig Ferguson and Kevin McKidd. The addition of English actors Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters also added to the charm of the story. John Ratzenberger, a favorite of Disney/Pixar, again makes a return appearance. The animation was top notch as one would expect from the Pixar team. Once again detail and accuracy pay off. The music, composed by Patrick Doyle, was meant to have the Celtic feel of being in Scotland and included many authentic Scottish instruments and Scottish rhythms in the score’s mix.
Brave is not amongst the best Disney/Pixar movies ever made. Nevertheless it does take the Pixar team in new directions in terms of storytelling and it succeeds in being entertaining to the audience. That should keep the Disney/Pixar continuing on their positive streak.