It is undeniable to say that every child loves a Disney movie. Since the first ever “Snow White” in 1937, to when our horizons were broadened in 1995 when Pixar gave us the first computer generated animated film: ‘Toy Story’ – audiences along the line have been continuously intrigued. Pixar since then has produced an array of fantastic animated films, which especially in recent years have dominated the box office charts (Beck 2013). Adding to this, the fantastic thing about Pixar films is their mutual appeal to both children and adults; with heart-warming story lines, endearing and complex visual animations, as well as their witty every day humour. A perfect example of a movie which fulfils these features is Pixar’s recent family melodrama: ‘Brave’.
Set in a fantasy highland village in Scotland, ‘Brave’ stands to be the first Pixar film that has featured a leading female heroin: Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a bold and feisty red haired teenage girl; who is eager to create her own path in life. Her determination to do the opposite of what is expected of her by her mother; Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), is one of the main themes in the film which focuses on the mother and daughter’s relationship, and the princess’s rebellion against the traditional royal norms. Her peg legged father King Fergus (Billy Connolly); a fighting nut with a passion for food and good whiskey, in unite with the 3 clans of the kingdom come together in court to arrange the marriage of his daughter, from a choice of one of their eldest sons. However horse riding and archery expert Princess Merida does not see why she must marry, and resents her role as a princess complaining “I’m a princess. I’m the example. I have duties. Every day of my life is planned”, and subsequently embarks on a short mystical adventure to try and find a way to change her almost inevitable future.
The princesses toying with fate takes a bad turn however, when she accepts a dodgy potion from a suspicious witch that she meets in the woods, who ensures her that if Queen Elinor drinks it, it will change her mind about the marriage. The potion instead transforms the Queen into almost a clone of the very thing her father despises; a bear, resembling virtually identical to the vicious creature which took her father’s leg in a battle which is shown at the start of the film. After the witch disappears, she leaves Merida a riddle for breaking the spell, and if she does not figure it out by sunrise it will be irreversible; condemning Queen Elinor as a bear forever. Merida then faces the action-packed and emotional challenge of protecting her mother and changing her back, which ultimately takes bravely, courage, and rekindling the relationship with Queen Elinor.
Being Scotland born and bred, I found the Scottish setting and themes of the film very refreshing, and felt almost patriotic watching the animations which presented the Scottish highland landscape in a beautiful and majestic way, with mesmerizing and almost oil-painting like colours. The soundtrack composed by Patrick Doyle and collaborated with folk singer Julie Fowlis, only enhances the magnificence of the picture, with the Scot themed music supported by the singers stunning vocals. It might also be an assumption to make that directors Mark Andrews, Steve Puncell and Brenda Chapman very much support the petition for Scottish Independence, with it all going on at the time of the film’s release. If the extreme yet amicable Scottish stereotypes don’t represent this, then the strong natured protagonists of the film certainly do. One particular favourite moment of mine was the Aberdeenshire reference, with ‘Aberdonian’ character Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane) making a statement which I’m fairly certain only those in the Aberdeen and shire radius would have been able to understand – shown at the end of this video clip from the film:
A very outstanding factor for me about ‘Brave’ was Princess Merida’s blatant unconventional attitude in comparison to the other Disney Princesses, and what it teaches children in this day and age. Traditional Disney films such as ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella’ have been criticised for having sexist implications with regards to the role of women in society, and what they should aspire to achieve in life, (Brooker 2010). In the case of the classic Disney Princess films, the ideologies within them can predominantly imply that females should find a husband and live happily ever after.
Merida not only represents an unlikely princess, but it is what she desires from life which conflicts with her expected role as a princess and a woman, and that is someone who wants to make their own choices; which reflects modern social gender changes in our society. Although suiting the adult viewer visually and comically, ‘Brave’ is still fundamentally a kid’s film, and children will favourite it – watching it over and over again in years to come. From what I took from the film, these messages of ‘be who you are’ and ‘follow your heart’ which are paraphrased by Merida in the finale of the film, project a peaceful and more realistic message to children today in terms of existing in society, along with positively suggesting that in the end, everything will come together if you accept people for who they are.
“Some say fate is beyond our command, but I know better. Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it” – Princess Merida (Brave 2012).
Beck, J., 2013. Animation Dominates the top 20 Highest Grossing Features of 2012. Cartoon Brew, [online]. Available at: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/feature-film/animation-dominates-the-top-20-highest-grossing-features-of-2012-76294.html [Accessed 9 April 2013].
Booker, M. K., 2010. Disney, Pixar, and the Hidden Messages of Children’s Films. Praeger Pub Text.
Child, B., 2012. Brave-review. The Guardian, [online]. Available at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2012/jun/25/brave-film-review-ben-child [Accessed 9 April 2013].
Chiong, L., 2012. Pixar ‘Brave’ for Tackling Mother Daughter-Themes. Examiner, [online]. Available at: http://www.examiner.com/review/pixar-brave-for-tackling-mother-daughter-themes [Accessed 9 April 2013].
IMDb, 1990. Internet Movie Database. [online]. Available at: http://www.imdb.com [Accessed 10 April 2013].
Nathan, I., 2012. Brave. Empire, [online]. Available at: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?FID=135548 [Accessed 9 April 2013].
McFadden, J., 2012. Feminism, Beyond and Within: A Review of Brave. Gender Focus, [online]. Available at: http://www.gender-focus.com/2012/07/02/feminist-review-of-brave/ [Accessed 9 April 2013].