A Brave Direction for Pixar?

Globally acclaimed and adored for their unique style and attention to detail, Pixar Animation Studios have taken us to infinity and beyond; to worlds of friendly monsters and talking cars; into the extraordinary lives of brave bugs, superhero families and an elderly man in his floating house. From the far depths of the ocean, to the gutters of Paris, and right to the outskirts of space itself. Now for their latest film Pixar are taking us all the way to… Scotland!? Well it’s Medieval Scotland to be more precise, for their 13th feature film Brave.

The story of Brave revolves around the young Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), who with her wild ginger hair and keen skill at archery isn’t your ordinary Disney Princess. Oppressed by the conventions and expectations of medieval women and royalty, the feisty and free-spirited Merida longs to escape and be herself. Only problem is she is hindered by her parents Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and King Fergus’ (Billy Connolly) desires to find an appropriate suitor for her to marry. Unfortunately her chance to prove herself comes when she makes a risky deal with an evil witch (Julie Walters), and as a consequence it is up to Merida to use her ingenuity, independence and archery skills to put things right and save the day – showing just how ‘Brave’ she is.

As with all of their other very diverse films, Brave is another first for Pixar as it is the studio’s first fairytale which features their first female protagonist. Set in a more ‘real-world’ environment instead of a completely fantasy based land, and with a much darker looking tone as the film’s events unfold,  Brave is all set to be a new and darker style of animated fairytale films for a new and more mature generation of cinemagoers and families. Within the character of Merida I think will lie a refreshing change from the often conservative view on women in animated films – a Princess figure that symbolises independence and strength. She is someone worthy of being a role model to young girls, who have thus far only had the all too clichéd ‘rags-to-riches’ fairytale Princess figure to look up to. Instead of waiting around for their Prince Charming, little girls will soon be inspired to control their own destinies like the film’s Scottish heroine. Merida herself is like a more colourful and lively version of Katniss Everdeen from this year’s The Hunger Games – but with more character! Think of it instead perhaps as a female Braveheart for families, but without Mel Gibson screaming through it (although the good news is that the presence of blue face paint has made the final cut).

This diversification within the iconic genre is made even more interesting by the fact that Pixar are, as of 2006, owned by the Walt Disney Company, whose animation studios have been recognised and remembered for their array of iconic fairytales over the decades. Therefore it’s interesting to see how Pixar have managed to differentiate their work from Disney’s classic style (something that the creative forces at Pixar have been keen to do ever since their first film Toy Story in 1995 – the film that revolutionised the animated film industry). Perhaps more important is how they’ll ensure that it works; with its more contemporary style this modernised take on a fairytale shouldn’t have a problem however. Whilst some people seem to be slightly concerned about this brave new direction for Pixar, I for one fully trust the creative geniuses in Pixar’s Brain Trust. Pixar should be feeling confident that Brave will be a hit film and will work in contrasting the classic fairytale conventions to create a more modern and exciting interpretation of them whilst staying true to the genre’s roots and its stylistic and tonal conventions.

After the poor critical response to their last film Cars 2, which disappointed a lot of fans and debatably ruined the studio’s immaculate track record (although I did actually quite enjoy it – call it a guilty pleasure), Pixar look set to be back on form with Brave – a film that looks to be as visually stunning, unique, emotional and funny as the animation studio’s finest.

From the trailers and footage released so far, Pixar’s acclaimed industry-leading high quality of animation, story, and characters all look to be present once again within Brave. One scene released early to promote the film, set at an archery contest for the prize of the Princess’ hand in marriage alone shows the film’s well executed humour, deep emotional core and spectacular cinematography – and if all of that is seen within just a few minutes, then I can’t wait to see what the whole film has in store for us when it’s released in the UK on August 17th!

By David Startup

You can read more by Dave at his blog, beyondinfinityfilm.blogspot.com

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