Sunday, July 15, 2012

Thoughts on Disney and Pixar's "Brave"

I guess I should preface this post with that fact that I am not a Pixar fanatic.  To be honest the only films of their's that I really liked were Ratatouille and Finding Nemo.  So, I don't have real preconceived notions of what a Pixar film should be, what kind of issues they usually raise or how differently they supposedly approach animated stories.  Instead I came to this film with a genuine interest in medieval history, a love of the British Isles and as someone who also has a great amount of crazy curly hair, although not the red variety.

As I sat in the theater watching the film, the main things that kept coming to me were, wow the way they animated the scenery is just exquisitely beautiful, they did a really fantastic job creating the hair realistically, I feel like I'm watching an attempt to create a film for kids that is similar to Snow White and the Huntsman, in a way, and is this Disney's first attempt at an original fairy tale? ...

So, the film seemed to present many juxtapositions: Merida and her mother, female and male, human and animal, light and dark, young and old, magic and "non magic" (I don't really like this term, if I can call it that, but I can't think if anything else, for example in Snow White and the Huntsman there was a definite juxtaposition between magic and religion, but I'm not sure what it is here) and wit/intellect and foolishness.

I must say that while all of these comparisons were presented, I don't think they were delved into in a deep way; they are there but in a rather surface fashion.  The plot was rather simple, and other than the "villain" bear,  the characters didn't have too much complexity as individuals.  To be honest I wasn't as stirred or moved or thought provoked as much as I was with Snow White and the Huntsman, but I truly enjoyed the film!  I enjoyed the role that legend and storytelling played, as well as the way the mother-daughter relationship was dealt with, in that it wasn't simply a rebellious daughter or a unforgiving and horrible mother, it was more realistic in that both had to learn from each other, both made compromises, both were altered.

Magic played a somewhat ambiguous role in the film.  There are the will-o'-the-wisps who help lead you to your fate, and are the visible signs that lead you on the path to your destiny.  But then there was also the character of the witch, who was neither good nor evil, and simply gives Merida what she believes she desires, however the outcome is less than perfect.

This film is one more to add to this list of films and books that are adding to the fairy tale trend, both in film and literature.  Unlike other fairy tale movies, this was not a revisioned fairy tale but instead an attempt of creating a new fairy tale.  After seeing the film, I started thinking how it seemed to be a combination of the following films and texts:

1. Quest for Camelot (the mother-daughter relationship, a girl that desires to be a knight/warrior type of person, medieval setting, animals, form altering magic, threatening forest...)

2. The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke (daughter who wishes to defy royal traditions and doesn't want to be a typical princess, competes in a tournament in which the victor is supposed to win her hand and wins thus forgoing a chosen mate, connection with nature)

3. O'Sullivan Stew by Hudson Talbott (British Isles setting, role of storytelling (although it's much more important in this story than in Brave), a young woman who defies convention, doesn't end with the typical romantic happily ever after (although, unlike in Brave where this is no love interest at all, it is implied that Kate will probably marry the King on her return)

4. Brother Bear (role of form altering magic, fate and destiny, change into a bear in order to improve one's perspective, family relationships, nature)

Lastly, a few non thematic or substance related notes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film's score composed by Patrick Doyle as well as the end credits collaboration between Birdy and Mumford & Sons called Learn Me Right:

Here's one of the songs from the score called "Fate and Destiny":

Here's Learn Me Right from Birdy and Mumford & Sons:

Also, I really loved the actors they got to voice the three main characters, Merida (Kelly Macdonald), her mom (Emma Thompson) and her dad (Billy Connolly).

Have any of you seen Brave?  What did you think of it?


  1. My daughter's got a list of movies she wants to go to and we might be seeing this one soon! I appreciated your review! I'll let you know.

    1. Sounds fun :) Definitely let me know, I'd love to hear what both of you thought. Sounds like me, I also have a list of movies to watch, but who knows when I'll get to's usually while I'm folding laundry!