When it was first announced that Disney were going to do a film set in Scotland called Brave warning bells were clanging away. When it became clear that it was Pixar in charge they begin to quieten, but the first images to be released were not that promising. Scotland’s global image is still suffering from, what Simon Callow’s character so succinctley describes in Four Weddings and a Funeral as ‘Bloody Brigadoon’, and the fear was that while Brave would no doubt look beautiful, those stereotypes, many of which were conceived under the Hollywood sign in the first place, would be visited once more. But this is Pixar. They don’t do easy.
The first thing they got right was in their choice of cast. Instead of having Hollywood heavyweights showing off their comedy Scottish accent (I’m looking at you Myers), they went for mainly home grown, or home related, talent which includes Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly and, as the heroine Merida, Kelly MacDonald. Two exceptions are Julie Walters as the local witch, who is as reliably good as you would imagine, and the Pixar good luck charm that is John Ratzenburger as Gordon the guard, who I believe appears in all of their films.
The film gets round the usual reliance on tartanry by concentrating on Celtic mysticism and family dynamics. This is a film that could have been staged in many ancient civilisations, so it’s heartening that they chose ours. One of the reasons for this may be the setting, which Pixar beautifully recreates and sometimes enhances. There are a couple of scenes which are breathtaking, and even if you think the plot is at times obvious, which is sort of the point in such films, you will be amazed at the artistry on show. Special mention must be made of Merida’s red hair. I remember the fuss when Pixar released Monsters Inc as it was said they had mastered the art of animated hair with the character of Sulley. Well in Brave they take this to the next level and there will be a number of kids, and adults, who will have a new found pride in their ginger locks after seeing this film.
Brave is one of those increasing rarities, a film for all the family that doesn’t feel it has to wink at the adults while entertaining the kids. It reminds me of classic Disney rather than classic Pixar in that although it is not as groundbreaking as Wall:E, Toy Story or The Incredibles, it is as comforting and life affirming as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Sword in the Stone or, a personal favourite, The Aristocats. It is destined for favourite DVD status.
Here’s the trailer:
Ewan Morrison recently spoke on our 19th podcast about how movies in particular seem to take fewer chances on new stories, preferring instead to revamp old films and TV, or adapt comic books and novels. To back up this point the trailers before Brave included Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie and something called Hotel Transylvania which seems to feature all the classic MGM movie creatures once more. Then came the Pixar short La Luna which was five odd minutes of pure magic and shows that animators, as I’m also including Studio Ghibli and the work of Sylvain Chomet, are often showing the way forward in how to make interesting cinema.
Here’s a brief clip: