June 21, 2012

‘BRAVE’ heroine takes fate in her own hands

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies, Women at 6:40 pm by dinaheng

When a curly, redheaded Scottish lass named Merida shoots an arrow into her mother’s traditional plan to marry her off and keep peace in the Highlands, it’s clear that this heroine is no ordinary fairy tale princess.

“BRAVE,” an animated film from Disney and Pixar out in theaters on Friday, June 22, explores what happens when a teenager struggles to define her own destiny, and must use all of her skills to undo a witch’s curse in order to save the mother she thought was ruining her life.

The original story, as conceived by director Brenda Chapman, stemmed from her own relationship with a headstrong, six-year-old daughter. Chapman, who wondered what the little girl would be like as a teenager, started to imagine an action-adventure, mother-daughter fairy tale set in Scotland, the land of her ancestry.

Eighteen months ago, director Mark Andrews stepped in to simplify the story, and took the helm of the film he’d already been consulting on with Chapman.

“Pixar wanted an outside eye when things got stuck, and I’d been there all the way, so it was a good fit,” says Andrews, who recently co-wrote Walt Disney Pictures’ “John Carter” with Andrew Stanton and served as second-unit director on that film. “I treated ‘BRAVE’ as an adaptation, like I’d done with ‘John Carter From Mars.’ I loved the parent-child relationship, the theme of bravery — external and internal — and the transformation of a girl from child to adult.”

As Andrews notes, Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) is a brave girl who shoots arrows, climbs cliffs and fights bears, but the bravest thing she does is something every adolescent coming of age will recognize.

“The bravest thing Merida had to do was apologize for her mistakes and failings,” Andrews says. “She realized she could be more than what she thought she could be because of what her mom did for her.  So she has to reveal her feelings to her mother, and apologize.”

In life, Andrews says, there is no outside force pushing us to a pre-ordained destiny. We are all in control of our fate, if we’re brave enough to look deeply within and find the right path for ourselves. This is a lesson, the director says, that both mother and daughter learn — together.

Andrews, who is also of Scottish descent, says Merida was deliberately designed not to be a typical Disney princess.

“There’s no love interest in this story,” Andrews notes. “Merida’s not defended by a Prince Charming, and she’s not questing for a happily-ever-after. She’s completely different from any of the Disney princesses.

“She teaches that being a princess has nothing to do with what you are, like gender, race and sexual orientation have nothing to do with what you are. What we all are, are human beings who make our own destinies. Merida’s not a Disney princess. She’s a Pixar hero.”

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1 Comment »

  1. Aside from the amazing ways that Pixar is demonstrating a female heroine, I am so happy there is no love interest! What a breather!


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