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Disney/Pixar’s Brave: I’m just a little worried.

July 2, 2011

Only a few years after the supposed failure of The Princess and the Frog to attract little boys to the theater, Disney is either attempting a do-over or expressing a well-intended, “So what?” In June 2012 Disney/Pixar will give us Brave, with the first female lead in a Pixar film since its debut in oh…1986 (Seriously? Seriously.)

Let’s start with the positives here:

– The film is set in ancient Scotland; the teaser and poster both suggesting images of the Rings of Brodgar on the Orkney Islands. I for one am excited about the location and whole gorgeous look of the thing. Having been to Scotland myself, I can tell you it’s seriously beautiful and the Pixar animators will no doubt nail this, making us marvel at the wonders of the Highlands just as they did with the ocean in Finding Nemo.  The misty mountains, Merida’s wild curly red hair, and the Scottish spirits all sound like Pixar’s cup of tea.

-The voice cast sounds absolutely outstanding. Reese Witherspoon was set to play the lead Merida, but had to drop out last minute (Thank goodness. She can twang away all she wants but I don’t want to hear her try and be Scottish.) Merida was recast with Kelly MacDonald, an actual Scot of Boardwalk Empire fame.  Joining her is some serious Scottish acting royalty: Billy Connolly, Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane and Craig Ferguson, as well as Brits Emma Thompson and Julie Walters.

Before I move on to my minor problem with the story, let’s take a peek at the teaser trailer.

Looks pretty cool right? Now, my issues with the story are as follows:

-She’s a Princess. Ugh, great. The first Pixar film with a female lead and they have to go the Disney Princess route? Because the only way to lure audiences to a female-lead driven film is if she’s a Princess? Rumor has it she’s going to be inducted into the whole Disney Princess franchise nonsense as well.  A disgruntled IMDB commenter had the following to say, “All of these movies have had a male protagonist. Granted, many of the Pixar films have feature interesting, likeable and strong female characters, but the studio has never done a film where the story is told from their perspective until Brave…And what is the end result. That’s right a Princess. I can’t help but think that animators (and in particular Disney) believe that if a female is to be the focal point of the movie than it’s assumed she is to be a member of Royalty.” OY.

Brave‘s Wikipedia page details the synopsis of the film (minor spoilers): “Since ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. In Brave, a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida (Kelly Macdonald) confronts tradition, destiny and the fiercest of beasts. Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish which turns her mother into a bear. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.” Now, that sounds pretty cool, aside from the Princess issue. But then we get further detail from Entertainment Weekly (print edition) that, “Merida defies the wish of her mother, Queen Elinor that she settle down and marry,” SERIOUSLY??????

::Deep Breaths::

So not only is she a Princess but her main conflict is that she is being forced to but doesn’t want to get married? Let me guess, she’s oh say about 16 as well? Didn’t anyone in the writers’ room think for a minute and say, “Oh hey, haven’t we done this before in The Little Mermaid/Aladdin/Mulan/Pocahontas?” I’m seriously annoyed at this whole premise of female lead=Princess=her main problem must be Marriage. UGH!

I am truly conflicted here folks. On the one hand I am happy that we have what looks like a genuinely empowered female lead in a film titled Brave. Last weekend, after personally witnessing a little 6 year old boy being told to, “Stop acting like a whiny little girl” I think society needs a little female chutzpah. (That little boy no doubt went to see Cars 2 with a zillion other little boys and was treated to the Brave teaser trailer. Good move on that part.) Yet on the other hand, are my conflicts. Why does the first female driven Pixar film revolve around a story of a girl being told what she can’t do? Why does Merida fight with a long range weapon? (Girls are allowed to fight, but only from afar?) Why is the point that she is a “brave” female protagonist the main focus of the film rather than just a non-Princess girl going on zany adventures like the characters in the other Pixar movies?

Promoted as a gritty and dark tale, Brave is on a path to become a more serious Pixar film than the others before it. It’s got a mysterious element as well as the gorgeous animation going for it. I’m also a little relieved that there is nary a mention of a romantic interest (Princess+being told what to do+marriage problem +the guy she really loves would just drive me bonk bonk.) I’ll definitely be in line to see it and I truly hope it doesn’t disappoint. But like I said guys, I’m a little worried.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 17, 2011 3:17 pm

    Not to disagree, but I disagree. They do the princess thing because that’s the fairy tale of it all…but not every leading lady started as royalty, or lived that way for that matter. While princess was certainly the end game, Cinderella was a slave and Tiana was a waitress…both dealing with personal struggles before achieving their dreams and incidentally becoming a princess. Others born royalty didn’t live as such, with Sleeping Beauty a peasant, Snow White an outlaw and housemother, and Rapunzel a prisoner…all which built character, strength, a great set of pipes for singing in the forest and, in the end, all a girl needed to get everything she wants, crown and all. As far as marriage being her big problem, let’s do a time check…it’s medieval…a time when a 16 year old girl’s biggest problem would have been…yeah, probably marriage. When the story revolves around a female lead who’s biggest problem is what to cook for dinner, then let’s worry and be concerned. Then we can feel like it’s not a progressive story. When the story revolves around a girl of conviction and character, who’s skills with a bow seem to be shown off much more than her crown, let’s cheer for the leading lady. Maybe she’s a more modern day hero than we realize…maybe all of them are…because they were the first women to go after exactly what they wanted and come up with the prize. Here’s to the princesses, and to little girls everywhere who believe they can have it all.

    • November 22, 2011 6:47 pm

      It is that end game that so infuriates me. That getting everything you want equals bagging a man and/or becoming a princess. Why does their happiness only manifest when they’ve achieved one of these two things? Lame, I think.


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