D23 Expo: Previewing Pixar’s Brave


“This is our first sort of fairytale,” John Lasseter told an eager crowd this morning at Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, California, “This is our first period piece. This is our first female main character. This is Brave.”

The first clip showcased featured the lead, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) riding on her giant horse through the forest, shooting down targets hanging from the trees with her bow and arrow. The horse stops short of a log, throwing her into the mud. In anger, she throws a clod of mud at the horse’s nose, and he snorts it back to his face. She approaches him, angrily, but then kisses his muzzle.

Lasseter was joined on stage by the film’s director, Mark Andrews (clad in a kilt) and producer, Katherine Sarafian. They pointed out that they had two different research trips to Scotland to get everything down.

“We’re inspired by all the stories that are already there,” Andrews told ComingSoon.net backstage after the presentation, “There are stories about every landscape and every tree and every rock. It was inspiring to try and fuse that idea of how it connects us all.”

Sarafian told the crowd that Scotland’s phenomena of blue bog gas, called Wil-o’-the-wisp, will feature prominently in the story. The wisps have the power to “change your fate,” and lead Merida to the cottage of a witch. Seeing this as an opportunity to get away from being married, she insists the witch cast a spell. Naturally, everything goes wrong and the spell starts a chain of events that brings the highlands closer to war.

Macdonald and fellow voice talent Kevin McKidd then took to the stage. McKidd pulls double duty in the film, voicing both Lord MacGuffin and his incomprehensible son, Young MacGuffin.

“He’s a lovely guy and his heart is in the right place,” McKidd told us, “but no one can work out what he’s saying because he has a strong Scottish accent.”

The next clip featured King Fergus (Billy Connolly), who has called Merida’s suitors together to compete in a game of her choosing – the winner will receive her hand in marriage.

“[Merida] is reeling against her mother,” Macdonald said backstage, “She doesn’t want a suitor. She’s quite happy and wants to live her life, but her mother is trying to create this perfect princess. It’s a bit of their battle and their reconnection.”

“Merida sees an opportunity here,” Andrews told the audience in reference to the clip, “Do you know what game she picks?”

To which the crowd shouted back, “Archery!”

Unfinished, the scene played with some parts featured only as animatics and others roughly rendered. Most of the parts with Merida in them played beautifully. As the suitors shoot their arrows, Merida and King Fergus laugh about their ineptitude.

First is Macguffin. He timidly shoots his arrow and barely hits the target. Next is the Gene Simmons-esque son of Lord Macintosh, who fares better than Macguffin but misses the bullseye. He angrily tosses his bow into the crowd, where a young girl shouts “I caught it! Yay!” Finally, the aptly named young Dingwall goes next, barely enough brains in him to knock the bow. King Fergus angrily shouts at him to get on with it, and the spooked Dingwall looses the arrow and miraculously gets the bullseye.

Enraged, Merida appears on the field and shouts that she will be competing for her own hand. As she gets a perfect bullseye in the first target, her mother screams at her to stop. Merida ignores her, and goes to the second one. At Dingwall’s, she not only splits the arrow, but her arrow cuts all the way through to the scaffolding of the target. Merida then turns to face her furious mother and the clip ends.

“We have our own take on Scottish lore,” Sarafian said of the overall tone of Brave, “It’s really Pixar lore, but it’s set in Scotland and its inspired by Scottish storytelling and designed to be a story that’s perfectly set in that landscape.”

Brave hits theaters on June 22, 2012.