Movie #4 2021: Brave (2012)

Onto the second animated ‘first watch’ of 2021. It feels as though there’s no better time to start catching up on animated films I may have missed along the way, so we’ll jump from Studio Ghibli to Pixar in one fell swoop, shall we?

Brave is the first – and only, up to now – ‘Disney princess’ movie made by Pixar rather than Disney. That in itself is interesting, because the folks at Disney could have easily picked this up and put a few songs within it, but for whatever reason, Pixar are the ones behind it. (If anyone reading has any idea why this is, please do let me know!)

Set in medieval Scotland, the movie follows our heroine, Merida; a young, Scottish princess who has been taught all her life to wear dresses and be ‘lady like’, when all she wants to do really is fight with her father and wield her bow and arrow, which she is extremely good at by the way. One day, she visits a witch and inadvertently turns her mother into a bear. Her quest then becomes one to turn her mother back into her human self, with some difficult obstacles along the way.

As a fan of the Scottish accent, I approve this message. Hearing a regional accent in an animated movie is kind of ground-breaking, and makes a really nice change to the standard ‘American’ dialect we are accustomed to.

First thoughts? Brave seems like a turning point in Pixar/Disney animation. Of course the usual attributes are all present, but basically, it seems like this walked so Frozen could run. (And yes, I understand that Disney made Frozen, and this is Pixar, but you know what I mean.) Specifically, the delicious sweeping landscapes and that exquisitely animated red hair suggest a new frontier began with this one. 

There could not be a more suitable main cast for this movie. Choosing actual Scottish actors (…and Julie Walters, who gets a pass because she’s Julie Walters) is exactly the right choice. Kelly MacDonald is wonderful as Merida herself, and Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson bring so much humour but also a lot of sincerity at the same time.

While I appreciate the obvious messages of letting girls choose their own paths and allowing them to break society’s gender boundaries should they wish to, the actual plot is quite lacklustre and not all that interesting, sadly. The inclusion of a variety of Scottish culture and music is really nice to see however, and there are some truly funny gags here. Besides that, the Mother/Daughter relationship at its core was lovely to see, and brings something different to what could have been very similar to many other animated movies.

Really uplifting, humorous, and admirably animated (the shot of the arrow catapulting towards the audience?! Wow), whilst this is no Moana, there’s a lot to like about it even if the story itself isn’t mind-blowing.

Not the best, but it’s still Pixar. So of course it’s better than average.

Brave is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.

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