A touch of lass

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

AF­TER a dozen ful­l­length films, school hol­i­day ad­ven­ture Brave is an­i­ma­tion gi­ant Pixar’s first to star a girl.

Head­strong Merida (voiced by Kelly Mac­don­ald, right) is a me­dieval Scot­tish princess who likes archery and horse­back rid­ing and climb­ing things. When her par­ents try to force her to marry the son of an­other clan leader, Merida rebels and rides into the for­est.

The car­toon busi­ness, like the rest of Hol­ly­wood, tends to be male-driven.

On the list of top-gross­ing an­i­mated films, Beauty and the Beast, at No. 15, is the high­est to fea­ture a fe­male as its lead char­ac­ter. Dis­ney’s Tan­gled, with Mandy Moore as Ra­pun­zel, per­formed rea­son­ably well, but oth­ers, in­clud­ing 2009’s The Princess and The Frog have fiz­zled, per­haps as a re­sult of their fail­ure to at­tract young boys.

(The ti­tle of Tan­gled was changed from Ra­pun­zel and its mar­ket­ing down­played the film’s ro­man­tic plot­line to help draw more boys.)

Pixar no doubt hopes Brave’s tale, set in the rough-and-tum­ble Scot­tish high­lands with a tomboy hero­ine, will be like a cin­e­matic deep-fried Mars bar for a wide range of au­di­ences.

‘‘The most im­por­tant thing to Merida is her bow and her horse and the free time that comes with them,’’ Brave’s co-direc­tor Mark An­drews says.

‘‘She’s a phe­nom­e­nal archer. She loves to be out­side rac­ing around the Scot­tish coun­try­side.’’ Even the char­ac­ter de­sign made Merida a bit more mas­cu­line – she’s ripped, with a more mus­cu­lar physique than most movie princess char­ac­ters.

‘‘We knew Merida needed strength in her up­per body to pull that bow back,’’ Pixar pro­duc­tion de­signer Steve Pilcher says. ‘‘We wanted to feel her strength. She is a great force and we wanted that to be vis­i­ble.’’

The char­ac­ter’s hair is a wild mane of un­kempt red hair, meant to rep­re­sent her free spirit and lack of van­ity.

An­i­ma­tors orig­i­nally baulked at the curls, be­cause get­ting the physics cor­rect is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult, which is why CG char­ac­ters al­most al­ways have straight locks.

Co-direc­tor Brenda Chap­man, who con­ceived the story as The Bear and the Bow in 2008, pushed for the look and won. She lost an­other bat­tle, how­ever.

In a cru­elly ironic twist, Chap­man – the first woman to di­rect a ma­jor an­i­mated film with 1998’s The Prince of Egypt – was fired from Brave over ‘‘cre­ative dif­fer­ences’’.

An­drews stepped in to com­plete the film.

‘‘I think it’s a re­ally sad state. We’re in the 21st cen­tury and there are so few sto­ries geared to­wards girls, told from a fe­male point of view,’’ Chap­man says.

Now, at least, there’s one more.

opens today.

Hot school hol­i­day movies with Sam Cleve­land,

Merida, voiced by Kelly Mac­don­ald, fol­lows a Wisp in

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