A touch of lass
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.
Hot school holiday movies with Sam Cleveland,
Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, follows a Wisp in