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still from the pixar movie brave (L to R) Lord Macintosh and his son, Young Macintosh; Merida; Wee Dingwall and his father, Lord Dingwall; Lord MacGuffin and his son, Young MacGuffin; Queen Elinor and King Fergus from Brave. (Photo: ©2011 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.)

A Brave New Disney Princess

New Pixar film is an action-packed adventure for boys and girls

By Veronica Louise Mendoza | June 20 , 2012

"If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?" asks Merida, a Scottish teenage girl who is the heroine of the new Pixar movie, Brave, which opens in movie theaters on Friday. The redheaded rebel is also the first female lead character of a Pixar movie.

When Merida's mother, Queen Elinor, tries to force her to marry a suitor, she does everything she can to remain an independent young girl. She even uses her archery skills to prove to her parents and her kingdom that the suitors aren't right for her. It takes bravery for Merida to go against her country's traditions — but her impulsive actions might also lead to something fatal to her kingdom.

Brave is a movie about "looking at yourself and finding bravery," says director Mark Andrews. "Young people, especially teenagers, can really relate to her because she is a teenager, too. This story takes place in that awkward stage between child and adult, so her response to this is rebellion."

The staff at Pixar has been working on Brave for more than seven years, which included a trip to Scotland in 2006. It was important for animators to physically experience the world depicted in the movie. Tia Kratter, a shading art director, and Steve Pilcher, a production designer, recall a time in Scotland where they laid down in the grass and it felt very fluffy.

"If we hadn't laid down in the grass, then we couldn't have known that it would have that fluffy texture," they say. "We could've animated it a totally different way, so it was really important that we had to physically touch everything to make every detail correct."

The production crew also found it very challenging to work on a movie that is surrounded by nature. Each tree, rock, grass, log, and everything in a forest had to be created.

"I took the emotional tone of the film and incorporated it into the environmental setting," Pilcher says. "When something dramatic happens with a character, the light might change in a way that completely affects the audience's interpretation of the shot. The great thing about this art form is that it has motion and all those elements work together to create more emotional impact."

Another factor that the production has to focus on is the storyline. One of the most important parts of this movie's story is the mother-daughter relationship between Queen Elinor and Princess Merida. The two are complete opposites: Queen Elinor strives to be civilized and very orderly, while Merida wants to do what she loves most despite her status as a princess.

"The story is the most important part in film-making because it is the part that is most infused," Katherine Sarafian, the producer of Brave, says. "Brave uses symbols and archetypes based on the story. That's why Merida has the wild and crazy red hair, because she got her dad's wild side in her, and that's why Queen Elinor's dark brown hair is always tied up, because she wants order."

Brave takes this relationship and digs deep into the memories of teenage rebellion, family love, and courage. And just because there's a princess in the lead role doesn't mean that this is girls movie. There's a lot of action, sword-fighting, and angry bears to appeal to boys, too.

But ultimately, the movie is great for boys and girls because everyone can relate to it.

"[Brave] appeals to kids of both genders and it has a very universal theme," Sarafian says.

Check out the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps Blog for Kid Reporter Aminah Tamimi's experience at the Brave press junket and Kid Reporter Veronica Louise Mendoza's behind-the-scenes look at Pixar Animation Studios!

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blog it Do you like to go to the movies in the summer? If so, what movies are you most looking forward to? If not, what other activities do you like to do over the summer?

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