Running Time: 100 minutes
Rating: G (General)
Merida (Kelly Macdonald), the impetuous, but courageous, daughter of Scottish King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), is a skilled archer who wants to carve out her own path in life. Her defiance of an age-old tradition angers the Highland lords and leads to chaos in the kingdom. Merida seeks help from an eccentric witch (Julie Walters), who grants her an ill-fated wish. Now, Merida must discover the true meaning of courage and undo a beastly curse before it's too late.
- Notes provided by Walt Disney Pictures -
``Some say our destiny is tied to the land, as much a part of us as we are of it. Others say fate is woven together like a cloth, so that one's destiny intertwines with many others. It's the one thing we search for, or fight to change. Some never find it. But there are some who are led.
Since ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. From Disney and Pixar, a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) confronts tradition and challenges destiny to change her fate.
``Brave follows the heroic journey of Merida, a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane). Merida's actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to harness all of her skills and resources-including her clever and mischievous triplet brothers-to undo a beastly curse before it's too late, and discover the meaning of true bravery.
``'Brave' is about a teenager's struggle with finding herself, with creating her own destiny, says director Mark Andrews of Disney-Pixar's 13th full-length feature. ``More specifically, it's about Merida's struggle in reconciling how the world sees her versus how she sees herself. True courage must be found on the inside.
``The main theme is being brave, finding the courage to let go. Merida is a very brave character-she climbs cliffs, shoots arrows, fights bears-but it's really that bravery of the heart that's the hardest.
Directed by Andrews and Brenda Chapman, and produced by Katherine Sarafian, ``Brave is a grand adventure full of heart, memorable characters and signature Pixar humor that audiences of all ages around the world have come to expect. Based on an original story by Chapman, ``Brave was written by Andrews, Steve Purcell and Chapman & Irene Mecchi. The film takes aim at theaters on June 22, 2012, and will be presented in Disney Digital 3D(tm) in select theaters. ``Brave is rated PG by the MPAA.
Andrews and Chapman join the elite roster of Pixar directors-only five people before them have directed a Disney-Pixar feature. Says Andrews, ``We're in very good company and surrounded by fantastic mentors. Their wealth of experience was always ready at hand and helped me become a better filmmaker.
Andrews, who brings a life-long passion for Scotland, Scottish history and action-adventure films to his role, served as story supervisor on the Oscar(R)-winning animated features ``The Incredibles and ``Ratatouille. In bringing ``Brave to the big screen, Chapman, a long established storyteller with credits including ``Beauty and the Beast and ``The Lion King, was inspired by her own relationship with her young daughter, as well as a love of Scotland.
Infusing drama, authenticity and spirit in ``Brave is a phenomenal vocal ensemble comprised largely of actors with Scottish roots. Kelly Macdonald (``Boardwalk Empire, ``No Country for Old Men, ``Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows-Part 2) brings heart to the tempestuous teenager Merida. Acclaimed Oscar(R)-winning actress Emma Thompson (``Howards End, ``Sense and Sensibility) gives a transformative performance as the regal and proper Queen Elinor. Renowned Scottish comedian/actor Billy Connolly voices King Fergus, the jovial patriarch of the kingdom and a heroic warrior who longs for a rematch with the demon bear Mor'du that took his leg. Voicing the strapping Lord MacGuffin and his son, Young MacGuffin, is Scottish actor Kevin McKidd (``Trainspotting, ``Grey's Anatomy). Popular late-night talk-show host/actor Craig Ferguson (``The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, ``Winnie the Pooh), also a Scottish native, voices the boisterous, battle-ready Lord Macintosh. Glasgow native Robbie Coltrane (``Harry Potter films) adds plenty of pluck to scrappy Lord Dingwall, and acclaimed British actress Julie Walters (``Educating Rita, ``Billy Elliott, seven ``Harry Potter films) conjures up some vocal magic as the mysterious Witch.
Oscar(R)-nominated composer Patrick Doyle (``Sense and Sensibility, ``Hamlet, ``Thor) creates an epic score that weaves together all of the film's action, emotion and humor. Being true to his heritage, Doyle employs traditional Scottish dance rhythms and native instruments played by Scottish musicians. Adding to ``Brave's musical lineup, Scottish Gaelic folk singer Julie Fowlis performs a pair of songs: ``Touch the Sky and ``Into the Open Air. Birdy, 16-year-old singing sensation, performs the epilogue song for the film titled ``Learn Me Right with Grammy(R)-nominated folk rock group Mumford & Sons, who also penned the original track.
``I am so proud of this film for its beauty, its story, its drama, its humor and its action, says John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and an executive producer of ``Brave. ``It's a beautifully balanced film that just sweeps you away in this incredibly gorgeous world with these really entertaining characters. It's unlike anything you've ever seen. That's what we love to do at Pixar. We love to go to new worlds and present stories that you've never seen before. It's a tour de force of technology and artistry. There's great storytelling, humor and vocal performances.
According to Lasseter, ``Brave is also notably groundbreaking in every way.
``'Brave' raises the bar for the art form on every level-
``'Brave' has a visual complexity that's at a new level-even for Pixar, says producer and Pixar veteran Katherine Sarafian. ``Ancient Scotland-with horses, bears and human beings-is about as organic as you can get. There's absolutely nothing easy in the film. We've pushed the look, pushed our technology and pushed our artists to new heights. Merida's wild, curly mane of red hair and the complexity of clothing on all of the characters-from formal dresses to tunics, cloaks and armor, plus layers and layers of kilt-made this our most challenging film yet.
``What I love about Pixar films is that we're always trying to push the envelope and not be formulaic, says Andrews. ``With 'Brave,' we're telling a story that audiences are going to get wrapped up in. We put a lot of honesty into making this film.
The story of ``Brave was very personal for the film's directors, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman. They drew from the experiences of their own families, combining that with their Scottish heritage and love of the country. With their strong backgrounds in storytelling and filmmaking, they were able to weave a tale that was original, emotionally stirring and full of thrilling adventure.
``It's all about changing your fate. And Merida-feeling the constraints of castle life tightening around her-desperately wants to change hers.
Spirited and more than a little headstrong, the red-haired renegade in ``Brave is determined to carve her own path in life. But that's part of growing up, says Andrews. ``Teenagers are burgeoning, becoming the adults they're going to be and that's the really chaotic transition that's all through this movie.
``The most important thing to Merida is her bow and her horse and the free time that comes with them, Andrews continues. ``So she's a phenomenal archer. She loves to be outside racing around the Scottish countryside on her horse Angus.
Merida is the product of her father, King Fergus, who has handed down his love of the outdoors. ``Fergus is this immense Highland warrior-the kind of guy who wears a bear cloak, says Andrews. ``He's loud and boisterous, kind of like me, and full of guts and wisdom. He lost his leg to the demon bear Mor'du and will tell the tale to anyone whether they've heard it or not.
Fergus delights in endlessly regaling his daughter and her triplet brothers with stories of his adventures. So by the time Merida reaches her teenage years, she's a chip off the old block-scaling cliffs, sword fighting, shooting arrows and giving Angus a hearty workout every chance she gets.
But galloping through the rugged Highlands with her bow in tow isn't Merida's destiny. At least, not according to her mother Queen Elinor, who has her own plan in mind for Merida-a plan that's been predestined since long before either of them was born. It's time to grow up, whether Merida likes it or not. ``Queen Elinor is a working mother, says producer Katherine Sarafian. ``She's raising the family. She's keeping the peace. She's handling the royal duties with elegance and dignity. And she has goals for her daughter.
Unfortunately for Merida, those goals include royal responsibility and a marriage designed to uphold the tenuous truce among the kingdom's unruly clans. Elinor has spent years preparing Merida for this moment and she doesn't understand her daughter's resistance. Meanwhile, Merida can't bear to be controlled by anyone, least of all her mother. ``They're at an impasse, says Sarafian.
THE GENESIS OF ``BRAVE
There's a reason why the story of ``Brave is so relevant, says director Brenda Chapman: it's inspired by a real relationship. ``I was dealing with a very headstrong daughter, says Chapman. ``She was so passionate and so strong-and she was four at the time. I thought, 'What's she going to be like as a teenager?'
``I started to imagine what a fairy tale would be like, continues Chapman, ``with a working mom and a really willful daughter whose strength you don't want to squash-but sometimes you do want to squash it a little. But in the end, it wasn't a fairy tale at all. 'Brave' turned out to be more of an epic action-adventure.
Chapman knew instantly where she'd set this new action-adventure fantasy tale. ``I have a love of Scotland, she says. ``It's my ancestry, though I'm one of the great American mutts and my family has been around since before the Revolution, so I can't find that old country family connection. Scotland's just such an amazing place. It's beautiful. The people are really hearty and they have an incredible spirit.
Andrews shares Chapman's passion for Scotland. The director and self-proclaimed amateur historian of all things Scottish spent his honeymoon there. He returned to Scotland in 2006 with Chapman, then as her unofficial Scottish consultant, to help research ``Brave, taking an instant liking to their guides. ``They were filled with local lore, says Andrews. ``They could name every tree, rock and hill-each had a story. They have an incredible storytelling tradition in their heritage.
When Andrews later stepped in as director of ``Brave to build on Chapman's vision, he also found an instant connection to the film's family. ``I have a daughter and three sons, he says, ``just like Fergus and Elinor. The seasoned dad sees Merida's rebellion as a part of growing up. ``There's a chemical thing in teenagers to fight back-they want to figure out the world for themselves.
Like Chapman, Andrews drew on his own family dynamic, seeing the contentious relationship between Merida and Elinor as universal. ``It's a parent-child relationship that's core to this film-mothers and daughters or dads and sons, it doesn't matter.
Producer Sarafian says ``Brave really benefited from the contributions of two directors. ``Mark and Brenda have so much in common, and they also complement each other as storytellers and filmmakers. They're both family focused and esteemed story artists with years of training and impressive credits. They each bring something unique to the process. Mark has a much more rambunctious approach and loves action. Brenda loves the quieter moments. 'Brave' is this incredible blending of those skills-it reflects Brenda's inspired concept and the adventurous excitement that Mark brings.
Co-director and screenwriter Steve Purcell and story supervisor Brian Larsen also played a large role in helping to shape the plot and personalities. ``We feel that the heart of the film is very important, says Purcell. ``When you have the spine and emotional heart of the film, then you can hang the other elements on it. If the spine is strong enough, it will support all the changes you make over the years as it morphs from one thing to another.
``We also believe that it's important to have humor to balance the emotion, continues Purcell. ``The humor should come from the characters and radiate from their personalities, rather than having it feel like the gags are just placed on top of what you have. For example, the lords and their sons are very broad-their distinct personalities prove to be a great source of comedy.
For Larsen, ``Merida's journey is a coming-of-age story. I love the fact that she likes her life just like it is-she doesn't really want to grow up. That's so different from the typical story where a woman is waiting for a man to change her life. As the story progresses, her mom experiences emotions Merida's never seen her go through before, which ultimately inspires Merida's own change. Mark and the story team were very interested in the idea of the child recognizing the adult in herself by watching her parent go through some tough stuff. Through Merida's rites of passage, mother and daughter develop a new appreciation for each other.
In creating the story for ``Brave, the filmmakers took elements of Scottish history and lore to construct their own legends. A demon bear named Mor'du, the gathering and unity of the clans, the role of the mystical will o' the wisps and a mysterious witch with the power to create change are all rooted in reality and mythology.
``When we visited Scotland on our research trip, we met amazing storytellers and historians who had a big influence on us, says Larsen. ``Scotland is a storytelling culture-wherever we went, the locals erupted into stories of their everyday lives and the people they knew. The story of Mor'du was inspired by the stories we heard while we were there.
Filmmakers infused the folklore and magic they soaked up in Scotland throughout the story. According to production designer Steve Pilcher, even a hint of magic enhanced the mystical tone of the film. ``We evoke the feeling of magic without using magic, he says. ``Adding lichen to the standing stones or dew drops on the grass-it catches the light and emits a little sparkle. We created the fantasy with a natural element, which is great for this story in this place.
Adds Andrews, ``The will o' the wisps are in a lot of Scottish folklore. They were said to lead you to treasure or doom-to change your fate-but they're an actual phenomenon of swamp and bog gas seeping up through the earth and interacting with the natural resources to create the blue flames. People would follow these lights thinking they were little fairies, and basically drown or get sucked down into the bogs. [So] we made the wisps like actual little spirits.
Once Pilcher had that directive, the design of the wisps came together. ``We liked sapphire blue against the natural environment because there's nothing like it in the rest of the film. That shade of blue is the hottest part of a flame, yet it feels cold. That contradiction is intriguing and that's what magic is about. There is a desire to touch it, to follow it, but also a little fear.
``They're almost like Marley's ghost in a way, says Andrews, ``because Marley's ghost isn't an evil spirit-even though he's frightening, he's trying to warn Ebenezer to change his ways. That's what the wisps are doing. There's a duality to them, because they're either good or evil-they lead Merida into more and more trouble, but in the end, they've led her exactly where she needs to go.
WHO'S WHO IN ``BRAVE
From a trio of wee mischievous brothers to an elegant-if somewhat uptight-queen, not to mention its lot of quirky lords, ``Brave features a cast of wildly diverse characters and a host of talented pros who lend them their voices.
Merida also has a softness of heart, especially when it comes to her wee triplet brothers. As the daughter of the king and queen, her life is weighted with responsibilities and expectations, causing her to yearn to preserve her freedom and independence. When Merida blatantly defies an ancient tradition, the consequences of her actions prove disastrous for the kingdom. She must race against time to make right the result of her reckless behavior, her journey compelling her to look inside to discover the meaning of bravery and reveal her true fate.
Artists at Pixar Animation Studios took Merida's decidedly powerful pastimes into consideration when creating the look of the character. ``We knew Merida needed strength in her upper body to pull that bow back, says Steve Pilcher, production designer. ``We wanted to feel her strength. She's an expert archer, not your average girl. She is a great force and we wanted that to be visible.
And just as Merida's strength is showcased in her physique, her vibrant spirit is evident in her hair.
``Merida's hair is wild and alive, and it becomes a character of its own.
Likewise, Merida's wardrobe showcases the tug-of-war between mother and daughter. Artists created an informal look for Merida that would allow her to comfortably ride her horse and practice archery. In contrast, her formal attire needed to be restrictive to illustrate the confines of the life Elinor expects her to adopt. Tia Kratter, shading art director, had a definitive approach to Merida's royal look. ``I went straight to the fabric store and looked for fabrics Merida would most hate as a working athlete-fabrics that were shiny and satin and confining.
Macdonald, for one, liked the fact that Merida was a character with power and opinions. ``Merida is not your typical heroine, she says. ``I feel quite proud to be the voice of Pixar's first female protagonist.
``Animation flexes different performance muscles because it's all in your voice, Macdonald continues. ``I'm the queen of subtlety when I'm working, but you can't rely on any facial movements, so it's really difficult for me. Merida was such a fun character to play and her voice isn't too removed from mine. I amped up the teenage thing that's never quite left my life-I just had to pretend my mom was in the room. Nothing winds you up like your parents.
Director Mark Andrews saw a great connection between Macdonald and Merida. ``Kelly is so alive and vibrant with a great charm, wit and quirkiness that totally works for Merida. The character is funny and goofy and can laugh at herself, but has this Scottish teenage angst. Kelly Macdonald is the soul of the character and she makes Merida truly appealing.
Macdonald certainly shares Merida's love of her homeland. ``This is going to sound a bit biased, but Scotland is the most beautiful country in the world, concludes the actress. ``The filmmakers have got it down to the tiniest bit of heather-the settings are so lush and verdant, it can make you homesick.
``Elinor is beautiful, but under a great deal of pressure, says Pilcher, ``which is tough to showcase visually. We added a shock of white hair that really shows her backstory-this woman has suffered some stress in her life, her daughter's rebellion is likely just the tip of the iceberg. That unspoken history and bit of imperfection makes Elinor more interesting.
According to Pilcher, the design team studied paintings of Lady Macbeth, among other tragic heroines, incorporating the heavy robes and thick fabrics they observed to illustrate the weight Elinor bears. Actress Emma Thompson, who voices the queen, says it's that attention to detail and intense research that makes Pixar successful. ``I was terribly pleased to be asked to come and work for Pixar, because their films are works of genius and extraordinary art, she says. ``And the thing that really made me want to do 'Brave' even more than my worship of their work is that it was set in Scotland. I'm half Scottish, and I live there for three or four months of the year. Scotland to me is the land of the free, the land of the brave. The Scottish landscape is epic and lends itself to epic emotion.
``Scotland is really a character in the film, Thompson continues. ``The filmmakers didn't just look it up in a book. They went off and spent all this time in Scotland looking at different landscapes, addressing the landscape with the story. There's a real connection with the countryside-they loved it as everyone does because it's the most beautiful country in the world.
Thompson also had an affinity for her character. ``Queen Elinor is a character I like very much because at one time she was quite feisty-Merida's spirited personality comes not only from her father but from her mother as well-but Elinor has managed to put that stuff she had when she was young in a box and she's stitched it up nicely. The two of them have to work out which bits of the other they're okay with containing and becoming.
Andrews says Thompson captured the essence of Elinor. ``Emma is royalty in the acting world and she knows exactly what Elinor needed to be. She is queenly and regal and noble, but at the same time, she can be bawdy and funny. She can be very serious and theatrical-then crack a joke. That's exactly who our queen is. Emma gives Elinor just the right amount of emotion, earthiness and humor.
Animators often reference video footage of the actors recording their lines and sometimes incorporate subtle gestures, expressions and mannerisms into the characters' physical performances. Thompson could see a bit of herself in Elinor. ``I love the way they've captured my eyebrows in my character. My eyebrows are always in this kind of questioning, slightly worried shape, and they got that just right.
Thompson adds, ``'Brave' is full-hearted, exciting, adventurous and very funny in many places, yet emotionally rooted in reality. The calibrations of the story and the way it moves emotionally is pure Pixar; it's real and beautiful. It has everything I would want in a story, including just enough magic to make trouble.
According to Pilcher, filmmakers decided early on that Fergus should be big, powerful-and a bit of a hothead. ``His symbol is the sword, says Pilcher. ``It represents both aggression and defense. They're experiencing a time of peace, but their world is very volatile, so Fergus is always prepared to take action.
Showcased in his boyish face and jovial expressions, the king has a soft side, too. Protector of his kingdom and family, Fergus's pride for his firstborn daughter, Merida, is unmatched, and he has gifted her his great skill and passion for the sword and the bow.
``Bravery is an essential part of everybody's life, says Billy Connolly, who provides the voice of Fergus. ``It can mean taking on something that frightens the bloody life out of you and not showing it. Being a comedian can be brave-just going on stage in front of huge crowds and doing something that's terrifying to you.
Director Brenda Chapman knew from the start that Connolly could fill Fergus's big shoes. ``Billy Connolly was my first choice for the role of King Fergus, she says. ``He's hysterical; he just cracks me up. I wanted Fergus to be larger-than-life-when he talks, everything sounds so incredulous. I just couldn't think of anyone else who could have so much energy.
Andrews adds, ``Billy is exactly like Fergus in that he's this gregarious comedian, who's smart as a whip, has a great wit and just wants to tell stories all the time. The recording sessions were a riot-like life imitating art-we would take a break and get a half-hour of incredible story time with Billy. It was just hilarious.
Connolly may have been a good match for Fergus, but the actor/comedian still found the role challenging. ``It was great fun to do the voice of Fergus, he says, ``yet in some ways it was the most difficult thing I've ever been asked to do. The king is a good warrior-he's a good shot with a bow and arrow. He's a massive fellow, like a mountain, but he's actually quite soft and warm underneath. I appreciate that about him.
LORD MACGUFFIN AND YOUNG MACGUFFIN
Speaking an uncommon Scottish dialect that is incomprehensible to most, Young MacGuffin is a shy lad of large proportions. Being the center of attention is not his strong suit, but he will not hesitate to leap into a fight alongside his father and clan when the occasion arises.
``I play two characters in the movie-Lord MacGuffin and Young MacGuffin, says actor Kevin McKidd. ``Lord MacGuffin is a barrel of a guy with a big beard and bushy eyebrows, a bit like mine. He's a fair and honest man, but he really wants his son to win Merida's hand. Young MacGuffin is the most innocent of the three suitors and he has an accent that nobody understands. I grew up in that area of Scotland near Inverness, way up in the Highlands, where they have a dialect that my grandfather spoke, and some people still speak it today. It's called Doric and it's quite impossible to understand. The directors went with it-I feel very proud that my home dialect is going to be broadcast all over the world.
As a father himself, McKidd instantly understood the film's core theme. ``I have a daughter and a son-I have things that I would like for them, but at the end of the day, they have to make their own decisions and carve their own paths. They have to make their own mistakes. We can help, but I think as soon as parents try to get in the driving seat, things tend to go wrong. I think that's why the theme of this story is really relatable for most families.
``For me, being brave means going your own way and not following the crowd, continues McKidd, ``even when you know it might not be the easiest route. If you feel passionately enough about something, having the courage to follow that path is real bravery.
LORD DINGWALL AND WEE DINGWALL
``Dingwall [is] the shortest, oldest and most haggard of the lords, but he was fearsome in his time, says Andrews. ``He's like that cantankerous old guy who sits on his porch and yells at the neighborhood kids, 'Get off my lawn!' That's Dingwall. Wee Dingwall is his guileless and awkward son.
Gangly and often lost in his own head, Wee Dingwall displays an eagerness that outweighs his inherited small size, though his father will proudly employ his only son as an attack dog when the moment is right.
Robbie Coltrane, best known to ``Harry Potter fans for his role as Hagrid in the blockbuster movie series, is heard as the voice of Lord Dingwall. ``The clan chiefs are terribly funny because they're ill-natured, grumpy old men, says Coltrane. ``Lord Dingwall thinks his son should be the great one who wins the hand of Merida. He's a scrawny and strange-looking wee boy, but he's proud of him just the same. Lord Dingwall imagines in his mind's eye that he sired a wonderful warrior, but when you see him, he's a skinny wee thing. It's very funny.
Coltrane finds the film's title thought-provoking. ``To me, being brave means overcoming your fears. A very famous soldier once said that a man who has no fear is not a brave man. A man is brave if he has fear but conquers it for better cause.
LORD MACINTOSH AND YOUNG MACINTOSH
As the firstborn son of a lord, Young Macintosh knows he has it all-athletic physique, undeniable charm and long, flowing locks that leave the lasses swooning in his wake. But vanity and legions of devotees can also be a distraction when it comes to bragging rights at the Highland Games.
Craig Ferguson provides the voice of Lord Macintosh. ``He's grumpy, bad-tempered and stubborn, but a good guy, says Ferguson of his character. ``He's thinner than me, has longer hair, and his tattoos are more vibrant. I like to think that I'm a wee bit more open-minded than my character.
Ferguson was a fan of the animation process. ``I love doing animation because you don't have to dress and you're not constricted by your own physical shape. I can play a Scottish lord with hardly any clothes on.
``'Brave' is a great adventure for audiences because it has universal themes, beautiful animation, fantastic performances and bagpipes, continues Ferguson. ``And if you've got bagpipes, you've got me. Being asked to do a Pixar film is the equivalent of a Royal Command Performance in Britain. You know the film is going to be good. I have kids. I've seen 'Ratatouille' more times than the guys who animated it.
Director Mark Andrews says the filmmakers turned to the triplets for some of the film's lighter moments. ``They run around the castle, causing all matters of chaos and getting into trouble. They're constantly a plague to their nanny, stealing all her cupcakes and tarts and escaping scot-free through some nook or cranny in the castle.
Julie Walters was tapped as the voice of the Witch. ``She's this little crunched-up woman with huge, poppy eyes. She's about a thousand years old and she hasn't used a lot of face cream through the years. For a Witch, she's crafty, funny and all over the place-not quite what you think. For such a small woman, there's quite a lot going on, so there's an opportunity to improvise and have fun with it.
Production designer Steve Pilcher says a host of magical nuances were incorporated in the Witch's wardrobe. ``We have rune stones sewn into her garment to represent the superstition that surrounds her. Similarly, her earrings feature a bone, a ring and one that is a Celtic spiral. Everything relates to the time period, ties together and harmonizes in a way that looks incidental, but takes a lot of thought, research and planning.
Shading art director Tia Kratter and her team spent many hours experimenting with dirt and mud, replicating the kind of splashes that might happen as Angus galloped through the forest. And while Merida's dress ultimately received an authentic weathered look, Angus secretly escaped the treatment. ``He's such a beautiful horse, says Kratter. ``To be honest, there's no mud on his fetlocks-we never put it on.
``I'm of Scottish descent. My wife and I went there on our honeymoon and spent a month exploring the Highlands. Scotland is just filled with myths and legends. It's a magical place-rugged and majestic. The colors there are dark and moody and, at the same time, bright and cheery-all thanks to the crazy weather.
``It could be raining and you don't care because it's so beautiful, adds producer Katherine Sarafian. ``Then, all of a sudden, it's sunny-and there's this mist. It's one of those places that hooks you-the people are warm and generous, and the landscape-it's ridiculously dramatic. It just draws you in. It's almost mystical. You want to be part of this environment.
Director Brenda Chapman, who also has familial links to the area, agrees.
``Scotland is wild and rugged with its rocks and mountains, trees and
The filmmakers' collective love of the land and their personal connections to Scotland made it an easy choice for the setting of ``Brave. But that didn't mean there wasn't work to be done. ``Research is really an important part of the Pixar creative process, says Sarafian.
``The people are hospitable, warm and friendly, and they take you in
They visited landmark locations in Edinburgh, walking the Royal Mile and feasting on homemade haggis-a pudding made with sheep's heart, liver and lungs. The filmmakers attended the Lonarch Highland Gathering and Games as well as the Braemar Gathering to inform the Highland Games and archery contest they wanted to create for ``Brave. They also visited the National Museum of Scotland where they studied assorted weapons, fabrics and other adornments to ensure a measure of authenticity in the film.
``We spent a lot of time at the Standing Stones of Callanish [on the Isle of Lewis], says producer Sarafian. ``It felt like the perfect setting for something important to happen in the story. The stones are in a circle on a big exposed cliff with the sky as their backdrop-it's very striking. You can't tear yourself away from them. On both trips it was really hard for me to get any of the artists back on the bus.
Several castles served as reference for the DunBroch family castle, most notably Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands and Dunnottar Castle, located just south of Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire. Dunnottar, a ruined medieval fortress believed to be from the 15th or 16th centuries, sparked a pivotal change of plans for the filmmakers. They intended to set the film's family castle on a loch up in the Highlands, but inspired by Donnottar's dramatic location, decided to move it to an outpost of the sea.
Glen Affric, located southwest of the village of Cannich in the Highland region of Scotland, contains one of the largest ancient Caledonian pinewoods in Scotland, as well as lochs, moorland and mountains. For the filmmakers eager to soak up its charms and mysticism, it was pure magic. ``It's really great to be there and breathe the cold fresh air and feel the wind in your face, says production designer Steve Pilcher. ``The moss in Scotland was spectacular. If you push your hand into the moss, it would literally sink down about a foot and then it would come back like a sponge. The heather on the hills is wild, yet it has a lush kind of rolling femininity to it. In contrast, we found a ruggedness to all of the rock, particularly in the forest.
``It felt as if there was a filter of green over us, adds Tia Kratter, shading art director. ``The sun would go through this filter and everything was just bathed in a green light. So if I had to describe Scotland with just one word, it might be green.
But Kratter, whose job entails determining colors and textures, did notice a broader palette within her surroundings as well. ``The heather was this lavender, purple, soft magenta color. It was everywhere-though we found out that it's only in bloom one month out of the year so we just happened to get lucky.
Pilcher, like everyone at Pixar, is all about the story. ``The tone and the emotion drive the look of the film. And the tone and emotion is driven by story. It's so important to remember those details from our trips to Scotland and find ways to get them on film to make the story feel richer and more authentic.
``We took photographs and video, sketched, wrote stories and kept journals, says Sarafian. ``We brought everything back and spread it all out, loaded it into our computers and started asking ourselves, 'What is this land?,' 'Who are these people?' and 'How does it mesh with the story we're trying to tell?' We worked really hard to bring the magic, beauty and ruggedness of Scotland to life in the film through our production design, sets and environments.
``'Brave' has a visual complexity that's at a new level-even for Pixar, says Sarafian. ``There's absolutely nothing easy in the film. We've pushed the look, pushed our technology and pushed our artists to new heights.
Pilcher was up for the challenge. ``I love nature and fantasy and I love those two elements together, he says. ``I particularly like nature when it's allowed to be free-when it's really wild-and the mystery, history and the mysticism that goes with that. I really wanted to capture the color palette and the tactile quality of what we saw in Scotland.
``What I love about animation-all art-is that you can amplify reality, he continues. ``We want the audience to feel it more than they would in real life. We can take liberties with form, color and texture and make it bigger. The fantasy allows us to do that.
For Kratter, the look of ``Brave-its sophisticated color palette and focus on nature-showcases just how unique the story is. ``The last film I worked on as shading art director was 'Cars,' she says. ``Everything was slick with bright, shiny colors and enameled surfaces. The environments of 'Brave' are rich, dark, subtle colors-predominantly green with these secondary undertones of violets and lavenders. Nothing is shiny, everything is aged with lots of texture.
Creating that texture is Kratter's specialty, whether she's working on costumes, cakes or castle floors. ``It might start with a painting, a sculpture, a piece of silk, an order from the bakery or a big piece of flagstone, she says. ``My office ends up looking like that of a prop person in a live action film-research books and a lot of junk piled up.
Kratter experiments with real life materials-from painting fabric to putting frosting on Styrofoam shapes-to research and explore just the right look for the film. But it's not always easy. ``One of the things we found while in Scotland was that it was really richly layered, continues Kratter. ``There are layers of vegetation on rocks, trees, castles.
Each tree had to be created from scratch-multiple versions of Rowan trees, birches, Scots pines-and included in a catalog of assets along with rocks, logs and everything one might find in a forest setting before the composition could be created-which involved more layering.
Kratter says the rules of nature were also applied to the characters in the film-implementing a variety of textures, patterns and layers to illustrate the connection between the characters and nature.
According to Pilcher, that connection is no accident. ``I've always said the sets, the background, the environment of the film is your best supporting actor, he says. ``It is so powerful if you do it right. And Walt Disney showed us that. The background in films like 'Pinocchio' and 'Bambi'-the way the characters connect to the sets-quietly works to support the mood, support the characters, complement them. When something dramatic happens with a character, the light might change in a way that completely affects the audience's interpretation of that shot. It's all cohesive. The great thing about this art form is that it has motion and all those elements work together to create more emotional impact.
``What we have at the end of the day are just memories when we walk away from a film, continues Pilcher. ``We don't take away a book or a painting or a picture. We take away a collection of images in our mind. The more powerful those are, the better job we've done. If you walk away and say, 'Wow, that was Scotland. There's no film like that,' then we got our message across.
Gordon Cameron, one of a few actual Scottish natives working at Pixar and the global technology supervisor on ``Brave, gave his fellow filmmakers high marks for their work in capturing the flavor of his country.
``If we had made the film in Scotland, it wouldn't have been any more authentic, says Cameron. ``People here really care about the detail, the vegetation, the weather, the way the characters' mouths move when they're speaking a Scottish dialect. It's been pretty amazing. I feel almost less Scottish than a lot of the people on the crew.
``The way Brenda and Mark have written the characters really rings true, he adds. ``It's not just that they ring true as Scottish people; they ring true as characters, and the peculiarities of being Scottish are reflected in character traits and quirks, and the way they talk.
Kevin McKidd, who hails from Scotland and lends his voice to Lord MacGuffin and Young MacGuffin, says the film really reflects his homeland-and then some. ``What's amazing about watching 'Brave' is that it conjures up the feel of Scotland. When you go to Scotland, the wind is blowing, the sea is flowing, and everything is covered in ferns or moss and always in motion. It's a very textured landscape-you see this in the movie. Everything looks so real and vibrant. They've really captured the lush texture and the rough, primal nature of the Scottish landscapes in a beautiful way. They've done Scotland better than Scotland.
RAISING THE BAR
Over the course of 26 years and 12 consecutive groundbreaking features, Pixar Animation Studios has set the bar high for the art of computer animation, establishing themselves as master storytellers and filmmakers.
``In 'Brave,' says director Mark Andrews, ``we're really pushing the envelope in terms of cinematography, lighting and photography. We found new ways to create texture and took human characters to the next level. The movie has unprecedented subtlety in its performances.
Under the guidance of supervising animators Alan Barillaro and Steven Hunter, with strong support from directing animators Kureha Yokoo and David DeVan and a team of more than 80 animators, the performances in ``Brave take another leap forward in terms of nuance, believability and excitement.
To prepare for this assignment, the animation team engaged in sword fighting, took archery lessons, wore kilts, rode horses, visited the zoo, heard lectures from an expert on Scottish accents, studied iconic and contemporary films set in Scotland, and watched nature documentaries about bears and horses. Director Mark Andrews himself gave biweekly lessons in swordplay. The daily animation reviews would often end with an invitation to pick up a sword and act out a particular shot move-for-move.
``This is the hardest production we've ever experienced, as animators, says Barillaro. ``Every character is so complex, and there's a believability that we wanted and the story needed. Even though the designs are caricatured, you want to believe them, to feel their peril. This film has a level of interaction between the characters and the environment that we've never attempted before. With such lush environments, we knew we had to have the characters interact with everything. This was a tactile world, and we took a no-holds-barred approach on this one.
The animation team worked closely with the character design artists, modelers and riggers, as well as the simulation artists every step of the way. They provided input to ensure they would be able to achieve the wide range of action and emotion that the characters' performances would require to bring the dynamic story to life.
Character rigging and modeling supervisor Bill Sheffler's team created 10 main characters, 20 supporting characters and upwards of 100 supporting players (which can be doubled for crowd scenes). ``A character like Merida, says Sheffler, ``has thousands of controls and complex inverse kinematics [a setup that allows animators to control macro movements like a hand or arm through complex mathematics] that we've never had before. There's more complex face rigging, and we're doing it with all-new software that has been developed internally. That made our job much harder, but allowed the animators to be more subtle than ever in their performances.
``The subtlety of the acting with Merida and her mother made it very challenging for the animators on this film, explains Hunter. ``There's a delicacy to it-the slightest head tilt the wrong way can really throw things off. The attention to detail and keeping the characters looking like they were meant to look was incredibly difficult.
``In addition to all the action, it's a very emotional film, adds Barillaro. ``And you want those beats to read. The great thing about Pixar is that if it's not right, we do it again. There's a sense of pride for us to get it right, and we'll hone in on it until we all believe in it. It's easy to say that and yet very hard to pull off.
``We draw inspiration from the directors and from the actors, Barillaro continues, ``but ultimately, the physical performance comes from the animators. We videotape ourselves and then caricature that. It's most successful when you put a bit of yourself in with the other elements.
Animating to Scottish accents proved to be another unique challenge. A linguist was brought to Pixar to assist in the process. ``It really blew our minds, recalls Hunter. ``It made us pay attention to where the sound comes from and the shape of the lips. Does it come from the back of the throat or the front? Is it glottal or at the tip of the tongue? Just when we thought we had it right, Mark would say, 'No, no-it's coming more from the side of the mouth.' So we had to force it out the side.
For the animation of the mischievous triplets, the animators looked to their own kids for inspiration. Directing animator David DeVan's 6-year-old son, Henry, was given free reign of the studio, and his every movement could be observed. ``He just ran around the atrium and started climbing on stuff, says Hunter. ``Instantly, we knew that what we'd been doing was all wrong. Watching a kid with that kind of energy-how much fun he could have doing something as simple as sitting on a chair-was a revelation.
``Mark would talk a lot about digging into each sequence on a personal level, adds Barillaro. ``For a scene with Merida and Elinor, for example, he would tell us to think about our mother or daughter or a teenager we knew and look at the dynamic on screen and how you might feel if you were Merida or Elinor. It was our goal to make the audience feel each side of the relationship.
Other animators specialized in animating animals like Mor'du, the demon bear, and Angus, Merida's majestic horse. Andrews liked to call these specialists ``Bear Lords or ``Horse Lords. Directing animator Kureha Yokoo, who has ridden horses all her life, enlisted two other dedicated riders, Kevin O'Hara and Jessica Sances, to work on some key scenes with the horses. Dovi Anderson, an animator with a Scottish background, and Jean-Claude Tran were two of the ``Bear Lords.
Another major first for the animation team was their ability to run simulation setups of hair and clothing while they were animating. This allowed them to take into account how hair, cloth or fur might react to a character's movements as they are animating, rather than see it after the fact, which resulted in a better and more cohesive performance.
``Getting the hair right was such a balance between the actual physics and the artistic side of where the hair needed to be for the pose, aesthetically, graphically and for the performance, explains Barillaro. ``We had to know what the real physics of the movement were. Then we found ourselves in the difficult place of deciding what's real and what looks better. The animators have to be mindful of where the hair's going to be and how the body will interact with it.
LAYER BY LAYER
One of the major challenges on ``Brave was creating a wardrobe that reflected the attire and its textured qualities of the ancient time period and Scottish setting. But this cast of characters had needs that had never been done in computer animation. ``Boo wears a T-shirt and leggings in 'Monsters, Inc.,' says ``Brave producer Katherine Sarafian. ``And Mom wears tight-fitting pants in 'Toy Story 2.' That's what we were able to do at the time. In 'Brave,' King Fergus has eight layers-chain mail, body armor, several layers of kilt, a belt, a sheath for his sword and even a bear fur cloak. Merida has to be able to ride her horse in her skirt and still shoot arrows. That all has to be programmed in the computer so that each layer moves like it should and reacts to the other layers. Our team came through, though: new technology, new software, unbelievable artists.
Costume design in animation is surprisingly similar to that in live action, except the pattern-making, tailoring and sewing are all done on a computer. Each look begins with a series of sketches that are driven by story-a character's personality, social status, role in the scene and other details are all considered when developing a garment. Fergus is a warrior who has a score to settle with the bear who took his leg-so chain mail, body armor and a fur cloak are not only well suited to his character, his clothes actually help showcase his personality.
Colin Thompson, the film's character shading supervisor, and Tia Kratter, who oversaw the colors and textures in her role as shading art director, spearheaded the effort to create the clothing and textures. Kratter, working in concert with production designer Steve Pilcher, did a tremendous amount of research to determine what a specific garment or pattern would look like. Thompson's team would then imbue it with the desired qualities and tailor it to the character.
``When we took our research trip to Scotland, Kratter says, ``we found that everything was really richly layered. You stick your hand in the moss and it keeps going deeper and deeper. We took this idea of the layers in nature, like the vegetation on the rocks and in the forest, and infused that in the look of the characters. Fergus, for example, has layer over layer over layer of clothing-in a variety of textures, patterns and fabrics, which include lots of leathers and wools.
``We've done something on this film that we've never done before with regard to the look of the cloth, says Thompson. ``Philip Child [character shading and paint artist] created a new program that maps the garment like a globe with latitudinal and longitudinal lines. Based on that, we can weave curves in and around each other. Operating like a digital textile designer or tailor, the computer can take Tia's designs and create textures like burlap, houndstooth and herringbone. It was important to the filmmakers that we get the textures right-with all of the necessary nubbiness and roughness.
``We discovered that making expensive-looking cloth like silk in the computer is really easy, but creating fabrics like burlap is incredibly hard, adds Thompson.
To create the regal gown for Queen Elinor, Kratter experimented with different kinds of fabrics and ornamentation. ``The fabric for her dress is this finely woven delicate silk that is actually incredibly strong, like Elinor, says Kratter. ``I took the silk and painted it with metallic colors-this is when my job gets really fun-and I glued little gold leaf pieces that add a cool jewel-like quality to this very controlled and organized personality.
Kratter's creations are handed off to shading artists who figure out how to reproduce the designs on the computer. The colors and textures are added to the garment after the simulation department has fitted it onto the character. According to simulation supervisor Claudia Chung, the physics simulator must be programmed to understand the structure of the material selected and fabric grains so that the final product looks and moves the way it should.
But that's not easy, says Chung. ``Kilts are incredibly difficult to do in simulation, she says. ``It's all about draping and gathered cloth-it's something we've never done before to this magnitude. A kilt has many layers of cloth, and in a computer they don't play well together. They start to jitter and ooze.
``King Fergus was the hardest character we've ever done, adds Chung. ``Before that, the most layers of clothing we had ever tackled was three or four for 'Ratatouille' with the aprons and chefs' outfits. A lot of work went into designing Fergus's kilt so that it would look right.
The filmmakers even employed ``Kilt Fridays when several team members, including director Mark Andrews, wore kilts to work so that they could be videotaped, analyzed and generally to help them get into the Scottish spirit. ``I have four kilts right now, says Andrews, whose hobbies led him to the wardrobe choice long before ``Brave. ``One's a traditional kilt; I have two other kilts which are the short, regular kilts I can wear casually at work or to formal occasions. I have a sport kilt for Highland Games-I have a kilt for pretty much any occasion.
Kratter created original designs for each of the clans' tartans. ``We didn't want to replicate any specific Scottish family tartan, so we invented our own, says the artist. ``We started thinking about what colors would be right for our characters. For Merida's family, we chose blues and deep purples. Lord Dingwall is a little goofy, so we used colors that had a slightly eccentric and different palette. Since Macintosh is a bit fiery, we chose reds. The MacGuffin colors are more browns and oranges. We were able to select the colors, thread weights and thicknesses and put them into a program that gave us many different combinations.
According to Kratter, the DunBroch Tartan was designed with subdued, rich colors to reflect the rugged, natural setting of Scotland. The pattern is neither splashy nor bright, but organically refined in its color sense. The art team wanted to use hues that were indicative of the less saturated dyeing techniques during the ancient period in which the fantasy film is set. Much like Scotland itself, the DunBroch tartan is set against the ocean blue of the North Sea. The deep scarlet represents the family's reverence for its own history and the bloodshed lost during battles between the clans. Deep green shows a love for Scotland's majestic highlands, where the story unfolds. Navy blue, and its clear central intersections, represents the forging of the clans within the DunBroch kingdom. And finally, the subtle gray imbues a sense of respect for the inner soul of the strong Scottish people.
Quite by accident, the designers actually ensured that the DunBroch tartan would be one of a kind. ``The art department gave us a custom tartan design for the royal clan, but when we looked closely, we realized it was technically impossible to weave that design traditionally, says Thompson. ``We developed a way to digitally weave cloth by giving all the threads in one direction a sequence of colors and all the threads in the other direction a corresponding sequence. For the DunBroch tartan, we had to come up with some tricks to project even more colors into the blend in order to make the desired design look real.
Andrews says that authenticity adds sophistication to the film that will engage audiences. ``This film is very rich-it's very tactile, says Andrews. ``The thing about 'Brave' is that you want to reach out and touch it, you want to feel everything in the movie from their gowns and kilts to the big red mess of curls on Merida's head. That's what brings a special kind of warmth-a personal connection-to the big screen.
As director Brenda Chapman imagined the lead character in ``Brave, she knew Merida would be spirited, stubborn and passionate. She also knew she'd have a wild mane of untamed red hair. ``Merida's wild, red curly hair is so much a part of her character, says Chapman. ``It represents who she is. Mom is always trying to contain her daughter's hair, but Merida likes to set it free.
``Throughout my whole career, continues Chapman, ``I've watched many characters start out with beautiful curly hair and then have it straightened out to simplify line and pencil mileage. And I had no idea what a nightmare I was asking for when I said, 'Nope, she's got to have curly hair.' Luckily, the technical team at Pixar was up for the challenge, and they gave us exactly what we needed.
Learning the meaning of true bravery themselves, supervising technical directors Bill Wise and Steve May and their team spent years working on a way to give the directors what they wanted. It involved writing new simulation programs, lots of trial and error and close coordination with the animators and other departments.
``Hair is hard, admits Wise. ``Curly hair is even harder. It's a difficult simulation problem. When I worked on 'The Incredibles,' Violet's long straight hair was the hair problem on that film. At the time, no one had ever done anything like that in computer animation, but we got it to work. When I began work on 'Brave,' the thinking was that a simulation program couldn't handle curly hair and maintain the volume. The directors wanted the curls to move and interact with each other in a semi-realistic way, yet still maintain the overall volume. You don't want the hair to look like springs. You want them to stretch and still maintain their body. We had to write an entire new hair simulator.
Simulation supervisor Claudia Chung, who oversaw simulation for the film's wardrobe and cloth, also spearheads the simulation of hair and fur, and makes sure each character's hair or fur moves in accordance with the animators' performances.
Chung says unlike straight hair, curly hair has to have volume to showcase the curls, and creating the volume in the computer isn't easy. ``Simulation is physics-based-we have to understand gravity and other laws of physics, she says. ``We couldn't understand why curly hair moves the way it does so we worked with a really strong research team at Pixar to build a physics model for Merida's hair.
``One of the artists decided that curly hair is like a telephone cord you wave around, Chung continues. ``That's the way Merida's hair moves and that's the basis of her model, but that's according to a physics-minded researcher. That's not natural-looking hair. The animation team wanted C-curves, S-curves-flowy hair that had nice follow-through when she turned her head. We finally figured out that Merida's hair actually experiences a much lower gravity than the rest of the characters.'
So not only is Merida a skilled archer and a fearless climber, her hair actually defies the laws of physics, says Chung. ``Because the curls are so tight and that's a property of the hair, in some ways it does defy gravity.
``Merida's hair is a huge achievement, continues Chung. ``I always thought that the art department had created completely over-the-top hair for Merida-with different sized curls and waves, some tight, some loose. But I have a friend who has big curly hair, and I now find myself fascinated that hair like Merida's really does exist.
New technical breakthroughs in hair simulation were also used for the fur on the demon bear Mor'du. In some cases, the bear fur was a foot long and required a special groomer to direct its movement.
Says Chung, ``The thing that excited me the most about 'Brave' was the fact that the simulation team was able to participate on an artistic level in a way that we never have before. In the past, simulation was something that came after animation. Now we're part of the acting and the art of it all. A lot of technical artists on this film were thrilled to be part of this experience, which was creative as well as technical. We're playing a bigger role in the film and that's really exciting. 'Brave' is a real milestone for the simulation team-there is simulation in nearly 90 percent of the film.
With its mystical setting and a story rooted in magic, ``Brave required Pixar's signature artistry to bring it to the big screen. From sets to software, and cinematography to special effects, and last, but not least, lighting, filmmakers pull off the impossible... again.
``The biggest challenge for the sets department on 'Brave' was to create organic forest environments, make them look natural and keep them alive, says Williams. ``For this film, we built seven different forests and we populated them with rowan trees, birches and Scots pines. With different versions of those trees, the total number of trees we used came in at around 40 types. Our first pass in generating a forest set is a rough look at where things are going to be placed. Once the camera and staging team goes in and shoots it, we go back and start pulling things around in the frame to get the most out of the composition. We add vegetation-procedurally generated grass, moss, lichen, bracken and heather-to create the complexity that the production designer and directors want. We had a trio of geniuses in our department-Inigo Quilez, Andy Whittock and Jamie Hecker-who were in charge of the incredibly complex yet strikingly beautiful moss.
In addition to moss and trees, Williams and his team did extensive research into the rocks and stones found in Scotland, as well as the types of weaponry that would have been used in ancient times. Swords, shields, axes, bows and arrows, and other armaments were built for the battle scenes throughout the film.
Says Williams, ``This film has so much scope that it was easy for us to up our game and push things farther than we ever have before. The sets were a lot bigger; there's a lot more organic modeling and shading. One of our favorite sets is an underground ruins. It's very dark and ominous and has everything we like to do in terms of modeling, shading and dressing.
``'Brave' is the first Pixar film to use the new, proprietary animation system, says supervising technical director Steve May. ``It allows us to animate complexity we couldn't handle before. One of the more difficult things to do in animation is to control many characters that are connected and dependent upon each other. In one scene, Merida is riding her trusty steed Angus while sewing the tapestry and carrying her triplet brothers along for the ride. The animation of all of the characters is dependent upon one another-if one moves, the others have to react, and the way they depend on each other changes throughout the shot. The connections are dynamic and making this simple for animators required new animation technology.
Supervising technical director Bill Wise adds, ``One of the reasons that we were willing to take it on was for the bear and the horse scenes in particular. These are big, heavy, muscular characters, and we wanted to integrate simulation into the articulation process in order to get that secondary motion-the shake of the muscle and flesh on impact. We wanted to feel the weight and the mass. You can see the results when Angus is plodding along-his chest and muscles move with each step. PRESTO offered more control and more power in terms of wiring that up. In particular on this film, it allowed us to integrate simulation into the animation process. It was a huge breakthrough.
CINEMATOGRAPHY-CAMERA AND LIGHTING
``Our philosophy in terms of camerawork is to always reinforce the story, says Anderson. ``If it's an emotional moment where the characters haven't been communicating and now they are, we might start pushing in to bring them together a bit. One of my favorite scenes is when Merida is angry with her mom and she rides off through the woods on horseback. We've got an establishing shot of her leaving the castle, and the camera shows sweeping vistas and beautiful scenery. Merida's angry and the horse is really moving. It's like the camera is on a moving car so we can ride and watch as the horse speeds through the woods. Merida gets thrown off the horse, landing in the middle of a mysterious ring of stones, all showcased by this really graceful, elegant move that would be pretty impossible to do in the real world: The camera swings all the way around to show this huge Stonehenge-like ring of stones. It establishes her in a new space and it provides a really nice transition.
Anderson says he's also fond of the scene in which Merida is climbing the rock face at the Fire Falls. ``The scene starts with Merida on the bluff carving a little symbol in her bow as an eagle cries and circles above her. We get a bird's-eye view of Merida, and then the camera fades to a sweeping shot of her on the rock wall. This was a really challenging shot for us because we wanted it to feel like you were soaring with the bird and yet still keep Merida in the frame way down below. The camera mimics the bird motion-it's a very lyrical motion; Merida is perfectly framed with the sunset and the waterfall in the background.
``Working with Mark [Andrews] has been great, adds Anderson. ``He's able to walk into a room and make everybody feel extremely comfortable. He has a mind like a steel trap, he knows his film and he knows what he wants to feel from the camera. We try to give him as many options as we can. We always start by using the storyboard as a map, and then we give him options that are more conservative and more aggressive to tell the same story points.
Danielle Feinberg's previous credits include her role as director of photography - lighting on ``WALL-E-a far cry from ``Brave, she says. ``This film was refreshing and terrifying at the same time. 'WALL-E' was supposed to feel almost like a documentary-'Brave' is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Robots are really easy to light, humans are incredibly hard. When a shot comes into our department, everything looks gray, because there is only a simple, white light. Animation sees their shots with this light. Everything looks drab, and there is no mood, weather, or time of day to it. When we start lighting a shot, there's just this magical moment when suddenly you are transported to a totally different world.
``Our characters are living beings, continues Feinberg. ``You really get to know them when you start lighting them. Each one has its own quirks. Merida has this gorgeous red hair, and it took us a while to figure out how to light it so that she looked great. We had to shift the key light with her so that it draped down her cheek, or bring the light down to avoid a masklike effect. Lighting her horse, Angus, was also tricky because he is very black with white fetlocks and a white nose. If you crank up the lights on him, he could look very bizarre. We ended up using a wet specular, which is a blurry reflection, to pull out his shape.
Feinberg and her team had their work cut out for them in the great hall at DunBroch Castle, where huge crowds were lit by hundreds of candles, torches and chandeliers. With a light needed for each candle, lighting took on a whole new level of complexity. Additionally, her team helped craft the mysterious atmosphere and environment of ancient Scotland. ``One of our favorite scenes in lighting is the one where Merida and Angus end up in the ring of stones, Feinberg says. ``It's this magical place where Merida encounters the will o' the wisps. In addition to the forest, the scene opens up and you have these big skies with dark clouds. Everything ahead is dark and unknown, and everything going back toward the castle is light and safe. Add to that these flickers of blue wisps and it's a really cool scene.
SPECIAL EFFECTS-WILL O' THE WISPS, MIST, RIVERS
David MacCarthy, the effects supervisor for ``Brave, says nature plays a major role in the effects for this film. ``The environment is the primary effect that gives life to this world. In Scotland, you get a lot of moisture, wind and other natural elements that keep things alive.
One of the key effects, the will o' the wisps, actually springs from Scottish lore in which tiny lights, believed by some to be caused by bog gasses, attracted curious followers who subsequently got stuck in the thick swampland-thus sealing an unfortunate fate. ``Mark [Andrews] used the analogy that the wisps in the film are like landing lights leading our characters in a particular path, continues MacCarthy. ``The wisps mark the first time we've done a character that's entirely an effect. We wanted to use fire as a visual cue but not a driving element.
MacCarthy says it took the effects team a year to perfect the look of the tiny beacons. ``The wisps begin with a core, he says, ``which is the underlying character itself-that's the geometry. We fill that core with a noisy gas. Then there are two levels on the outside. The primary silhouette is very flamelike and very much like a candle, except when it moves, it doesn't move in gravity. It looks more like it's moving underwater. It has a blue glow and tendrils that have a plasma quality when it moves around. The wisps whisper like wind through leaves, and their motion is very much like a jellyfish. They're always moving very languidly and ethereally back and forth and up and down.
One of the major turning points in the mother-daughter relationship takes place at a running river. ``We wanted a river that you could definitely tell was in Scotland, says MacCarthy. ``This is a salmon run and a glacier runoff that runs over a set of falls that are probably 30 feet wide by 8 feet tall.
Adds supervising technical director Steve May, ``The river scene shows off state-of-the-art hair and cloth animation on Merida, plus water simulation for the river itself. The water is animated using new techniques developed to provide both broad-scale behavior, like the overall shape of the river, and very high-detailed features like eddies that swirl around the rocks and splashes from the characters.
``It's probably the most complex physical simulation that the industry has ever done, says MacCarthy. ``It was a major collaborative venture between the art, sets, effects and software teams.
Creating the mist, smoke and other atmospheric effects was a coordinated effort between the effects and lighting departments. ``Mist is a weird beast, says MacCarthy. ``If it's directed or structural, the effects department would oversee it. For example, when we first reveal the standing stones, the mist is required to behave a certain way, so the effects team handles that.
Feinberg adds, ``Because Scotland has so much mist, there is a tendency to have a lot of silhouettes in the far background. It's a wonderful thing, and it gives a theatrical effect that orchestrates the lighting around the character. It adds a sense of magic to the film-a mystery about what might be out there in the forest.
THE SOUNDS OF THE HIGHLANDS
``The music of 'Brave' supports the story, bolstering this epic journey
``I've always loved animation, says Doyle. ``The first film I went to see on my own in the big city of Glasgow was Disney's 'Fantasia' at the famous Cosma cinema. I've never missed a Pixar movie. Not only was it a privilege to be involved in 'Brave,' but being a Scottish composer meant I had a very special connection to this extraordinary picture.
Doyle, for one, was transported home. ``What makes 'Brave' so special, he says, ``is the love, care and attention to detail that has gone into the creation of Scotland. They have completely captured the look of its topography, its ancient architecture and unique climate. The story has all the mythical qualities of the great Celtic legends.
In creating his score for the film, the composer used a variety of native Scottish instruments such as bagpipes, solo fiddle, Celtic harps, flutes and the bodhran. To give the score a contemporary and fresh feel, he included original bespoke electronic sounds and electronically treated dulcimer and cimbalom. Says Andrews, ``We didn't want to do it overly Scottish and have bagpipes everywhere. The score has this great contrast of grandeur and this sublime intimacy that really feels of this fantasy Celtic time period.
``I employed many classic Scottish dance rhythms such as reels, jigs and strathspeys, which not only serve the action but keep it authentic, says Doyle. ``I particularly loved composing the Gaelic lament 'Noble Maiden Fair' with my son Patrick Neil, sung so beautifully by Emma [Thompson] and Peigi [Barker].
Doyle insisted that the ethnic instruments were played by Scottish musicians. ``I knew only they would bring a deep-rooted Celtic understanding of the Scottish musical heritage. They indeed rose to the occasion, and their superb playing came from their very souls.
As for the score itself, Doyle was inspired by the film's performances, direction, story and visual beauty. ``It was vital that the strength of Merida and Elinor were reflected in the score and that their characters were in no way sentimentalized, he says. ``The ancient history of the country, through its legends and myths, conjured up haunting, ethereal and dark colors coupled with evocative harmonies throughout the score.
Doyle adds, ``Working with Mark and Katherine gave me so much scope and artistic freedom as a composer to bring both my musical experience in film and my Scottish background. There is an atmosphere of openness, which allows an artist to experiment and be bold; there was the luxury of time to experiment and to throw around ideas in a relaxed and satisfying manner, and as a result I believe the very best was brought out in me. It is this atmosphere, which comes straight down from John Lasseter, that allows Pixar movies to be unique.
Both songs were written in-house at Pixar and were originally intended to be temporary music. ``We love working with in-house artists, says producer Katharine Sarafian. ``They work right alongside our story team and know the goal of the story point and can really collaborate with the director along the way to get the meaning behind a song in a wonderful way. We were delighted that Alex Mandel's songs were ultimately exactly what we needed for the movie.
Sarafian adds, ``Julie Fowlis performed both songs. If ever we imagined a singing voice for Merida-the beauty, the clarity, the directness and honesty-Julie embodies that and she's fantastic.
``It was great to be invited to record and perform on the soundtrack to 'Brave' and, particularly, to sing the songs which represent the feisty female lead, Merida, says Fowlis. ``I so enjoyed the challenge of adding a dimension of acting to my singing in order to bring Merida's character and inner feelings to life through song.
``Learn Me Right is an original song performed by Birdy, whose self-titled album has been awarded Gold and Platinum status in UK and Europe respectively, and the Grammy(R)-nominated British folk rock group Mumford & Sons, who also wrote, arranged and produced the track.
Andrews says he liked the energy Mumford & Sons brought to the film. ``They wanted to maintain the spirit of our heroine, so they approached the young singer Birdy. The result is this dynamic, poetic song that sums up the moral of the story: 'We're going to be who we're going to be and that's okay'-it's done in a very beautiful and energetic way.
Adds Sarafian, ``'Learn Me Right' is an amazing song. I feel something every time I hear it. Mumford & Sons sketched out a piece that would do justice to the culminating moment of the movie, underscoring the emotion, heart and the lessons learned between mother and daughter. They really found that moment of truth in the story we were trying to tell, and it takes the movie to a new level at the end.
From Walt Disney Records, the ``Brave soundtrack will be available wherever music is sold on June 19, 2012, and includes the following tracks: