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Pixar's Brave offers welcome relief from tired fairytale cliches

Long awaited Scottish-set animation has feisty heroine and real Scottish accents

Pixar's Brave offers welcome relief from tired fairytale cliches

Scotland-set animation Brave finally rolls into town amid a fanfare of hype and publicity. But what can we really expect from Pixar’s latest film?

What you won’t get: Shiny modern surfaces
What you will get: Soot, rot and tatters

The Toy Story and Cars franchises made much of the clear sympathy of digital animation for bright colours, hard edges and glossy man-made materials. This first Pixar period piece, by contrast, diligently piles grime on grime and dust on dust; clothes are threadbare, faces careworn, furnishings distinctly ‘pre-loved’. Part of the joy of Pixar films is always the sheer depth and vividness that years of research have brought to the visuals, and it’s clear that the massed ranks of dedicated pixel-manipulators have had a ball making textures, be they plant, animal or fabric, jump from the screen. The colour palette of the film - low on primary colours, heavy on the golds and purples of Highland flora - is particularly appealing, and allows the wild orange of Merida’s already famous tresses to dominate the screen.

What you won’t get: ‘Flintstoning’
What you will get: Scotland as a non-specific Mythic Kingdom with a history vast and murky enough open to fictional embroidery

The Shrek franchise is most guilty of what I have decided to call ‘Flintstoning’ - that is to say, getting most of its laughs from placing modern objects and notions in an archaic world. Spoof company logos, sexual innuendoes, references to other films … It’s a weak way to get laughs; it panders to sponsors, it excludes the child audience and it lends a sort of knowing cynicism to the whole enterprise. Brave doesn’t do this. (It doesn’t exactly respect the specifics of Scottish history either, of course, which will probably get the odd purist going.)

What you won’t get: A passive princess sitting on a unicorn dreaming of getting married to some long-haired aristocratic drip
What you will get: Merida

The cult of the Disney princess - doe-eyed, long-skirted, helpless, PINK - has brought sorrow to many parents of girls (even though, to be fair, the characters themselves have tended more towards the kick-ass in recent decades). Merida is a breath of fresh air in this regard: she’s self-reliant, bold and has no interest in being saved. And she gets funny lines.

What you won’t get: Weepy father-son bonding
What you will get: An urge to call your mum.

Pixar films have done a lot around guilty dads reconnecting with their kids: The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc all foregrounded paternal crises. In Brave, not only is our heroine defiantly female, but her crisis involves her interaction with her mother. It’s surprising how fresh and unusual this feels, even if emotional depths aren’t plumbed quite as deeply as in the earlier films.

What you won’t get: Inexplicable innovations in Scottish accentry
What you will get: Actual real Scottish voices, albeit marinaded in a distinctly unorthodox brew of slang.

Oh thank you, Pixar, from the bottom of the wounded heart of every one of us who’s cringed from head to foot upon being confronted with a Hollywood actor’s conception of a Scottish accent. I don’t know if Reese Witherspoon can do a good Scottish accent - she’s got the ancestry - but I do know that Kelly Macdonald does a better one. Authenticity might not exactly be the point of Brave, but the presence of a cast dominated by real Scots will certainly make the experience more pleasurable for viewers from this part of the world.

Brave is the closing gala film of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, screening at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Sat 30 June, 8.15pm. On general release from Fri 17 August.

Brave Trailer


  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 100 min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman
  • Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson
  • UK release: 3 August 2012

A rebellious Scottish princess defies her mother's marriage plans and unleashes a curse on her fairytale kingdom, then must complete a number of challenges in order to lift it. The kick-ass tomboyishness of Merida and luscious landscapes make up for a wavering story.


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