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A chat with the creators of Brave

The movie Brave is a new kind of princess fairy tale. We were lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with the director, producer and storyboard supervisor — just in time for the DVD/Blu-ray release.

Brave animated film

Disney’s Brave is not your typical fairy tale. Sure, you have a princess and an enchanted land, but you won’t find Merida, the main character, running off into any sunsets with a prince. Nor will you find her slaying an evil witch or sorcerer.

Instead, this animated film from Disney’s Pixar studio tells the story of a young, spirited girl who wants to live her own life and plan her own fate. This puts her into constant conflict with her mother, who wants her daughter to live out the life she has planned for her. The mother-daughter dynamic is complicated, and Brave captures that struggle. The film asks you a question that you have to dig into yourself to answer: “If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?”

Besides creating a believable storyline and characters you empathize with, the director and producer also wanted to pay homage to the beauty of Scotland. So we asked director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian why they chose Scotland in the first place and how important it was to preserve the country’s character in the film.

Disney's Brave

They responded, “It evokes mystery and magic and lure and legend. And you can just see, looking up into those hills, a timelessness to it. It’s a great spot to tell a story about those elements. The story is about a girl in her transformative years, and Scotland [is the perfect setting] because it’s constantly transforming in front of your eyes. It was just this epic landscape, and once you are there, you think, ‘Wow’ — you can have magical elements here.”

After an 11-day journey through the country, Andrews and Sarafian came home excited and enchanted by the land, the people and their stories.

From the get-go, they knew the basic plot of the story, but as do many movies, it grew and changed over the seven years it took to make. Because movies change so much after their inception, we asked Andrews and Sarafian how much of their vision transformed during production and whether any major elements changed.

Mother and daughter in Brave

“I think from the original vision the big elements are still very much there, in the bones of the film. But once you get down to the details of the actual scenes and how they are laid out and how we find the themes, all that stuff — a lot of stuff was changed and moved…. The key ingredients were there, but the thing that changed the most is what we worked the hardest on, the relationship between Merida and her mother.”

One of the most interesting aspects of this film lies in the fact there is no romantic tie-in or a real bad guy or villain. So we asked Sarafian if they received any negative feedback about the absence of those elements.

“The only backlash I’ve witnessed is the people who are really irritated about the lack of a romantic lead. There are people who really need that happily-ever-after thing. And there are wonderful movies that have done that before us, but that was not at all the film we set off to make.”

Although you can’t have a movie without a passionate director, producer and team, a Pixar film is nothing without a storyboard supervisor and tireless artists. Brian Larsen, the supervisor, spent hours perfecting each character and each scene so it felt as real as possible. Merida’s hair, for example, took almost three years to perfect. We had the chance to sit down with Larsen and ask him about storyboarding process.

Disney film Brave

“The actual story line comes from the directors as an idea and inspiration. They bring on a few story people to bounce ideas. There are no real rules we have; we just start putting it down on paper. And then once you find the character, you get a writer to write the characters, and then we draw them as realistically as we can.”

For many people in creative fields, they have off days — days when they are frustrated, uninspired and unmotivated. So we asked Larsen, who draws for Pixar all day long, how he overcomes those feelings and if he faced any days like that when creating Brave.

“It gets so hard sometimes. The least favorite part is when I’m stuck and I can’t figure out that problem or [how] to make someone laugh. Or [I’m] trying to create Merida’s hair. I try to get inspiration from my colleagues or watch a movie. I usually need someone else to look at it or help get me out of that spot.”

Be sure to check out Brave on Blu-ray or DVD now and don’t forget to watch the interview below!!

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