Pixar has dealt with all kinds of stories about all kinds of characters. It’s dealt with loneliness and romance in Wall-E; grief in Up; father-son relationships in Finding Nemo; and jealousy and friendship in Toy Story.
What it’s never had is a story with a female protagonist. So, following the grand tradition of Disney’s animated princesses comes Brave. It follows Merida, a young teenage princess who is far more comfortable riding horses and shooting arrows than wearing dresses and giving speeches. Unfortunately, her mother, Elinor has Merida’s future all mapped out for her already, and is determined to find her the best husband possible as soon as possible.
Brave follows firmly in the recent tradition of the young, plucky independent princesses of films like Mulan, The Princess and the Frog and Tangled. Like those films, Merida is a far cry from a damsel waiting for her prince to come.
However, this proves to be Brave‘s biggest problem as it fails to forge a strong enough identify for itself alongside these Disney efforts. Quite what makes a Pixar film a Pixar film is hard to fully define. However, all its best films have a combination of a strong 3 act story; memorable, likable characters; and worlds which keep surprising us.
Brave has plenty of memorable, likable characters in the form of the three rival clan leaders, Merida’s troublesome brothers, or her physically imposing but ultimately childlike father (voiced by Billy Billy Connolly). However it lacks both the world and the story of other Pixar films like The Incredibles or Wall-E.
It’s not that Brave does much particularly wrong as it conveys a central relationship with plenty of depth between Merida and her mother. However, it doesn’t leave me wanting to stay in the world of 10th century Scotland as much as I did with Nemo’s Underwater World; Andy’s Bedroom; or Remy’s Restaurant in Paris.
If one were to try and sum up the difference between Disney and Pixar’s philoshopy, it would be that Disney draws upon existing myths and tales; where as Pixar imagines its own. In drawing upon the Scottish myths that come from its breath-taking land, Brave feels firmly like a Disney film, not a Pixar one.
Brave is certainly beautiful and hard to fault too seriously, however it lacks the creativity and invention that has made Pixar films so special and unmissable over the years.