There’s been a lot of buzz about Brave in parenting circles for months now. The Disney hype machine has been in overdrive ever since John Carter undeservedly flopped. It doesn’t hurt that the main character, Merita, is the latest in Disney’s line of princesses, but doesn’t have a prince of her own. To me Disney princesses have always felt like a supporting character even though they’re the center of the movie (Snow White, Cinderella, The Little Mermaid). Using Pixar to create a Disney princess that breaks that mold was an inspired choice. Not only does Brave not have a ‘prince charming’ or romantic plot of any kind, but there’s also no true villain beyond a brief appearance by Chekhov’s bear.
Merita is a seemingly Scottish princess with a lot of weight on her shoulders. Her parents brought the realm together by uniting three fueding clans before she was born and she is expected to keep them united as she grows up. Her doting father indulges her tomboy predilictions by letting her ride and shoot all day in the forest, but her mother works hard at training her in the diplomacy required to hold the kingdom together. When it comes time for her to marry the eldest son of one of one of the three clans everything starts to go pear shaped.
Brave is essentially a mother-daughter story and is refreshing in that regard. It tackles growing up in a way similar to Toy Story 3, but Merita’s journey from child to adult requires her to strike a balance between her own happiness and the responsibilities of an adult. She has to reconcile what she wants for herself with her mother’s expectations and the needs of the kingdom. The story is deceptively simple about dealing with all these major themes.
The animation was pretty impressive as well. Pixar has had a lot to say about some new animation methods that they’ve implemented on this film and they certainly showed them off with some impressively picturesque Scottish vistas. I’m pretty sure Merita’s huge mane of curly red hair was designed to show off their new techniques and it probably raised the rendering budget a good 10% all on its own.
I highly recommend it for children and parents. I recommend it for the kid-free as well, but you’ll probably want to wait until you can rent it or catch it on premium cable. There are some potentially scary moments for young children in the typical Disney/Pixar way. My four year old twins were tense but not overly concerned so you’ll have to judge for yourself how your child will handle it.