John Lasseter was on hand at the D23 Expo in Anaheim, CA today to reveal the line-up of animated films coming out of Walt Disney Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios and, of course, Pixar! Clearly, one of the most anticipated of the lot was next summer’s Brave. The studio took this opportunity to release a few details from the lamp’s next feature, which is its first original story since 2009’s Up. Lasseter brought out producer Katherine Sarafian and the very lively director Mark Andrews (dressed appropriately in a kilt and flowing locks) to talk about production on the 2012 film. Andrews and Sarafian played a montage of clips including scenes from the teaser trailer as well as rough production footage shown for the first time to an audience. Much of it was conceptual footage that needed more work before it can be seen in the final film. They also showed an extended clip from the film. This was the first time an audience outside of the studio was viewing this still-in-progress scene. All of the animation and modeling had not been completed.
Note: If you don’t want to know anything about the film before seeing it for yourself, stop reading here.
The clip showed Merida (Kelly Macdonald) with her parents – King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Suitors have been brought forth to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage. The less than thrilled princess watches, unimpressed, as her unsuitable suitors display their (lack of) talent for archery. After the comedic show of skill, Merida surprises everyone by taking to the field herself and displaying some impressive and superior archery skills. The Queen is not amused and charges onto the field, forbidding Merida to release her final bow. This rather dry description doesn’t do this great scene justice. Even in its incomplete state, the scene is filled with drama, charm and physical humor. The suitors and their fathers provide some truly hilarious, crowd pleasing moments.
We also see the fiery Merida in action and glimpse her strong-willed personality. Her realistic personality shines through a fantastical plot that includes a Witch (Julie Walters), a magic potion, and the mysterious blue lights called “Wisps.” These blue lights play a large role in the story, as they have the ability to change your fate (sound familiar? – that is the tagline to the film).
And while there is plenty of Pixar charm and style, the feel of the film is something quite original. I think (hope) it will change the way we think about Princess films. Lasseter said in the Pixar Creative Team panel that Merida is a Princess but the story focuses more on her relationship with her parents rather than utilizing a standard princess fairy tale storyline.
Andrews and Sarafian then brought out two of the film’s stars: Kelly Macdonald (Emmy-nominated for her work on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire) and Kevin McKidd (ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy). Macdonald said getting to play Merida was “like being asked to play Woody!”. McKidd then got a chance to show-off his character’s ridiculously thick Scottish accent – a wonderfully comedic personality trait of his character.
From the concept art to the character designs and beautiful environments seen in the clips, Brave looks to be a very impressive film full of surprises. Yes, the film has been noted for featuring many Pixar firsts – first female lead, first fairytale, first period piece, etc.. But all that buzz aside, based on what we saw today, Brave looks like a winner.