April 19, 2014

See Jessica Chastain As Merida In Stunning New Photo (Updated With Video)

Jessica Chastain as Princess Merida in Latest Disney Dream Portrait by Annie Leibovitz for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Annie Leibovitz is a famed photographer who has left indelible impressions with her images, from those of actors and singers to even the Queen of the United Kingdom. In 2007, Disney hired her to photograph celebrities made to appear as some of the iconic characters from the studio’s films. Out of that partnership, we have seen some gorgeous results, from Rachel Weisz as Snow White, to Penelope Cruz and Jeff Bridges as Belle and the Beast. Today, a new photo was revealed, and it is the first time a Pixar character has been featured. See actress Jessica Chastain transformed into Merida from Brave after the break!

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The Pixar Perspective on Female Characters

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Pixar may have a problem with a lack of female representation among its directors, but that’s not the case with many of its female characters. The concern over the disparity of active female characters in mainstream filmmaking has grown (rightly) louder over the last couple of years; though this has been a problem in big-budget films for a very long time, it’s become truly galling because it shows a perceived lack of progressivism in a culture that is often painted as being potentially too progressive. No doubt, there is a disturbing inequality in the number of male versus female directors, writers, and producers in Hollywood. Pixar may not be perfect, but to presume, as some have, that it is similarly failing in representing strong female characters in its films is wildly inaccurate.

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The Pixar Perspective on Distinguishing the Backlash

Merida Disney Princess Artwork Close-Up

Everything in pop culture that we embrace goes through cycles. Something is introduced to the masses, who fall in love with it, and then, after a requisite amount of time, a backlash arises. This is different from a piece of art, whether it’s a film, TV show, or book, being analyzed and criticized from a subjective point of view. Instead, that which is initially beloved begins to wear thin on some members of its audiences even if they are the ones who changed, not the art itself. (Take, for instance, the current season of AMC’s Mad Men, which has received countless plaudits in the past but is now receiving more unfriendly reactions because it’s inherently the same show, unchanging in its sixth year.) Backlash can be vexing, but it is not uncommon. And so it makes sense that the last couple of years, for Pixar, have been full of such a negative turn.

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Pixar’s Merida Crowned 11th Disney Princess

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Brave was the first Pixar film to feature a princess as the lead character. Disney Animation, on the other hand has relied heavily on princesses, who have gone on to become a major symbol for the Walt Disney company. Prior to today, there had been 10 characters named as official Disney Princesses. Coinciding with Mother’s Day weekend, Merida was crowned a Disney Princess by her mother at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Check out photos and a video from today’s festivities after the break!

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Pixar’s Merida To Be Crowned An Official Disney Princess At The Magic Kingdom (Updated With Artwork)

Merida at Epcot

Brave was the first Pixar film to feature a story driven by a female protagonist. The character, Merida, was also a princess, which presented interesting questions for Disney/Pixar. Would she remain separate from the other Disney princesses since it was Pixar, not Disney, that was behind the creation of the character? Or would she join the Disney Princess roster and give the line-up its first Scottish influence? We have an answer now and it is the latter, as we hear that Merida will become an official Disney Princess next month!

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Two More ‘Brave’ Awards Ads Published

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The high-profile New York Film Critics Circle is announcing its picks for the year today, which means the awards season has now begun. Historically, Disney has promoted Pixar’s feature films during the season by publishing ‘For Your Consideration’ ads, the first of which we saw for Brave recently. Two more FYC ads have emerged, made up of two memorable and visually striking moments from the film. Take a look at them after the break!

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First ‘Brave’ Awards Ad Unveiled

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With the holidays around the corner comes the realization that awards season is rapidly approaching, which has studios scrambling to keep their films on voters’ minds. The most common approach for that is for studios to publish ‘For Your Consideration’ ads, which gently remind potential voters that their films should be in the running. Pixar’s Brave, which will likely be seriously considered for nominations in the animated feature and music categories, recently saw its first ‘FYC’ ad pblished and you can see it after the break!

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More ‘Brave’ Easter Eggs – A113, The Late Joe Ranft

Brave Easter Egg - Joe Ranft (Zoomed Out)

Pixar films are renowned for their compelling characters as well as their gorgeous animation. The studio is also known to have a bit of fun, hiding “easter eggs” in hard-to-find places that can often only be found on repeat viewings. In Brave, the latest film from the animation powerhouse, audiences quickly found two hidden references that we have come to expect in all of its feature films – the Pizza Planet truck and a nod to the next film down the line (in this case, Monsters University). However, the A113 code that has appeared in every one of Pixar’s feature films has proven to be elusive – until now, that is. Take a look at the find after the break!

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‘Brave’ Expanding To Wide Release For Labor Day Weekend

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Domestically, Brave has already grossed well over $200 million, placing it around the middle of Pixar’s films when ranked by box office. Internationally, the film has taken in a total of about $450 million, continuing the worldwide success that the animation studio has enjoyed. The film’s theatrical release in North America was beginning to come to an end, playing in just 450 theaters last weekend, but Disney has announced that it will send Brave back into wide release for one weekend only.

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‘Brave’ Blu-ray/DVD Special Features Include All-New Short

Brave 5-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Set

Aside from the increase in video and audio quality, the jump from VHS to DVD was amazing for its focus on providing special behind-the-scenes features that are now considered customary. Actually, special features have become expected to the point that when they are missing, the box set is dubbed as shallow. Blu-ray discs have the potential for much more with their exponential increase in storage space and Disney and Pixar seem to be taking advantage of that, as Brave on Blu-ray has over 20 special features, including a brand new short that gives us more of the demon bear Mor’du. Find a complete listing after the break!

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‘Brave’ Crosses $200 Million Mark At The Box Office

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Pixar films have a phenomenally consistent record at the box office, averaging well over $200 million in North America alone. Before last week, nine of the previously released 12 films from the animation studio had settled at a number larger than $200 million. Brave has followed in the footsteps of those films and just last week joined them, crossing the mark last Wednesday. Factoring in the film’s gross from this weekend, it climbed the chart of Pixar films to become the ninth biggest (domestically) from the studio. [Read more...]

‘Brave’ Stays Strong In Third Weekend, Closing In On $200 Million

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More than sheer spectacle is necessary if a film is to maintain some strength throughout its box office run. If it suffers from bad word-of-mouth, odds are that the numbers will experience percentage drops of more than 50% in subsequent weekends. More often than not, Pixar films have stayed strong in their third and fourth weekends and beyond, making the Pixar brand extremely bankable. Pixar’s Brave grossed an estimated $20 million in its third weekend, which now has it closing in upon the $200 million mark. [Read more...]

‘Brave’ Easter Eggs – Pizza Planet Truck, Sulley From ‘Monsters University’

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Aside from the fun of enjoying a new Pixar film every year, fans have grown accustomed to hunting down easter eggs hidden by Pixar employees. After its debut in Toy Story, the Pizza Planet Truck has appeared in every Pixar film, aside from The Incredibles. Additionally, we are regularly provided with a hint of a character from the studio’s next film. With Brave seeing release on June 22, many fans have found some of the cleverly hidden easter eggs. After the break, check out hi-res images showing where these gems are hidden! [Read more...]

Actress Kelly Macdonald On Voicing Merida In ‘Brave’ And Its Video Game

Photo by Deborah Coleman / Pixar

Great acting means that viewers forget that they are watching an actor or actress playing a role – the actor fully becomes the character. In Brave, actress Kelly Macdonald voices the main character, Merida, and does a beautiful job at convincing us we are watching the journey of a teenager trying to connect with her mother. With Brave now playing in North America (and starting to expand to theaters around the world) and its video game adaptation available, Macdonald spoke about voicing the fiery redhead for the screen as well as the game console. Watch the video in HD after the break! [Read more...]

‘Brave’ Adds Estimated $34 Million In Its Second Weekend

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Box office success depends on more than the opening weekend, as those who are the most excited to see a film will go see it as early as they can. The real challenge for studios is bringing in the audience that is on the fence – a good film will usually accomplish that with the circulation of positive word-of-mouth. Last weekend, Brave took in over $66 million, and many box office analysts expected it to hold rather well in its second weekend, with two R-rated films opening. While it did not maintain the number one spot, Pixar’s latest was still up to the challenge and brought home an estimated $34 million. After the break, we take a closer look at how Brave is holding up against its Pixar brethren. [Read more...]

PixArt Salutes The Pixar Heroine – Batch 4

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What an incredible month of PixArt it has been! We are back with our final post featuring art honoring Pixar’s female characters. Pixar fans – not to mention fans of this blog in particular – are the best, and we’ve got the art to prove it. Check out this last batch of talented tributes, which contains 12 pieces of artwork! Make sure to check out their personal websites for more art. Our thanks this week to Jay RogersMartin GeeVirginie Taravel, Dave Mott, Jenelle Huddleston, Elizabeth Duncan, Chavah Billin, Chris Kennett, Ciara Panacchia, Jonathan Jimison, Jon Lousie Paramel and Cat Oshiro. [Read more...]

15 New Hi-Res Images From ‘Brave’ Released

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Brave is enjoying its time in the limelight, racking up over $66 million last weekend and gearing up for a box office battle with Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, which may be another good film from the famed director, but I hardly think families will be viewing the stripper-focused film together. Whether you have seen Brave or still remain unconvinced (for the record, I really enjoyed the film), Disney/Pixar has released 15 new hi-res stills from the animated film for you to gander at. Bask in their high-resolution glory after the break! [Read more...]

Discuss: What Did You Think Of ‘Brave?’

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Brave opened today in North America, seeing release at over 4,000 locations (a new record for a Pixar film). You have likely heard or read a review or two for the film, but Pixar makes its movies for everyone, not just critics. We all have our own opinions on films that we have just viewed, so share your own thoughts about the film after the break. As this is a discussion between those who have seen the film, there may very well be spoilers up ahead. If you have not seen Brave yet, come back once you have. Everyone else – proceed! [Read more...]

Film Review: ‘Brave’

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With most reviews written today for Pixar films, there is this innate drive to compare the studio’s latest with its fantastic catalog. The Pixar name has become synonymous with more than just great animated films – a story that is layered so that both children and adults can enjoy it, characters that you can relate to, smart and creative humor, beautiful visuals – over the last decade, Pixar has become a brand that brings in droves of people expecting another great film. The challenge that arises from that expectation is that instead of weighing the films on their own merits, they are endlessly compared to the films that came before. Brave arrives in theaters tomorrow with much hype about whether it makes for a film worthy of the Pixar name – Pixar film or not, Brave is first and foremost an impressive feature, with a compelling mother-daughter relationship that sits at its core. After the break, you can find my full spoiler-free thoughts on the film. [Read more...]

Photos From ‘Brave’ World Premiere At The Dolby Theatre

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The world premiere of Brave, Pixar’s latest feature-length film, was held last night in Hollywood, California. Members of the Pixar production staff turned out to celebrate the imminent release of the film. The premiere was held at the Dolby Theatre, which had its grand re-opening, after the sound company took over the naming rights from Kodak. The Kodak Theatre name may sound familiar, as it has been the home for the Academy Awards. Take a look at photos from the animated film’s world premiere after the break! [Read more...]