According to industry buzz, Pixar’s new movie “Brave” was troubled, in that original director Brenda Chapman was replaced 18 months ago by Mark Andrews, though they share directing credit on the final film.
But such changes aren’t necessarily bad. Something similar happened on “Ratatouille,” which opened to great acclaim and brisk box office, and eventurally won an Oscar.
“Brave,” one of Pixar’s most consistent and powerfully dramatic films, was Chapman’s original idea, says Andrews, who spoke with The S.F. Examiner at Pixar’s Emeryville studio. He adds, “Brenda did so much work. It wasn’t about redesigning the entire film. My job was just to make the story work.”
At first, “Brave” was a mother-daughter story. Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) wants her daughter Merida (Kelly Macdonald) to be a proper Scottish lady, but Merida wants to be free.
Andrews realized the two were competing for the audience’s affections, so he changed the emphasis to make Merida the sole lead. He also included an affectionate scene of mother and daughter playing, early on, so their eventual rift has a pronounced impact.
The production began in earnest in 2006 when the Pixar creative team flew to Scotland on a fact-finding mission and to get a feel for the setting’s textures, weather and personality.
“The thing about Scotland is that everybody tells stories there,” Andrews says. “Everything has a story, and everybody is a great storyteller. So that’s another thing I wanted to put in.”
Working on “Ratatouille,” Andrews learned from director Brad Bird another thing about storytelling: “There’s a story in his head that he wants to make, and then there’s the story that it becomes. You can either fight to make it the way you want it, or realize what the story really wants.”
Perhaps as important to “Brave” as its plot is Merida’s glorious mane: flame red, curly, wild and voluminous, it’s a dramatic contrast to her mother’s hair.
Producer Katherine Sarafian calls it “the perfect embodiment of Pixar. It’s technology, beauty and storytelling all in one.”
She adds, “Merida actually has the hair that I wanted all through college. There was a girl in my class who had that hair. None of my perms worked. It’s very natural. It’s a gift.”