Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, is shown in a scene from "Brave." (Pixar / Disney )
"Brave," its filmmakers at Pixar Animation Studios would like you to know, is not your mother's fairy tale, beginning with its unruly heroine, Merida.
Deft with a bow and arrow and crowned with a massive mane of curly red hair, Merida (voiced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald), defies her parents King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and disregards an ancient custom, inadvertently setting off calamity in the lush, fog-shrouded Scottish highlands where she lives. On her mission to right the wrong, Merida tangles with some Scottish lords (Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd) and consults a mysterious wise old woman (Julie Walters).
"We didn't just want to do another fairy tale or another princess movie," said Mark Andrews, who shares directing credit with Brenda Chapman. "Her being a princess is just part of the stakes, an element of her character. It's more about this teenager transitioning from childhood to adulthood. Merida is this outdoorsy, courageous, actiony girl whose mom wants her to be the way her mom wants her to be. Merida wants to decide for herself who she is, not be who the world wants her to be. Facing who she really is, that's the true definition of bravery."
The film brought Pixar's artists some new technical challenges — it took two years to achieve the precise degree of frizz in Merida's hair, for instance. But "Brave's" biggest mark of distinction is its female protagonist, a first for the animation studio behind the "Toy Story" and "Cars" movies.
Andrews said that Merida's trail-blazing places "Brave" squarely in the Pixar storytelling canon.
"Pixar made the first old-person-centered animated film with 'Up' and the first rat-that-wants-to-be-a-chef film with 'Ratatouille,'" Andrews said."Pixar is not one to shy away from firsts."
"Brave" opens June 22.