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Mark Andrews is up to the task for 'Brave'

When Mark Andrews was called on by Pixar to take over directing 'Brave' on short notice, he just put on his kilt and got to work.

June 21, 2012|By Rebecca Keegan, Los Angeles Times

As "Brave" developed, Andrews was pursuing his own projects, including an unannounced Pixar feature with some sci-fi elements and a live-action writing and second unit directing gig for fellow Pixar director Andrew Stanton on"John Carter," the high-profile Disney fantasy adaptation that ultimately fizzled at the box office in March.

At the same time, "Brave" was marching toward its release with its pivotal, mother-daughter relationship still in flux.

"We started out and Merida was too bratty, then she was too nice," Sarafian said. "And mom, similarly, you needed to feel like she wasn't so strict and stern that she wasn't any fun as a mother, but if you completely feel sorry for her the whole time then Merida is a villain."

Not for the first time at Pixar, Lasseter and the studio's creative executive team removed a director from a project.

"I can't speak to the specific creative differences, but it's happened before in Pixar history where the creative plan of a director is wonderful and amazing and gets us to a point and then differences come up that make it such that we can't continue," Sarafian said.

When Andrews came aboard, among his first story changes was to intercut two separate scenes of Merida and Elinor complaining about each other to others. "I said, 'Let's just put 'em together so the audience will see this is the conversation they should have, but they can't have," said Andrews, himself the father of a 12-year-old girl and three younger boys — just like the story's King Fergus.

Andrews and Sarafian also set to reassuring a restless crew, many of whom had endured umpteen story iterations on "Brave" and lost hours of work when sequences were scuttled. The movie's intricate textures — Merida's wildly curly hair, the touchable wools of the Scottish clothes, the fur of the bears and the muscles of the horses — all placed intense artistic and technical demands on Pixar's animators and simulators. "Brave's" animators were also the first at the studio to work with a new software program called Presto, which brought its own early adopter headaches.

"[The crew] kept saying, 'I want the answers, I want the answers,'" Andrews said. "And I kept saying, 'Trust me, we'll find water before anybody dies in the desert. Keep following me please.'"

At the Skywalker Ranch screening, Andrews was boisterous but hoarse as he introduced "Brave" for Lasseter, Bird, Stanton and other members of the studio's "brain trust" of creative leaders, all of whom held notebooks and pens and prepared to offer their last set of suggestions on how to improve the film. "It's never finished, it's just released," Andrews said as the screening room lights dimmed, echoing a Pixar adage.

Early reviews for "Brave" have been largely positive, if a notch below the effusive praise usually heaped on Pixar films — while lauding the rich visuals, some critics have found the story too earnest and safe. Still, pre-release surveys indicate the film is expected to take in about $65 million domestically in its first weekend of release.

On Monday, Andrews confidently wore his kilt to the premiere in Hollywood, and Chapman attended in a bright blue dress. In the final credits, the two share directing credit, along with Steve Purcell.

"We're not curing cancer or sending someone to outer space," Sarafian said. "We're making movies. But it's a creative pursuit, in a pressure cooker, over a long period of time. With every decision we're asking ourselves, 'What are we made of?'"

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