Back in June when Brave was released in theaters, I gave it 5 out of 5 reels for my syndication partners (read my full review over at MommaSaid.net) and listed five reasons why it was the best family movie of 2012. I have not wavered on that stance at all. Brave is not only one of the best family movies of 2012, it’s one of the best family movies of all time.
The animated tale from Disney Pixar follows the adventures of teenager Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a wild-haired Scottish girl who loves nothing more than to hop on her horse and gallop away from her father’s castle into the wilderness, shooting arrows at trees, climbing steep cliffs, and quenching her thirst at sparkling waterfalls.
But as per the kingdom’s protocol, Merida must learn the proper etiquette befitting a future queen. That means dressing up in fine clothing (“Who can shoot arrows in this garb?!” she notes), clashing with her regal mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), and enduring a ceremony in which the realm’s three other clans present their leaders’ firstborn sons as potential husbands for Merida.
It’s all too much for the strong-willed girl, who leaps to her feet, grabs her bow and arrow, and proclaims, “I am Merida, and I’ll be shooting for my OWN hand!” Of course, by this time, it was all I could do not to leap to MY feet in the theater and begin cheering wildly.
But I managed to keep it together, as Merida shoots an arrow dead center at the target, argues with her mother, and runs away into the forest to weep about her destiny. A will-o’-the-wisp (ghostly light seen by travelers at night in bogs, swamps and marshes) leads her into the forest to a cabin owned by an old witch (Julie Walters), who conjures up a magical cake guaranteed to change the Queen’s attitude.
But when the Queen takes a bite, she’s changed into a big hulking bear – exactly like the bear that took King Fergus’ (Billy Connolly) leg years earlier. Much drama ensues as Merida tries to get her mom changed back, while keeping her dad from killing her mom in bear form.
I love everything about Brave. The animation is stunning. Merida’s blazing red curls light up the movie screen, and the lush landscapes and haunting blue will-o’-the-wisps are crisp and gorgeous. The voice acting is superb, thanks to a mostly Scottish cast who get to use their thick accents to the hilt. And the fragile mother-daughter relationship is one I’m sure many moms and daughters will find familiar.
But mostly I love that this is a princess story focused on the girl’s own personal development rather than her romantic interests. We’ve seen this before in movies like The Princess and the Frog and Tangled (two of my favorite family movies), but Brave takes it to a new level, and shows that even in strict kingdoms, there’s still room for change.
The music is so lovely, including the tunes “Touch the Sky” and “Into the Open Air” by Scottish folk singer Julie Fowlis, it makes your heart weep with joy. And even though Brave is centered on a female character, there is enough action and funny lines to make it a winner with both boys and girls.
Brave hits DVD and blu-ray tomorrow with tons of bonus features. Here’s the rundown:
I. ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S EDITON: 5-DISC COMBO PACK
(BD 3D + BD Feature + BD Supplemental Material + DVD + DIGITAL COPY)
BLU-RAY – DISC 1 INCLUDES:
La Luna Theatrical Short – You will LOVE (no lie!) this beautiful short that accompanied the film in theaters. It follows a young boy on his first night working the family business alongside his father and grandfather.
“The Legend of Mor’du” Short – This rousing new bonus short film offers the chance to delve deeper into the legend behind Mordu, as told by the eccentric witch who transformed him.
Brave Old World – Watch as members of the Brave production team investigate Scotland, exploring its land, culture, people and dialects. The research they gathered was brought thrillingly to life in the film. Also, hear what actress Emma Thompson (voice of Queen Elinor) thinks of Pixar’s take on her homeland.
Merida & Elinor – With the creation of Merida and Elinor, the Pixar filmmakers delved deep into the relationship between mother and daughter. Highlighting contrasts in character design, clothing, animation, voicing, even hairstyle, watch how the filmmakers explored this most important of relationships.
Bears – Take a look inside the art and design behind the bears in Brave. Each of the bears, gentle Mum-Bear and terrifying Mor’du, demanded a different approach to creating their physical appearance and personality.
Brawl in the Hall – A fascinating and hilarious inside look at the process of creating Brave’s fighting Scots, through animation, crowd simulation and fight choreography – not to mention a room full of grunting men whose vocal chortles added authenticity to the raucous scene.
Wonder Moss – Explore how Brave’s technical artists examined the real Scottish countryside and studied the laws of nature, then turned these findings into computer codes that would blanket Merida’s Scotland in lush moss, gorgeous lichen and bracken.
Magic –The magic and mystery of Scotland is revealed in this charming feature about the legends – from mystical potions to the will-o’-the-wisps – seen in Brave.
Clan Pixar – At Pixar, getting into character is a team effort. From making Haggis to Kilt Fridays to celebrating the Scottish poet Robert Burns, see how the Brave production crew truly embraced Scottish themes and customs fueled the Pixar crew throughout the creation of this film.
Once Upon A Scene – A closer look at the evolution of the storylines throughout the production of the film, including alternative openings to the film and many deleted scenes.
Extended Scenes – Three separate scenes are highlighted in their extended form. Director Mark Andrews discusses the decision making process that led to the shortened versions of these scenes.
BLU-RAY DISC 2 INCLUDES:
“Fergus & Mor’du” An Alternate Opening – Once upon a time, Brave had a different opening scene. Eventually cut from the film, fans can see it in its entirety in this bonus feature narrated by the film’s director Mark Andrews.
Fallen Warriors Montage – A selection of deleted shots that were cut from the film late in production are presented to fans in various stages of completion through a video montage narrated by director Mark Andrews.
Dirty Hairy People – Enjoy this uproarious bonus feature discussing the development of Brave’s Scots – including the design of their hair, attire, and dirt-crusted physiques.
It is English … Sort Of – This bonus feature helps fans interpret some of the more Scottish lines in the film, thanks to the real Scottish actors who play the key characters and contributed their own dialects and sayings.
Angus – A look at Merida’s most trusted companion, Angus, a mighty Clydesdale.
The Tapestry – Learn the story behind this embroidered emblem of family unity, which was lovingly crafted by Brave’s team of artists.
Promotional Pieces – This bonus includes promotional clips for Brave, including: “Feast Yer Eyes,” “Relics,” “Clan DunBroch,” “Launch,” and more.
Art Gallery – A selection of breathtaking art from the creation of the film, showcasing characters, sets, scenes and stunning landscapes.
Wee Gaffes – A video montage of simulation, animation and shot bloopers.
Renaissance Animation Man – Get a look at Director Mark Andrews’ love of Scotland, sword-fighting, music and more!
Teasers and Sneak Peeks
BLU-RAY 3D DISC INCLUDES:
La Luna Theatrical Short
La Luna Theatrical Short
“The Legend of Mordu” All-New Short
II. COLLECTOR’S EDITION: 3-DISC BLU-RAY COMBO PACK
(BD Feature + BD Supplemental Material + DVD)
III. 1-DISC DVD
Jane Boursaw is the founder and editor-in-chief of Reel Life With Jane. Her credits include hundreds of print & online pubs, including her family movie & TV reviews. Click here for more about Jane.