2012 Summer Movie Guide

Girl Power!

Meet Disney/Pixar’s first female lead character in Brave, now playing

June 22, 2012
DISNEY/PIXAR

Against her mother's wishes, Princess Merida shows off her expert archery skills, in Disney/Pixar's latest animated feature "Brave."

Meet Princess Merida, of Scotland. She’s the spunky hero of Disney/Pixar’s latest animated adventure, Brave. She’s also the studio’s first female lead character. Merida is no ordinary princess. Free-spirited and fiercely independent, all she’s ever wanted is to create her own path in life. However, her mother sees things differently. Queen Elinor believes strongly in tradition. She wants her daughter to be a proper lady and to marry. But the last thing the teen wants is to settle down.

When Merida’s rebellious actions accidentally unleash chaos on the land, she’ll have to pluck up all of her courage in order to set things right. Will she be able to save the kingdom before it’s too late?

Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald voices Merida in the movie. Macdonald says she’s thrilled to have been given the opportunity to voice a character in a Pixar film. "I would have been happy to play the third archer from the left, to be honest,” she told TFK. “But to get to voice a character like Merida is just incredible. She is such a sweet, strong, funny and all-around great girl that it feels like a real privilege for me to have her voice." Read on to hear more from Macdonald.

TFK:

How does it feel to be part of the Pixar family now?

KELLY MACDONALD:

It feels just like that. I really do feel like I’m part of the family. They’re so welcoming. They do their job so well, and they’re so grateful when you come in and do yours. It’s a very lovely family atmosphere.

TFK:

Not only are you voicing a Pixar character, you’re also voicing its very first female protagonist. Did you feel the gravity of this when you realized it?

MACDONALD:

When I realized it I did feel the gravity of it, and I felt a responsibility, but only for a short minute. I didn’t find out until I was well into the project. So it didn’t put me off.

Be careful what you wish for! A terrible curse threatens the land after Merida turns to an eccentric witch for help..
DISNEY/PIXAR
Careful what you wish for! A terrible curse threatens the land after Merida turns to an eccentric witch for help.

TFK:

What kinds of things did you do to get into Merida’s mindset?

MACDONALD:

I was lucky. I had an amazing director in Mark Andrews. He and Steve Purcell, the co-director, would read with me. They just brought it all to life. It’s a very spontaneous way of working, and there’s not much you can do before you walk into the room. It was always a work-in-progress, and we would change things as we go. We really had fun. That was the main thing.

TFK:

Merida is a very strong-willed and rebellious teen. What were you like when you were her age?

MACDONALD:

I was pretty shy as a teenager. I was friends with everybody, but I wasn’t ever the leader of the pack. I was fairly quiet. But now looking back, I obviously had quite a strong will. I knew what I wanted to do, and now I’m doing it. There must have been some sort of strength in me.

TFK:

You’ve said before that you wanted to be Calamity Jane when you were younger. Why?

MACDONALD:

I just wanted to be the cowgirl. I kind of wanted to be like Jessie from Toy Story! She’s very independent. I wasn’t a girly-girl, but I wasn’t a tomboy either. I fell in the middle somewhere. My fantasy was more to be like Calamity or someone who was more adventurous than I was.

TFK:

Did you relate to Merida or to her relationship with her mom, Queen Elinor?

MACDONALD:

I definitely did. Most females will admit that they had a tricky relationship with their mothers when they were teens. I definitely felt like I was as grown up as I was ever going to be at that age and that I couldn’t be told anything. But I didn’t have to deal with what Merida has to deal with. In the medieval times [in which the movie is set], things were a little different. If any girl now were in Merida’s position, where she had to choose from three suitors and get married, I think they would definitely behave in a similar way as Merida.

TFK:

This is your first animated role. How was it getting used to being in the recording studio without any other actors to play off?

MACDONALD:

It was tricky, but it’s like anything I do. I was a bit scared of it at first. Then I got into it, and in the end I found it quite liberating. Once I got the hang of it, and once I got the confidence...

TFK:

Was there any opportunity for you to improvise in the studio?

MACDONALD:

Yes, there was. The filmmakers were really open to anything a bit Scottish that I could suggest for dialogue. It’s an American script, so there some things, when I read them, just didn’t sound right. So I felt they were really happy if I came up with something that would work instead.

TFK:

What’s an example of a phrase that is very Scottish?

MACDONALD:

Oh gosh, there are a ton of them in the movie. Anything that you don’t know what it means, it’s probably a Scottish phrase!

Merida takes after her father, King Fergus, more than her traditional mother, Queen Eilnor.
DISNEY/PIXAR
Merida is more like her father, King Fergus, than her traditional mother, Queen Elinor.

TFK:

Being Scottish yourself, do you think the movie captures the spirit of Scotland accurately?

MACDONALD:

I think it does. I think it captures Scotland’s humor and its beauty. The movie nailed it. Katherine [Sarafian], the producer, said they went on a trip to Scotland with all the artists, animators and filmmakers. They just went to see if the story was going work there. If it didn’t work, they were going to set the story somewhere else. But Scotland really worked, and I’m glad!

TFK:

Did you feel more of a connection to the movie because it’s set in Scotland and because all of these other Scottish actors were part of the film?

MACDONALD:

Yes, absolutely. Wherever we recorded in the world—I recorded in New York, Glasgow, Scotland, and California—I always felt like I was on home turf.

TFK:

In the movie, Merida asks: “If you had the chance to change your fate, would you?” Was there ever a time in your life when you faced the same question?

MACDONALD:

I think so. When the open audition came up for a part in [the first movie I ever did], I knew that if I didn’t get myself along to the open casting that I would regret it forever. It was just one of those moments. I’m glad I don’t regret it!

TFK:

Where do you think you’d be today if you hadn’t gone to that audition?

MACDONALD:

Oh, I have no idea. I have no idea. I’m just very happy with where I am.

TFK:

Merida learns what it means to be brave as she takes this journey to set things right. What does the word “brave” mean to you, personally?

MACDONALD:

I think my little boy is brave. Every day I see him do something new.

 

 

Brave, rated PG, opens in 3-D theaters on June 22. The film also features the voices of Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor and Billy Connolly as King Fergus.


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