Posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Laremy Legel
6. Tackling a “Real Life” Culture
The Cars franchise exists in a world much like ours, thematically, though all the “life forms” are mechanical. Toy Story is in suburbia, but the toys are alive. Ratatouille comes the closest to paying homage to a real-life culture, with its focus on the gourmand process, but the protagonist is a rat, which certainly switches things up.
Juxtapose this against Brave, a movie that pretty much drinks in the Scottish highlands, winks, nudges you, and then goes, “Pretty cool, eh?” Instead of looking at everyday life and tweaking it, Brave wants to cash in on being authentic. Only that’s the complete antithesis of Pixar’s work heretofore – they are experts in imagination, not faithful renderings of historical cultures. As a storyteller, once you lock yourself into “The highlands are awesome” you’ve cut off every avenue of discovery. It’s an issue. Speaking of …
I think it’s fair to say that Pixar hasn’t ignored danger in the manner of other animation houses. There are legitimate scenes of peril in Toy Story 3, and Monsters Inc. often employed “monsters” in the course of scaring children. But Brave, so far as I can tell, is the first film to bring a real life weapon into the plot. I speak of Princess Merida’s bow and arrow, which she’s so fond of using, and with such amazing accuracy.
But what were bows used for in the Scottish kingdom? Hunting, or war. Basically, for killing.
Now then, do we ever see Merida use her bow in this manner? Sort of, as everyone does battle against the “evil” bear prince. You can see the dilemma, as they needed to make Merida into a woman who was “better than the boys” at their own game. But here’s the crux of making your subject matter “real life” – Merida should have been a hunter with that bow. She would have been Katniss from Hunger Games with her level of skill. Only the filmmakers can’t play it that way, because they are trapped in a PG children’s film. It’s unfortunate, but they’ve completely hemmed themselves in, simply by choosing authenticity over imagination.
8. Sight Gags
Three small tiny brother bears! Ha! Why, there goes a Scottsman who mooned someone! Mama bear is acting like a stuffed bear! Three little bear kids! Yup, Brave is stuffed to the gills with sight gags more befitting of “lesser” animation houses.
9. The Avoidance of Andrew Stanton’s Storytelling Rules …
Stanton points out that Pixar, at the start, wanted to avoid the dreaded “I want” moment. You know the one, where the main character gets overly expository and exclaims to the world what he or she wants? Stanton and Pixar also wanted to avoid the “happy village song”.
So what does Brave do, right off the bat with their main character, Princess Merida? “I want to choose my own future! I don’t want to get married!”
And then they hit you with Julie Fowlis’ “Touch the Sky”
When the cold wind is a calling/
and the sky is clear and bright/
misty mountains sing and beckon/
lead me out into the light/
I will ride, I will fly, chase the wind, and touch the sky.
I mean, what the hell? How is that not Disney 101: Intro to Songmaking? And where did my Pixar go?