11 Things We've Learned About Pixar's 'Brave' [D23 Expo]

It's hard to fathom that Brave, Pixar's next feature film, is still almost a year away. To date, fans have seen the exciting, yet deliberately non-revealing, teaser trailer, a few concept images, and that's about it. The D23 Expo changed that, though, as attendees got a much better idea of what June 22, 2012 holds. Director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian presented footage on Saturday while production designer Steve Pilcher and art director Tia Kratter explained the visuals on Sunday. Combining the two panels, we learned a ton of new information. Is the Pizza Planet truck in the movie? When does the film take place? What visuals changed with the new director? After the jump, read 10 brand new Brave facts.

1. Brave takes place in the 10th Century

It was more or less common knowledge that Brave takes place in ancient Scotland but there wasn't confirmation of specifically when. Now we know. It's the 10th century.

2. Merida is a bad ass

Most of us figured this out when we saw Merida, the main character voiced by Kelly Macdonald, stand up to a bear in the teaser trailer but the scene shown at D23 expanded on that significantly. Here's how it went down. Minor spoilers ahead. The sons of three lords are competing for Merida's hand (she happens to be a princess) in marriage. They're all idiots. Meridia, an expert archer, decides she wants them to compete in an archery competition and each character, looking like the comedic rejects from Braveheart, bumble through the challenge. Of course, one randomly gets a bullseye. When her father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), looks for a reaction, Meridia is gone. She reappears like Sith Lord, approaching the men with a hood on, announcing that she'll be deciding who wins her heart. She flips down her hood, unleashing her huge mane of red hair (more on that later) and starts walking down the course. As she's walking, without stopping, she nails the first bullseye. Then the second bullseye. As she approaches the third, her mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) screams at her not to do it. She defies her mother as, in slow motion, we see her fire the bow. Direct hit. Goosebumps.

3. Three is a magic number

Not only does Merida have three not-so-eligible suitors from three feuding lords, she has three brothers who are identical triplets as well. And they're a menace. Not even their mom can tell them apart, only Merida.

4. 80% of the movie used to be in snow, but the new director changed that

Originally, 80% of Brave was going to take place in the snow and for years, under the watchful eye of former director Brenda Chapman, Pixar was working to make it look just right. However, it apparently wasn't working and when Mark Andrews took over as director, he decided the snow was out. At least that's what Pilcher hinted at. Apparently, the directorial change was a "creative decision" and while much of Chapman's vision is still there, Andrews is getting things done in a much faster manner.

5. Old is harder than new

In a computer, making something look slick and new is easy. Making it look old and worn is hard. Brave takes places centuries ago and everything in it has been around for centuries before that. So, layer upon layer had to be added to every single the object in every single frame. Trees, rocks, moss, etc. Plus, because all the colors had to look more muted because, in the 10th century, clothing was dyed.

6. Celtic and Pictish symbolism is everywhere

Drawing on the visuals of the era, the Pixar animators and designers have embedded Celtic and Pictish designs and patterns in almost all of the landscapes and other visuals. The individual snowflakes – most of which are gone – were designed as found patterns, and you can find all kinds of recognizable shapes and intersections in the tree branches, on the rocks, in the clothing, on the walls and much more.

7. The Pizza Planet truck IS in the movie

Even though it's the 10th century, Dratter hinted that the Pizza Planet truck will appear in Brave. How is this possible? Well, at one point, Merida visits an old witch and while discussing how they populated the witch's old, cluttered, rock home, Dratter stopped and dropped a hint. I'm sure there will be a pizza truck on the shelves somewhere.

8. 350 brushes were created for moss and rocks alone

In designing the look of the world, the Pixar animators and designers created around 350 custom brushes in Photoshop so they could layer different designs, patterns and shapes over each other to achieve a realistic and invisible look to all of the environments.

9. Wisps are blue

If you look at the teaser poster for Brave, you'll see some blue things floating around. These are called wisps and are very important to they story. They're spiritual, etherial beings (much like the kodama of Princess Mononoke) that give the film its fantastic side and it was decided they would be blue. The reason is because blue, somehow, is a spiritual and with all earthly palate of the film, it really helped them stand out visually.

10. Merida has a lot of hair, which was very difficult to manage

In the computer, the designers and animators created about 15 different levels of amplitude and frequency so they could give Merida's flowing red locks in a bunch of varied looks depending on the situation. The hair, along with the snow and the aging environments, were the three most difficult challenges for animators and designers.

If you've made it this far, let's throw in one more. This one is a minor spoiler:

11. The bear's name is Mordu

One of the chief villains of Brave is a "demon bear" named Mordu, who looks like Jaws at the end of Jaws if he was a bear. Meaning, he mean and really messed up with stuff sticking out of him. Pilcher described him as "Moby Dick on land" and it was he who took the leg of King Fergus, Merida's father, in a legendary battle.