I always believe that your environment helps shape your mood, who you are, and how you feel – Katherine Sarafian, Producer of Disney/Pixar’s Brave
My initial draw to Disney/Pixar’s latest animated adventure film was the fact that it is set in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth. Over the Spring and Summer, I spent quite a bit of time delving into Brave…the story…the characters…even the development of a new animation system. When I visited Pixar Animation Studios, I had an opportunity to talk to the filmmakers in roundtable interviews and learn about the research that went into the film. But there are only so many questions that can be asked when time is limited.
So when I was invited to sit down with Producer Katherine Sarafian and a handful of online writers for an intimate discussion about the film, I started thinking about all of the questions I never had an opportunity to ask.
If you’ve seen the film, you likely know that the story follows the journey of Merida, a princess who is determined to change her fate. But how did the story originate and what role did the Scottish Highlands play as a backdrop for the film? It was fascinating to listen as Katherine Sarafian spoke about how the story evolved, why Scotland was the perfect setting for the film, and how the Scots reacted to the film.
From the beginning, the film was set to take place in the beautiful, rugged Highlands of Scotland and director Brenda Chapman’s 6 year old daughter inspired the story. As a first time parent, Brenda began thinking about what her feisty daughter would be like as a teen and what that mother-daughter relationship would look like. That relationship was put into a Scottish setting. Having traveled there, Chapman was in love with the country. Unlike many, who’ve yet to frequent the rugged country filled with folk tales and legends, I know the visual drama of the country that she speaks of…the dramatic changes in landscape and weather and light. For Chapman, exploring that world made sense, not just for her but for the film.
Once the setting was determined, the filmmakers and artists took a research trip to Scotland. Because Brave is a rugged, adventure story, most of that research took place in the Highlands. According to Katherine, the filmmakers struck a balance between accurately representing the country without having to be overly precise. They wanted to capture the essence of Scotland, while retaining the heart of the story.
When Brave premiered to local Scots at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the response was overwhelmingly positive. They laughed at things Americans did not laugh at and truly felt like the filmmakers honored their country. “We wanted to be honorable to the culture…we were happy to have gotten it right” (Sarafian).
Brave was recently released on Blu-ray and DVD and through the bonus features, you can delve deeper into the film.
No compensation was received for this post. I participated in a roundtable discussion with the Producer which helped facilitate the writing of this post.