Brave definitely looks like it will be one of those films that will show why Pixar are believed to be pioneers in the field of animation as well as filmmaking.
Opening up the portion of the Walt Disney Studios panel devoted to Brave, John Lasseter noted that Brave marked many firsts for Pixar, including their first period piece (set in the Highlands of Scotland) and the fact that it is their first film centered on a female character – and was what Lasseter said was their "first sort of fairy tale."
A clip was shown in which the heroine, Merida, is seen quickly riding her horse through the forest. She pulls out her bow and readies an arrow and we discover she has several targets she has prepared, hanging from trees. As she rides, she deftly and effortlessly hits one target after another with her arrows – until her horse comes to an abrupt stop, sending her flying off. She angrily throws a handful of mud at the horse, who retaliates by kicking a much larger portion of mud onto Merida. She storms over to the horse, only for him to bend his head down towards her, which she kisses, quickly showing the affection between the two. Suddenly Merida senses something amiss and looks over at a grouping of stones, a la Stonehenge – one of which contorts, revealing it's actually the shape of a person.
Director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian then took the stage, explaining a lot about the story of Brave and how it involves Princess Merida being told she must marry someone from another clan – with three potential suitors arriving with their fathers. Intent on not marrying any of them, Merida meets a witch who she thinks might be able to help her – but who instead sets in motion a curse that has Merida's people on the verge of war. Merida must then stop the witch and the curse and save her people in the process.
Voicing Merida is Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire), joined by an impressive voice cast that includes Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson as her parents, Julie Walters as the witch and Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd as the fathers of the three suitors (McKidd voices the character of his son as well). And yes, if you're a Harry Potter fan like myself, you'll notice four of these actors (Macdonald, Thompson, Walters and Coltrane) are alumni of that series.
Macdonald and McKidd took the stage, charming the crowd with their Scottish accents (Look, we're easy with that stuff!), while McKidd very amusingly showed off the ridiculously exaggerated manner in which his character speaks, where his accent is so thick, no one can understand what he's saying. Macdonald in the meantime expressed how exited she was to star in a Pixar film, exclaiming, "It's like being asked to play Woody!"
Brave looks wonderful. Visually, it's beautiful, as we expect from Pixar, marked by the vibrant greens of the forest, the mists of the Scottish Highlands and the flaming red hair of Merida. Merida herself will likely be an extremely appealing heroine, showing off a quick wit and plenty of strength - both mental and physical. This definitely feels like a Pixar take on a classic Disney fairy tale in all the right ways, focusing on a princess who doesn't want or need a Prince Charming and backed by the mixture of humor, warmth and intensity Pixar manages to so often achieve.