Archery is finally getting its day in the spotlight. The combat and hunting method that has been used for thousands of years has likely never been as popular as it is in 2012 thanks to The Hunger Games‘ Katniss Everdeen and cinema’s newest young heroine, Merida, the star of the latest Disney/Pixar release, Brave.
“Archery happens to be having a moment. It’s a great sport,” Brave producer Katherine Sarafian told me at the movie’s Los Angeles press day. She says they didn’t flinch when Katniss and her archery skills took the spotlight earlier this year. ”We had [archery] in the 2004 pitch. There was no way [we were going to change it],” Sarafian said. “It’s to the time period. [Merida]‘s an archer, she’s a warrior. This is what she would’ve used.”
The animated movie opened at #1 this weekend, making $66.3 million and easily defeating its box office competition, including its biggest rival, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which opened in third place with $16.3m behind the reigning box office champ for two weekends, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted ($19.7m, now at $157m domestic, $365.5m worldwide).
The popularity of Pixar movies is undeniable – every single one, from Toy Story to Cars 2, has opened at #1. Add to it the surge of prominent female characters in lead roles (Katniss, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Lisbeth Salander, two Snow White movies, the ensemble casts of Bridesmaids and The Help), a never-before-seen location – Scotland – in a Disney/Pixar movie, the studio’s best animation work to date, and a story of fate and family told with a stellar voice cast and Brave was destined to find its path to success.
Brave tells the story of young Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald (No Country for Old Men, “Boardwalk Empire”), and her struggle with an age-old tradition that leads to her marriage to one of three suitors. Merida’s mother, Queen Elinor, voiced by Oscar® winner Emma Thompson, is just as stubborn as her daughter, determined to get the Princess onboard with the idea. But the larger-than-life King Fergus, brought to life by Billy Connolly, thinks there is a more civilized way to deal with the situation.
And even though she does share the character’s red hair, though not nearly as curly or vibrant in a way only an animated character can be, Macdonald says her similarities with the character are few. “She’s very adventurous and outdoorsy and energetic and I was not,” she recalls. “But I was a teenage girl, and so that was the thing that I zoned in on.”
Merida gets to show off those outdoorsy, archery skills and put her potential suitors to shame.
“Grey’s Anatomy” star Kevin McKidd has been part of the movie for half of its eight-year journey to theaters, along the way expanding his role from the Young MacGuffin to also playing his father.
“They wanted Young MacGuffin to be that kind of character that nobody can understand a word he says in the film because his accent is so thick. We started messing about with some made up words and all that, and that didn’t seem to work,” McKidd explains. He says he suggested a “very thick…quite strange” Scottish dialect his grandfather spoke, and interestingly enough found inspiration from his father for MacGuffin’s father. “I just basically channeled my dad for Lord MacGuffin because he’s grumpy and old,” McKidd jokes. “I channeled myself [for Young MacGuffin] because I was a very, very painfully shy boy. That’s why I became an actor. I sort of channeled that painfully shy young boy that I was.”
After a couple trips to Scotland to absord the people and culture (“There’s a story in Scotland about everything…and there’s a story behind everything that happens in Brave“), the environment, weather and landscape, a story told through this mother and daughter emerged that draws on Scotland’s mythology and folklore, Andrews says.
“One of the themes of Brave is following our fate…do we have control of our own destiny?” the writer/director says, explaining the root of the movie’s title. “We can have control of our own destinies if we are brave enough to look inside ourselves and find out what that really is.”
In this feature, the cast and filmmakers reveal more about the story and characters, plus get a look and listen into the music featuring Mumford & Sons.