Brave: Interview with the Cast
Disney-Pixar’s “Brave” follows the heroic journey of Merida (voice of Kelly Mcdonald), a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to harness all of her skills and resources—including her clever and mischievous triplet brothers—to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late, and discover the meaning of true bravery.
The Film and its Themes
Thompson: “Brave” is full-hearted, exciting, adventurous and very funny in many places, yet emotionally rooted in reality. The calibrations of the story and the way it moves emotionally is pure Pixar; it’s real and beautiful. It has everything I would want in a story, including just enough magic to make trouble.
Connolly: I find the most attractive bit about the film is that there are great family truths at its heart. Although they’re royal, they’re still going through this mother, father, daughter thing, and they’re people from different generations seeing things in different ways. It’s very much like my own relationship with my daughters. Dads and daughters tend to get on just dandy, but there’s a great blindness that comes over fathers when they deal with daughters.
Ferguson: “Brave” is a great adventure for audiences because it has universal themes, beautiful animation, fantastic performances and bagpipes. And if you’ve got bagpipes, you’ve got me. Being asked to do a Pixar film is the equivalent of a Royal Command Performance in Britain. You know the film is going to be good. I have kids. I’ve seen “Ratatouille” more times than the guys who animated it.
McKidd: have a daughter and a son—I have things that I would like for them, but at the end of the day, they have to make their own decisions and carve their own paths. They have to make their own mistakes. We can help, but I think as soon as parents try to get in the driving seat, things tend to go wrong. I think that’s why the theme of this story is really relatable for most families.
Connolly: Bravery is an essential part of everybody’s life. It can mean taking on something that frightens the bloody life out of you and not showing it. Being a comedian can be brave—just going on stage in front of huge crowds and doing something that’s terrifying to you.
McKidd: For me, being brave means going your own way and not following the crowd even when you know it might not be the easiest route. If you feel passionately enough about something, having the courage to follow that path is real bravery.
Kelly Macdonald and Merida
Macdonald: Merida is not your typical heroine. I feel quite proud to be the voice of Pixar’s first female protagonist. Animation flexes different performance muscles because it’s all in your voice. I’m the queen of subtlety when I’m working, but you can’t rely on any facial movements, so it’s really difficult for me. Merida was such a fun character to play and her voice isn’t too removed from mine. I amped up the teenage thing that’s never quite left my life—I just had to pretend my mom was in the room. Nothing winds you up like your parents.
Emma Thompson and Queen Elinor
Thompson: Queen Elinor is a character I like very much because at one time she was quite feisty—Merida’s spirited personality comes not only from her father but from her mother as well—but Elinor has managed to put that stuff she had when she was young in a box and she’s stitched it up nicely. The two of them have to work out which bits of the other they’re okay with containing and becoming… [And] I love the way they’ve captured my eyebrows in my character. My eyebrows are always in this kind of questioning, slightly worried shape, and they got that just right.
Billy Connolly and King Fergus
Connolly: It was great fun to do the voice of Fergus, yet in some ways it was the most difficult thing I’ve ever been asked to do. The king is a good warrior—he’s a good shot with a bow and arrow. He’s a massive fellow, like a mountain, but he’s actually quite soft and warm underneath. I appreciate that about him.
Lord and Young MacGuffin and Kevin McKidd
McKidd: I play two characters in the movie—Lord MacGuffin and Young MacGuffin. Lord MacGuffin is a barrel of a guy with a big beard and bushy eyebrows, a bit like mine. He’s a fair and honest man, but he really wants his son to win Merida’s hand. Young MacGuffin is the most innocent of the three suitors and he has an accent that nobody understands. I grew up in that area of Scotland near Inverness, way up in the Highlands, where they have a dialect that my grandfather spoke, and some people still speak it today. It’s called Doric and it’s quite impossible to understand. The directors went with it—I feel very proud that my home dialect is going to be broadcast all over the world.
Craig Ferguson and Lord Macintosh
Ferguson: [Macintosh] is grumpy, bad-tempered and stubborn, but a good guy. He’s thinner than me, has longer hair, and his tattoos are more vibrant. I like to think that I’m a wee bit more open-minded than my character. I love doing animation because you don’t have to dress and you’re not constricted by your own physical shape. I can play a Scottish lord with hardly any clothes on.
Macdonald: This is going to sound a bit biased, but Scotland is the most beautiful country in the world. The filmmakers have got it down to the tiniest bit of heather—the settings are so lush and verdant, it can make you homesick.
Thompson: I was terribly pleased to be asked to come and work for Pixar, because their films are works of genius and extraordinary art, and the thing that really made me want to do “Brave” even more than my worship of their work is that it was set in Scotland. I’m half Scottish, and I live there for three or four months of the year. Scotland to me is the land of the free, the land of the brave. The Scottish landscape is epic and lends itself to epic emotion. Scotland is really a character in the film. The filmmakers didn’t just look it up in a book. They went off and spent all this time in Scotland looking at different landscapes, addressing the landscape with the story. There’s a real connection with the countryside—they loved it as everyone does because it’s the most beautiful country in the world.
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