Disney-Pixar's Brave: 'One of the most lavish depictions of Scotland'

By Pauline McLean
BBC Scotland arts correspondent

media captionHow a trip to Scotland inspired the American animators behind Brave - and how the Scottish cast add their own dialogue to the script

It was at the Edinburgh International Film Festival two years ago that Pixar first mentioned working on a new Scottish film.

Details were sketchy but their creative team had already completed two fact finding tours of the country, immersing themselves quite literally in the Scottish landscape - swimming in lochs and rolling in heather.

The result is one of the most lavish depictions of Scotland ever seen on film.

Not just the vibrant colours but the textures of the landscape, the clothes, and the detail, right down to the barely-there freckles on red-haired heroine Merida's skin.

For art director Tia Kratter - one of three dedicated to set, scenery and characters - it was a labour of love.

She said: "I marched up and down the Royal Mile, gathering every swatch of tartan I could find. Then I bashed them with stones to make them look old and worn.

"We went up the east coast and found our castle - Dunottar Castle. We looked at standing stones and lochs and moss and heather and we lay down in it to get a real sense of what it was like."

It was, she admits, a challenge. Merida is Pixar's first heroine and their first fairytale since Disney became their parent company. Scotland was an unfamiliar location.

"I suppose I expected it to be perfect," she says.

"Like St Andrews golf course. Flat and green and perfect. And then we saw for ourselves there was moss, this thick and springy, and it was all chaotic. Beautiful but chaotic."

Numptie and hurdies

Aside from the landscape, it's the voices of the cast which give the film authenticity.

Largely Scottish, they include Billy Connolly as blustering King Fergus, Kelly Macdonald as Merida and Emma Thomson as the Queen. Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd and Craig Ferguson all give voice to the rival clan chiefs.

All were keen to contribute their own Scottish words to the script - hence the inclusion of manky, gammy, numptie and hurdies. Kelly Macdonald even utters that Scottish legend "jings, crivvens, help maboab".

Billy Connolly

John Lasseter, Pixar's CEO, said he was delighted to take any contributions, but had a healthy suspicion of anything Billy Connolly suggested.

image captionKelly Macdonald provides the voice of the film's heroine Merida

He said: "We wanted to be honest and I wanted families in Scotland to go along and feel we captured Scotland accurately. It's important to be authentic," he says.

"Craig Ferguson came up with hurdies (buttocks) and Billy Connolly came up with a few which we had to double check were appropriate. We'd say are you sure that means potato?"

The film's already had a good opening week in America but what will Scottish audiences make of it?

Younger ones might find the story a bit grown up and some scenes a little scary (although the film's PG has more to do with some comedy kilt lifting). Kids will like the adventure - it's essentially an anti-princess story. Grown-ups will like the banter and the lush scenery.

And while it's unlikely to oust the Toy Story trilogy as a children's classic, it's sassy, funny and entertaining enough to be the perfect antidote to a wet Scottish summer.

Brave is at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on Saturday. It opens in cinemas across the UK in August.

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