Pixar are known for making visually stunning and hugely entertaining films for kids and adults alike. Also, there’s always relatable themes at the core of their films…..
Kelly Macdonald: Yeah. I think ’Brave’ has these great themes of family, fate and bravery. And I think everybody can relate to those things. Then you add this sweeping Scottish landscape, and then these really interesting, loveable characters. ‘Brave’ is set in a sort of medieval Scotland, it’s not very time specific. It’s a kind of magical kingdom. You get this strong sense of Scottish folk-lore, they’ve got these Will-o’-the-wisps that are talked about, but nobody believes in them. Merida sees one when she’s a young girl and knows that they’re real. So there’s this magical aspect to it as well. It’s really a young girls coming-of-age story. It’s that time, it’s time for her to grow up and she’s reluctant.
How did you find the voice-over process for Merida on ‘Brave,’ I can imagine that being a wholly different experience of capturing a performance?
Kelly Macdonald: It was a completely different experience, I might as well have not done anything ever before (laughs). It was that different. There was nothing I could do that felt familiar. I had to big everything up, I had to make everything more. Being in a room with Mark Andrews was really helpful because he’s a very loud and larger than life American. So that really helped me fit into Merida’s shoes a bit more. It took a while, I was a slow starter – I think Pixar would probably agree (laughs). But once I got the hang of it I got really into it, I got involved, and in the end I felt that it was very liberating. I got more vocal with the character, with Merida.
Did you have anything in common with Merida that you could draw from?
Kelly Macdonald: Growing up, I was much more indoorsy, I was sort of bookish – I had square eyes watching so much TV (laughs). She’s much more energetic and adventurous and outspoken than I was. And I really didn’t have, I mean, Merida has quite a thing to rebel against. I didn’t really have that. I just had the normal trials and tribulations of battling my mum in my teenage ways (laughs). I was a teenage girl, and so that I was the thing that I zoned in on. All teenagers are awful, but teenage girls are kind of worse, I think (laughs).
What was it like for you taking on this role of Merida and working alongside this cast?
Kelly Macdonald: When you think of animation, you think of Pixar and Disney. To just be asked into a room to try out for one of their films was enough for me. And I can’t quite believe that it kept going from that day on. It’s just totally, totally thrilling and completely unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I love Emma, I’ve been lucky enough to work in the same room as her, which I didn’t get to do on ‘Brave’ (laughs). She’s an incredible actress, an incredible lady. The whole cast is…..Emma is an honorary Scot, her mum is Scottish, every holiday in her youth was spent in Scotland, so I just think of her being Scottish (laughs).
Merida is an archer living in the Scottish kingdom of DunBroch as a princess with her mother Elinor and her father Fergus. On Merida’s birthday, Fergus gives Merida a bow and arrow. While going hunting, Merida’s family are attacked by an ancient bear, Mor’du. Elinor and Merida flee. Fergus stays to battle the bear and loses his left leg, vowing to find Mor’du again.
One day, Lords Macintosh, MacGuffin, and Dingwall present their sons to compete for Merida’s hand, and a brawl ensues. Merida chooses an archery challenge to determine her suitor. Lord Dingwall’s son wins by accident. Merida decides to shoot the three targets herself, causing a falling-out with her mother. Merida destroys part of a sewn tapestry depicting the family and Elinor throws Merida’s bow into a fire pit. Merida rides away on her horse in desperation as Elinor quickly retrieves the bow from the fire. Merida follows a trail of Will O’ the Wisps, small blue fairies that are said to lead a person to their fate, to a witch’s hut. Merida bargains with the witch for a spell that changes her fate. The witch conjures a tart for Merida to give to her mother. Back in DunBroch, Elinor eats the tart and begins to feel sick. Merida takes Elinor up to her room, where Elinor falls off her bed and transforms into a bear. Merida and Elinor return to the witch’s cottage, where they find a message left for Merida: the spell will be permanent unless undone by the second sunrise. The witch leaves Merida a riddle, mentioning that a bond must be repaired.
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