In 2012, a Disney Princess unlike any other arrived on the scene. While her predecessors may have been concerned about going to balls and finding their Prince Charmings, Merida of DunBroch fought against a betrothal to someone she had just met, becoming the first Disney princess to have no love interest. And, appropriately, Brave broke a few molds in the real world, too: It was the first Pixar movie to feature a female protagonist, and it made co-director Brenda Chapman the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Here are 13 more fascinating facts about the groundbreaking film.
1. THE WORKING TITLE WAS A BIT MORE LITERAL.
Before the team landed on Brave, the working title for the movie was The Bear and the Bow.
2. DISNEY/PIXAR CREATED AND REGISTERED A REAL TARTAN.
Designers created a tartan for Merida’s Clan DunBroch—and it’s really official. The design first appeared on the Scottish Registry of Tartans on the movie’s release date in 2012. According to the registry:
“Much like Scotland itself, the DunBroch Tartan is set against the ocean blue of the North Sea. The deep scarlet represents the family’s reverence for its own history, and the blood shed during battles between the clans. Deep green shows a love for Scotland’s majestic highlands, where the story of Disney Pixar’s Brave unfolds. Navy blue, and its clear central intersections, represents the forging of the clans within the DunBroch kingdom. And finally, the subtle grey imbues a sense of respect for the inner soul of the strong Scottish people.”
But don’t go commissioning a kilt in the DunBroch tartan just yet; it’s copyright-protected and is “only to be woven with the written consent of Disney/Pixar.”
Scrooge McDuck also has his own official tartan, by the way.
3. MERIDA WAS INSPIRED BY THE CO-DIRECTOR’S DAUGHTER.
If the mother-daughter relationship in the film seems particularly realistic, it’s likely because it was based on Brenda Chapman’s real-life experiences with her own teenage daughter. “She has been quite a challenge to my ‘authority’ since she was five years old. I love that she is so strong, but it sure doesn’t make my job easy! She is my Merida … and I adore her,” Chapman said.
4. THERE ARE HIDDEN CHARACTERS IN THE LOGO.
Look closely at the movie's logo for subtle images of Merida and Elinor hidden in the letters. Need another hint? Check out the letters “B” and “E.”
5. YOUNG MACGUFFIN IS SPEAKING A REAL LANGUAGE.
Executives originally asked Scottish actor Kevin McKidd to speak gibberish as Young MacGuffin, but he suggested speaking Doric instead, a dialect from northeast Scotland that his grandfather used to speak.
6. REESE WITHERSPOON WAS ONBOARD TO VOICE MERIDA.
Due to scheduling conflicts, apparently, Witherspoon was replaced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald, which is only appropriate.
7. DIRECTOR BRENDA CHAPMAN WAS REPLACED 18 MONTHS PRIOR TO THE MOVIE'S RELEASE.
Though Chapman had conceived of the character and plot to begin with, she was replaced over "creative differences" in late 2010. "To have [my story] taken away and given to someone else, and a man at that, was truly distressing on so many levels," she later said. When she and her replacement, Mark Andrews, won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Chapman said, "It is absolutely a vindication."
8. THE MOVIE ORIGINALLY TOOK PLACE IN SNOW.
Much of the early concept art for the film shows scenes taking place amid snowflakes and snow-laden trees. As the story evolved, the winter setting was scrapped, and artists were able to show the lush, green side of Scotland instead.
9. THE CREW TOURED SCOTLAND TO GET HANDS-ON EXPERIENCES.
They explored ancient castles, collected flora and fauna, paid close attention to how light played across stone walls at different times of day, and even acted out fighting scenes to get an idea for movement. Dunnottar Castle, and others like it, directly inspired the DunBroch stronghold. And the magical stone circle was taken from the Callanish Stones, a series of stones that have been standing for more than 5000 years (they also play a part in Outlander).
10. THERE WAS OUTRAGE WHEN MERIDA RECEIVED A MAKEOVER IN 2013.
Disney gave Merida's image an overhaul less than a year after her debut, giving her bigger eyes, a slimmer waist, and more luscious locks. They also removed her trademark bow and arrow. Fans immediately protested the unnecessary makeover, even starting a Change.org petition to change her back. Disney responded, saying the original Merida would be sticking around: “We routinely use different art styles with our characters and this rendition of Merida in her party dress was a special one-time effort to commemorate her coronation."
11. YES, THE PIZZA PLANET TRUCK MADE AN APPEARANCE.
As a nod to their first big movie, Toy Story, Pixar hides the Pizza Planet truck in all of their movies. Though it was surely tricky to place a modern-day automobile in a movie that takes place in Medieval Scotland, they managed to do it:
(Check out all of the other Pizza Planet appearances here.)
12. SUCH REALISTICALLY CURLY HAIR WAS THE RESULT OF BREAKTHROUGH TECHNOLOGY.
Ariel from The Little Mermaid (1989) was meant to have curly hair, but the technology wasn't good enough for what the animators had in mind. Even 12 years later, Boo from Monsters, Inc. (2001) was going to have curly hair, but “ultimately came back with the pigtails because technically we just weren’t there yet,” said Chapman.
A simulator named Taz (yes, after the Looney Tunes character) was built specifically to give Merida 1500 wild curls that moved and bounced the way they do in the real world. According to WIRED, Taz “forms individual coils around computer-generated cylinders of varying lengths and diameters. The resulting locks stretch out when Merida runs but snap back into place as soon as she stops. Each strand is also strung through with a flexible ‘core curve,’ like the string of a beaded necklace, that lets the coils bounce and brush against one another without unwinding."
13. DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH WAITING FOR A SEQUEL.
According to co-director Mark Andrews, there could be a sequel. Or maybe not. “I don’t know if there will be another one," he said. "We never make a film at Pixar to have a sequel. It is always nice when you do and we kind of have a philosophy that if we find the right story then we will. Surely the marketing and success of Brave says that you can have one and they will come. Make it and they will come.”