I was lucky enough to catch a free screening of “Brave” on Monday and was excited to finally see a Pixar film with a female protagonist. These past few years, Pixar has become the breadwinner in the Disney/Pixar partnership and have put out films that are consistently lauded and top Best Films of the Year lists. However, can you believe up until now they haven’t had a female lead? Even my favorite Pixar film, “Up,” lacks a substantial female character. As a child of the 90s, I grew up watching a lot of the Disney Princess films and while there’s nothing wrong with them (I think most of my friends know how much I love Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, and Mulan), they always ended with the princess finding true love (even though Mulan was a badass and saved the entire country, there just had to be a love story with Shang). I think a lot of people were excited to see what Pixar would do with a female protagonist because the animation studio has always produced innovative films for all ages. Now that I’ve seen “Brave,” I can say that I hope Pixar continues to put out films with more females.
I walked into this movie not knowing much about it, having not seen the trailer, and only vaguely hearing about the controversy surrounding the director debacle, and though I enjoyed it for what it was, I walked out wishing for something more. One of my favorite things about Pixar films is that they cater to both children and adults. Sure, it’s a stunningly animated film with cute characters, but underneath it all a Pixar film manages to present a story with a deeper meaning. Finding Nemo was about the relationship between a father and son. Wall-E was about the dangers the Earth faced if humans continued to live the way they do. Up was about learning to move past the difficulties life presented you with and go on any sort of adventure, big or small. At the heart of it, Brave is about the relationship between a mother and a daughter and how to learn and accept one another.
I don’t want to go too much into the plot because I’d hate to spoil it for anyone, but I do wish that Pixar had done more with the mother/daughter relationship. It felt a bit rushed for me and a part of me wonders if the story would’ve had a different tone had Brenda Chapman stayed on as director. I mean, does a male director really understand the bond between a mother and a daughter? I think that is what bothered me the most throughout the film. Although I thought the animation was stunning at times (particularly the landscape shots), I will admit that my first reaction to seeing Brave ads was that it looked like a DreamWorks film. It lacked a bit of the Pixar charm and I feel awful for saying this because I really want this film to succeed and show Disney/Pixar that female led films are profitable and are worth the time to make them.
Again, I really enjoyed Brave and encourage everyone to see it. It’s very cute and funny and has great animation. I am excited that this generation has a female Disney character to look up to and Merida is a fantastic choice. However, there was just something missing in this film and so I can only say it was good, not great.