On Wednesday evening, my family had the opportunity to screen the new Disney/Pixar movie Brave. I went in with visions of princesses, and Lightning McQueen, and all things that I’ve come to know with Disney and Pixar through the years. I was so excited!!!

When I accepted the reservation for the screening, I asked for 4 tickets (the number of people in my family, of course). Forgetting that my son would be out of town, I allowed my daughter to invite her best friend. So, with that – our cast of characters included my husband and I (young at heart, middle-aged according to society) and two 7 year old girls.

Outside of the theater, we waited for our passes. The organizers had arranged for Highland dancers and a bagpipe player to provide entertainment in the lobby. It was very nice and was a great way for the two little dancers that we had with us to remain occupied.

We were able to get prime seats inside the theater. So once we piled on the concessions – popcorn, sour skittles, Icees, etc – we were settled in with our 3-D glasses and prepared to be “wow’d” by the film.

Of course, the first thing that you see on the screen is the famous Pixar short. This one is titled La Luna. I’m not always a fan of the shorts … although I fully realize that I am in the minority when I say that. However, I absolutely loved this one. I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ll just say that I felt like it was a magical concept. It worked well, didn’t seem forced, and the imagery was beautiful.

Here is the official synopsis: La Luna is the timeless fable of a young boy who is coming of age in the most peculiar of circumstances. Tonight is the very first time his Papa and Grandpa are taking him to work. In an old wooden boat they row far out to sea, and with no land in sight, they stop and wait. A big surprise awaits the little boy as he discovers his family’s most unusual line of work. Should he follow the example of his Papa, or his Grandpa? Will he be able to find his own way in the midst of their conflicting opinions and timeworn traditions?

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Once La Luna was over, we were pumped and ready for the film. The audience was told that Brave director, Mark Andrews happened to be in the audience with us! At that point, my husband nearly flipped out. He is a huge “who’s who” of everything Disney/Pixar, so although I sat with my typical “that sounds familiar” thought running though my head – he was way ahead of me!!! Mark Andrews served as story supervisor for Ratatouille (which we just saw in the theater last month when it had a 1 weekend only re-release) and The Incredibles, and was Oscar-nominated as the co-writer/co-director of the Pixar short One Man Band.  Since I love Ratatouille (it’s my 2nd most favorite Pixar film) and One Man Band is the only short that I’ve ever really liked, I had some high hopes going into Brave!

So for giggles, here’s the official boilerplate: Set in the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland, Disney•Pixar’s “Brave” follows the heroic journey of Merida, a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Determined to change her fate, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin, surly Lord Macintosh, and cantankerous Lord Dingwall, unleashing chaos in the kingdom. When she turns to an eccentric Witch, she is granted an ill-fated wish and the ensuing peril forces Merida to harness all of her resources—including her mischievous triplet brothers—to undo a beastly curse and discover the meaning of true bravery. Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, and produced by Katherine Sarafian, “Brave” is a grand adventure full of heart, memorable characters and signature Pixar humor. 

I would say that pretty much sums up exactly what the film is … yet it is not what I would consider classic Disney/Pixar.

Yes, there is a princess, but she’s not your typical run of the mill heir to the throne. Merida is stubborn and a tomboy. You won’t see her (by choice) in frilly dresses or daintily singing to chipmunks or birds 🙂 She is beautiful, though. Her hair and the way that it is animated was just stunning to me. Partly because it reminds me so much of my daughters (albeit Piper’s isn’t red) … and partly because the red of Merida’s hair is just beautiful. I hope little red-haired girls all over the world rejoice for Merida. Even though she isn’t girly, she is fabulous!

Brave is a story of a struggle between mother and daughter. I think every daughter has probably beat her head against the wall and wanted to “change their fate”. I thought the film did a great job of showing and bringing to light both views: Merida’s desire to make her own choices and Queen Elinor’s desire to honor tradition.

This is a film that is great for boys or girls/men or women. Sometimes I think films tend to back themselves into a corner with an audience, but this film has enough humor and light-heartedness for girls … but enough sports and action to appeal to boys.

We saw Brave in 3-D and normally I’m one of those that could really care less if it’s in 3D or not. (I’m probably just too cheap to want to pay the extra money if we are going to be honest.) But, given the action in this film, it is probably worth paying a little more. The soundtrack was incredible and a very nice match to the scenes, particularly the intense ones. In fact, I gasped twice during the film when something came at me! And, it was too the point, that I immediately looked past my husband to make sure that the girls weren’t scared too death. (They were fine!) But, to that end, I will add that I’m not particularly sure that this would be a great choice of movie for a small child or one that is particularly skittish. This is definitely not the movie Cars or Lady and the Tramp … there are some dark, intense moments that might be frightening to some children, so weigh that out.

I loved the classic humor that is in the film. Blending clean adult comedy with laughable moments aimed at children is a gift, and Pixar does well with that in Brave. The animation is just off the charts as you would expect. I sometimes catch myself forgetting that this is indeed animation and not a real person that is just “cartooned” for the screen. I love to watch the amazing details that are included … the way the wind will ripple across something, the realistic way the water cascades, it’s just a breathtaking art to me – a real gift.

Overall, I loved Brave. Parts of it I thought screamed “leaving room for a sequel”. But, when asked later, Mark Andrews said that one is not presently in the works. I think that this is also a movie that I will like even more on a second viewing. The kids both thought it was great and really liked it. I’d say that it’s a definite Top 3 for me as far as Pixar goes. (#1 – Cars, #2 – Ratatouille, #3 – Brave). Now I’m even more excited to get to Disney World to see Merida in person!

When the movie was over, we sat through the credits and then got to have about a 15 minute Q & A with director, Mark Andrews. He took questions from the audience that truly ran the course of what’s it like to work at Pixar to is there a planned sequel. I was interested to know that he himself has a daughter and three sons. (Mark’s daughter, Maeve Andrews, played the voice of Jack-Jack Parr in The Incredibles.)

Don was able to ask the question “How long has the film been in process and when did you actually finish the film in the version that we saw on the screen?” He answered that they have been working on Brave in some shape or form for 6 years. (The girls that we had with us are 7 years old. Their eyes got really big at that point … as did mine!) And, they finished with completed sound effects, deleted scenes, etc., about 2 weeks ago. That proves to me that they work to perfect the project right until the very end.

Mr. Andrews was kind enough to autograph Brave fans that were provided by marketing to all that attended. (His PR gal was awesome enough to have a silver sharpie for him to use! Great thinking ahead given the colors of the art on the fan.) He also posed for photos. My sweet husband was on cloud 9! And, these little girls will one day realize what a creative genius they were able to meet!!!

My final recommendation: See Brave in the theater. I think there are some scenes (and musical moments) that will not come across as well on Blu-Ray or DVD. And, as I stated before, I give the film high marks. I’d say a “9” on a 10-point scale and a definite A+.

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I was provided with press passes for viewing “Brave”, but no further compensation. Not even a concessions credit. These opinions, as always, are my own.