First-time feature director Mark Andrews knows a thing or two about pressure. While he's been a longtime Pixar team-member -- and director Brad Bird's right-hand man -- the task of taking on "Brave," the animation studio's latest feature, was more than a little daunting. And it doesn't help that he had to step in for original director Brenda Chapman. But Andrews loves a challenge almost as much as he loves Scotland, where the tale takes place.

Scotland seems like such a mystical place, with each location having some sort of myth to it.

It is, it is. Everything had a story. Nothing didn't have a story. Every creek and branch and thing. But that was their culture, sharing these stories, and you knew these locations because you had to make them memorable -- or stuff actually did happen there.

Did you have any mystical run-ins yourself there?

On my honeymoon, we were in a hotel in Oban, and right on the counter there's a big thing with newspaper articles they had from way back when about this hotel's history. I'm just flipping through, and all of a sudden I go, "Oh my God, ghost in room 216." And just as I read this, the clerk hands us over our keys to room 215. I'm all, "Oh crap." The ghost only shows herself to women to warn women away from men. The ghost is the ghost of a woman who killed herself jumping out of a window because the man she was in love with ... he goes off to sea, doesn't tell her when he comes back that he met somebody else. So she's waiting there for him to rendezvous, but he never returns so she offed herself. So the ghost replays their last night together, that argument, and rearranges the furniture in the room back to how it was back in the day. So the maids keep coming in and going, "Ah, the ghost."

You've got to be aware that when you make a movie with Disney about a princess, there will be inevitable comparisons.


We're conscious of it in the sense that yeah, she's a princess, but why is she a princess? [Story-wise], there's more catastrophe that can happen. She can't just be a selfish milkmaid who can run off and marry somebody, right? We're all, "I don't care about that. Let 'em marry somebody." But here's this person, this character that doesn't want to do that stuff. "Um, lady, you're going to be a queen someday. You're going to have to step up." So we get those stakes. But it quickly goes away from that idea.

Since you came into this project already in progress, how involved were you with casting?

The only person that I got to cast was Kelly Macdonald. We had Reese Witherspoon on it. She was great, but the movie was taking so long and she had other things that she had to do down there. ... So we found Kelly Macdonald, and she was available and gung-ho, and she's great. I didn't know who the hell she was at all, so just hearing her and seeing little clips, I was thinking, "Can she do this kind of comedy? Can she do this kind of character?" And then talking to her and hearing her read some lines, I was like, "She's going to be great!"

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