LOS ANGELES – The newest princess from The Walt Disney Co. is more interested in shooting arrows and hunting bears than attending balls and finding Prince Charming. Merida, the spunky curly-haired Scottish heroine from the upcoming Pixar Animation Studios adventure “Brave,” is breaking new ground as the archery-loving protagonist of the Oscar-winning studio’s first fairytale.
“She’s your anti-princess,” said “Brave” co-director Mark Andrews. “She isn’t your typical princess. She doesn’t wear nice clothes except in a couple of scenes when her strict mom, Queen Elinor, makes her do it for special functions. She’s an active and action-oriented person. She wants to get out in the outdoors of the Highlands, escaping from castle life and exploring the woods.”
“Brave,” scheduled for release June 22, 2012, is set in medieval Scotland and features the voices of “Boardwalk Empire” actress Kelly Macdonald as Princess Merida, Emma Thompson as Queen Elinor, Billy Connolly as her one-legged father, King Fergus, as well as Craig Ferguson, Kevin McKidd and Robbie Coltrane as the kingdom’s noblemen.
Despite being the first Pixar film to focus on a female heroine, Andrews said “Brave” will be less about girl power and more about the oppositional relationship between mother Elinor and daughter Merida, likening the defiant red-haired princess to a scrutinized teenager who is forced to attend the same high school where her mother serves as the principal.
In the film’s full-length trailer, out Tuesday, Merida’s father tells of the 12-foot-tall beast with razor-sharp claws, a face scarred with a dead eye and “hide littered with the weapons of fallen warriors,” that chomped off his leg while the rebellious Merida transverses a lush forest, ascends a mountain and lands a bull’s eye at a tournament.
The role of Merida in “Brave” marks the first animated film part for Macdonald, a Scottish actress who has appeared in such movies as “Gosford Park” and “Finding Neverland.” She acknowledged being struck by the significance of playing Disney royalty during a visit to Disneyland earlier this year as she watched Disney princesses gallivanting during the afternoon parade.
“I just thought, ‘My goodness! There’s eventually going to be a Merida doing her thing up there,”’ said Macdonald. “The people that they cast to be the characters and wear the costumes at Disneyland have to do the accent, so somebody at Disneyland is going to be doing me. Some American girl will have to do my accent. It kind of blows my mind, really.”
Other imagery teased in the new trailer includes Merida encountering mystical blue-hued wisps and the gnarly bear that took her father’s leg. Andrews said despite the 3-D film’s darker tone and visual style compared with past Pixar movies like “Toy Story” and “Cars,” ”Brave“ won’t be ”missing any of the comedy or entertainment you usually associate with Pixar.“