Hollywood: Brave, a Scottish-themed princess tale with a gender equality twist, won the best animated feature Oscar on Sunday, in the latest triumph for big-screen animation pioneers Pixar.
The movie, about a red-haired princess trying to rescue her mother from a spell cast by an evil witch, beat rivals notably including Wreck-It Ralph to the prize at the 85th Academy Awards.
Pixar has a fearsome Oscars record, previously winning the animated feature category six times—for Finding Nemo (2004), The Incredibles (2005), Ratatouille (2008), WALL-E (2009), Up (2010), and Toy Story 3 (2011).
Brave follows the adventures of impetuous Princess Merida, voiced by Kelly MacDonald, a tomboy who rejects everything her family has planned for her, including marrying one of the kingdom’s clan heirs.
Determined to change the mind of her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson), she seeks the help of a witch, a reckless choice which turns the queen into a bear, leading to her almost being killed by Billy Connolly’s King Fergus.
Pixar took seven years to give birth to the movie—reflecting headaches and twists, including a change of director from Disney and DreamWorks veteran Brenda Chapman to American Mark Andrews, making his feature directorial debut.
But the US studio set itself a double challenge: to make a princess film—a genre defined for decades by its parent company Disney—and to give the film’s central role to a female character, the first time it had done so.
Andrews had already been linked with the film when Chapman was in charge, as a consultant. But in late 2010, Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter announced that creative differences had arisen and a new director was needed.
For Andrews, the heart of the conflict between Merida and her mother was that “neither of them are listening and they want the other to listen,” he said.
“They want the other one to give up everything because ‘My way, obviously, is the right way’.”
The success of Brave helped to erase memories of its previous offering, Cars 2, which was panned by critics upon its 2011 release and made “only” $550 million worldwide, half of Oscar-winning Toy Story 3 the year before.