Having worked on some of DisneyPixar’s biggest hits, including Toy Story, Monster’s Inc., Ratatouille, and my all-time favourite The Incredibles, the pressure to deliver the next hit movie for the number one animation studio in the world was set on the shoulders of director Mark Andrews and Producer Katherine Sarafian.
I recently sat down with the lively duo to talk about their latest production, Brave.
What were some of your major challenges in making Brave?
Mark: Katherine was one of my major challenges.
Katherine: Yeah, he wouldn’t say I’m not difficult to work with. I think every director, producer, writer, etc. would give the same answer—Story! You can never assume you’ve got it right, and even when you do, you always want to make it better. With these films taking four to six years to make, right up until the end, we’re trying to make the story better.
Mark: Yeah, no matter how much time you think you have, it ends up being no time at all. You spend so much time in the development phase working with different permeations of ideas, “Should we do this? Should we do that? I don’t know…” By the time you finalize one idea and you put it up on storyboards, you look at it and go, “Gaaa, NOOO!” After multiple tries, all of a sudden the release date approaches and the pressure is on. We have a motto: Work is story and story is hell.
Tell us what led you to Scotland.
Mark: Sure! My fellow director and I, Brenda Chapman, have Scottish ancestry and I’m a huge myth and legend buff. Scotland being so rich in their history, myths and everything that surrounds it, combined with the Celtic tradition of telling stories as life lessons naturally gave us incentive to build this teen angst film around it. Basically, we write what we know. My only other thing is I wanted to put the whole thing in space, because I love sci-fi. You know, bring in a spaceship and basically that’s what happens with the curse (in the movie).
Katherine: There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t consider adding a spaceship.
Once we decided that it was going to be in Scotland we went on our research trip. If we got to Scotland and discovered that the landscapes and history weren’t conducive to storytelling, we would have changed it.
Mark: Or if we were smart, we would have set it in Italy and got some fantastic trips there. Or someplace warm like the Caribbean, because Scotland’s not warm!
You wouldn’t like Canada’s winters very much.
This is Pixar’s first female lead and princess. How did this develop?
Katherine: We didn’t start out thinking about delivering the first Pixar female heroine. We started talking about who would be the best possible character: Someone who is teenaged, and happened to be a royal girl. But those were all secondary and tertiary plans. Now I’m really happy that Merida will be looked at as a role model for being true to you and not just following a mold. If the world doesn’t quite see you the way you want to be seen, you can bravely face up to that and speak your truth.
Mark: I think that’s the big issue in this land and era of tradition (old Scotland), there are so many preconceived notions of what a woman or anyone needs to be – Even boys. I have a girl and three boys just like King Ferguson does in the movie, so for me it’s great that this movie tells you to be brave enough to be who you are. Don’t let anyone dictate who you’re going to be.
I love that message!
Did the cast ever get to record their dialogue together, or is this like most animated films where they never saw each other through production?
Mark: All done separately!
Katherine: They interacted when they were shooting other films together, but not on our film.
Mark: It’s too difficult. I would love to get everyone in there and have them work together. But it’s hard to build the performances, which is why we do several different takes. That way, if you’re coming on strong in your reading and I have multiple takes from the other actors reading their lines at different levels in the scene, I am able to form a rhythm and a pattern out of all the different takes.
How did you develop Princess Merida’s character without making her another annoying teenager?
Mark: We know this person is head strong and willful, but she also has to be appealing. I want to like her in the beginning and like her in the end, understanding why she had to do what she did as she transitions from adolescence to adulthood. The way Kelly MacDonald played the character made us fall in love with her from the first line out of her mouth.
Katherine: Throughout the entire process of making this movie, we were trying to get appeal. Whether it’s how big the eyes are, or how big the smile is, you’re going for appeal with character design. Then you’re going for appeal in character movement and animation before you even have the voice. By the time you get to casting, you’re only thought is appeal, appeal, appeal!Mark: All of the appeal comes from your gut. When I was talking to Emma Thomson (Queen Elinor), I told her we have to be able to laugh at the queen and not just think of nasty words to call her, which I did as we were writing the character.
Last question from fans and myself: If and when will you return to The Incredibles franchise to give us the sequel we’re dying for?
Katherine: Mark and I would both love to make The Incredibles 2 happen, but the studio has so many projects in the works right now it may be a while.
You can check out Brave in theatres this Friday June 22, 2012.
For now, save and print this fun banner challenge and maze for your wee ones to enjoy!