Mark Andrews Takes on Brave
Six years in the making, Brave hits U.S. theatres today. Taking over as director with just 18 months left, on a film that needed a fast fix, would be pressure enough in any circumstance. But this is no ordinary film and Pixar is no ordinary animation studio. No one else sets the bar quite so high, nor has such a track record of success. Facing such a demanding task was no small feat. Mark Andrews tells us how he got it done.
Dan Sarto: Tell us about the dynamic of you coming onto the film, initially as a creative consultant and later, replacing Brenda Chapman as director.
Mark Andrews: I was walking down the hallway and started seeing these drawings that Mike Mignola had done of castles and guys standing around in Scottish kilts. I thought, “Wait, what in the hell is this, who’s developing this? This is my movie. I would have totally done this story.” Then I find that Brenda [Chapman] is developing this idea set in Scotland. I talked with her and she pitched me her idea and I told her, if you need any materials, let me know because I know all this Celtic and Scottish mythology, Scottish and Middle Ages history. So some of the first research books she used were my own books. I became a kind of unofficial consultant on all things Scottish and Celtic mythology for Brenda and her team.
When they went on their first research trip, they asked me to come along. So I was there as the in-house research guy, being there with the team, seeing all the possibilities that you can get from such a rich culture that goes way, way back. Even the time period they were circling around to set it in, they didn’t want it to be actual history, just kind of a fantasy version of the middle ages. Still there was a lot [to take in]. What do you take, what do you not take? There are so many interesting stories. It was a compiling of information.
Then I went on to Ratatouille, and then I went back into development, developing my own thing. Then John Carter happened. But I’ve been in all the brain trust sessions, seeing the reels develop, then not so develop, kind of get stuck along the way. It was apparent it was becoming an issue, even though they moved back the original due date of the movie a couple years because we had just merged with Disney and they wanted a Toy Story 3 and then Cars 2. So that kind of gave them room, that’s what they needed. They need more time to tell the story.
But then it came to the same point as we did on Ratatouille, 18 months to go and it’s just not clicking yet. What do you do? So, Pixar had done this 3 or 4 times before where, unfortunately, you do a director change. So, they didn’t just go to anybody, they came to me because of my history with the project. I knew the story, I was friends with Brenda, I liked the story. First, they came to me and asked, do you want to do this and I kind of had to think about this. This is a big deal. I wanted to be right by Brenda and right by the story and not just come in and retool the whole thing. My marching orders were, they loved the parent-child relationship and they loved the direction of the story, it just needed to be at that level that Pixar needed to be at where everything had to be firing on all cylinders. It’s a daunting task. I said, “OK, I’ll try my best.” And the rest is history.