Pixar Previews Brave
"There's a great heart at the center of this film that just isn't for moms and daughters," Andrews continued. "I'm a father of four (a girl and three boys, just like King Fergus). So I know about parenthood and the fears and tribulations. 'Look, I've done it all and I don't want you to make the same mistakes.' I get Elinor's play. I was also a teenager so I didn't want anyone telling me what to do, what to say, what to wear. So I get Merida's play. That's what I'm invested in: this universal, relatable story. I brought objectivity, which is what was needed since the story was stalling out and wasn't progressing. I don't care! Chop, chop! This doesn't work, this doesn't work, this doesn't work -- and shatter it! What still works? The mother/daughter relationship works; but there were a lot of holes. You fill in the blanks. You take Brenda's great ideas and the wonderful relationships that she started, clear away the clutter, find out where the missing places were, and solve them. I didn't succeed right off the bat. We twist and contort painfully."
But out of such pain comes something new for animation. We will just have to wait to see where this story goes and if the journey is among Pixar's best. But what's already apparent is the technical virtuosity of Merida's curly red hair, which required new software to get the look and bounce just right (more than 1,500 individually sculpted strands that generate 111,700 total hairs). That's just as difficult in its own way as Rapunzel's long, golden mane from Tangled. Credit goes to simulation supervisor Claudia Chung and the Pixar tech team.
Likewise, the cloth is so rich and detailed and uneven in its threading, which makes it all the more believable. King Fergus alone wears nine simulated garments at the same time.
Meanwhile, Pixar goes to such lengths to get the look and feel of Scotland just right that it doesn't stop until the simulated moss acts like moss and not a Brillo pad. That entailed some last-minute technical tinkering and a welcome breakthrough. "At the end of the day it's alchemy," Andrews confessed. "It's problem solving: lighting to textures to the feel of the forest to the water. They were developing the new software system, rebooting all that stuff to save time in tandem so we could actually make this movie."
Bill Desowitz is former senior editor of AWN and editor of VFXWorld. His blog is Immersed in Movies (www.billdesowitz.com), he's a regular contributor to Thompson on Hollywood at Indiewire and he's the author of the upcoming James Bond Unmasked (Spies), which chronicles the 50-year evolution of the iconic superspy from Connery to Craig.