Saturday, June 30, 2012

153: The Self-Empowered Woman: BRAVE/Merida

Dear Followers,

Last week's top grossing movie, BRAVE, represented another milestone for women. After 17 years of feature filmmaking (and a dozen box office hits) Pixar has given audiences it's first female animated protagonist. 

Merida (Kelly Macdonald), the film's heroine, is a doer rather than a princess who is merely waiting to be rescued. She rides a Clydesdale named Angus, and lets her long orange-red curls frame her face like an unruly mop of sunshine. At first, naysayers worried that only girls would buy tickets for a film that didn't have a traditional male hero. But those concerns evaporated when the box office results of $66 million proved otherwise.

The story line is that Merida's mother, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) has invited local clan leaders to visit and compete for Merida's hand in marriage. Like many mothers, Queen Elinor would like her daughter to be more ladylike and pay more attention to her appearance. Merida's father, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) represents the world of masculine freedom, hearty laughter and adventure. Like Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, Merida is a wiz at archery because her father has given her a bow and taught this spunky princess to feel right at home in the great outdoors. Audiences can't help but identify with both mother and daughter when Queen Elinor tells Merida "A lady does not place her weapon on the table."

The photo above is of Brenda Chapman, who is considered a pioneering figure in animation. She was the first woman to serve as head of story on Disney's The Lion King, and she also worked on The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, and a host of other animated features. 

Chapman spent six years on BRAVE, which was inspired by her relationship with her daughter. She told the Los Angeles Times "I have this daughter who is very strong willed, very independent natured...I wanted to do a story about a mother and a daughter and what that relationship is like, the struggle...I love fairy tales and I wanted to do one that wasn't a spoof--something with contemporary, modern women and families. It wasn't just the mother and daughter, but a contemporary kind of family set in an old world fairy tale." 

After creating Merida and working on the film for six years, Chapman had "creative differences" just before the film was ready to be released. Although she remains with Pixar, she now shares directing credit with Mark Andrews. 

Historically, the animation industry has been dominated by men (much like the whole field of engineering, i.e., software, technology, etc.), but that is changing. Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks recently announced that "almost every producer of our films is a woman." And today, at USC's Division of Animation and Digital Arts, at least half of the students in both the bachelor of art and masters programs are women.

Looking forward to your comments... 

1 comment:

  1. I can't wait to see this, I've been pondering, so glad you wrote about Brave. I am the Venus Flytrap born of a rose bush.
    Perhaps we all have moments where we wonder if there was a disconnect somewhere.