Brave, Takes Aim at Family Market (Video Review)


On the short list for an Oscar, the animated film Brave comes to home video in a 5 disc Blu-ray Combo pack that includes Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray (2 Discs), DVD & Digital Copy.  The Pixar/Disney film has an adventurous theme that plays to all family members young and old alike. Loaded with bonus features including “La Luna” and a short created for the home video called “The Legend of Mor’du” this entertainment package has it all.

The movie centers on Merida, a young princess full of spirit and energy.  Living in the Highlands of Scotland with parents King Fergus, Queen Elinor and her three brothers, her idea of fun involves a speedy ride through the rocky woods while shooting arrows at targets.  Loving her independence Merida wouldn’t ever think of being courted for marriage.

One day her mother tells her that she has invited the four clans to offer their first male child in marriage to Merida.  Distraught over the announcement Merida heads into the forest in defiance of the intrusion by her mother.  There she meets a witch and requests a potent to change her mother.  When the potent changes her mother into a bear, Merida has to find a way to break the spell and save the queen from certain death.

Queen Elinor, King Fergus, Merida and the triplets Harris, Hubert and Hamish

The film has a very good message, one you may have already had to face with an older child.  Merida turns her back on her family going against tradition even taking action that could damage a relationship forever.  In order to mend the bond she broke, Merida needs to reach out to her family, ask forgiveness and swallow her pride.

Production of Brave comes from Pixar, a division of Disney that has had an amazing run in the computer graphics imaging animation process.  From its first full feature release of Toy Story in 1995 with eleven films in between Brave marks their 13th animated film. More companies have followed, but none as successful as the one who geared up with all the bells and whistles of the computer industry mastering the acronym CGI.

Mark Andrews leads a directorial team of Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell for this amazing undertaking.  Keeping their teams working with the intricate CGI process, exploring Scotland for locations and landscapes, and creating a work environment that adds fun with routine, the directors bring in a film worthy of an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film.  The stunning backdrops of forest laden mountains, waterfalls, crystal clear brooks live with fish, a bold stone castle and many vistas create Scotland of old.

Lord Macintosh and his son, Young Macintosh, Merida, Wee Dingwall and his father, Lord Dingwall, Lord MacGuffin and his son, Young MacGuffin; Queen Elinor and King Fergus

The characters in Brave are daunting, burly, comical and full of life.  Animated with precision, each person has a different look, except for the three red curly haired toddlers who create havoc whenever possible.  King Fergus (voiced by Billy Connoly) stands over 7 feet tall, ruddy face and a peg leg.  His boisterous demeanor makes him kingly even though more laughable than frightening.  His wife Queen Elinor (voiced by Emma Thompson) carries herself with pride and truly holds her husband hostage to her wishes.  Keeping Merida on focus with her studies isn’t an easy task, but she adores her only girl and allows her to run wild in the neighboring mountains.

Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) commands the screen with long curly red hair that fluffs in the breeze as she rides across the meadows, vales and wooded trails on her friend and horse Angus.  Gorgeous, feisty, fearless and smart, she’s in her carefree youth, not easy to tame and determined to be free.  Her noble steed a beautiful Clydesdale elegant yet protective, the two are inseparable whenever she leaves the castle. Her charm demands attention and it’s hard to not give it to this amazing character created by the Pixar creative staff.

The 3D video quality 1080p High Def rises above most of what has been released in the format by Disney except the recent Secret of the Wings.  Nose to the task, the transfer of Brave from big screen to Blu-ray disc shows little difference in clarity and eye popping visuals from the theater experience.  Maybe even brighter than the theatrical release, the depth of field looks like you can reach into the screen and pet Angus or take one of the three red headed kids cookies they just swiped. The creek water looks like its live film and the fish flop in front of the screen as Merida and her bear mom try to grab a slippery dinner entree. Waterfalls, scenes of snow, fire from torches, arrows in flight and much more are impressive.

The visual excellence of the Blu-ray is dazzling and crystal clear.  The animation colors are vibrant with realistic tones and the vegetation closely resembles what Scotland would look like in days of lore. I love the way the animation seems to go away and except for the features of the characters it looks like you are watching a live action movie.  Even the dark woods scenes are clear and the landscapes have a realistic feel they are so brilliant.

The Sound Quality offering 7.1 and 5.1 Dolby TrueHD surround has enough audio to fill even the largest room in the house.  Amazingly clear without distortion, the dialogue laden with Scottish accents can be understood from anyplace in the room.  Even if you do miss a few lines, there’s always the rewind button that you don’t have in the movie theater.

There are many bonus features to entertain the kids following the presentation of the film.

Bonus features on Disc 1:

  • Two Short Films:  I really enjoyed both short features.  “La Luna” was originally presented prior to “Brave” in theatres and it’s about a boy who goes on a special boat ride with his father and grandfather. The second small movie called “The Legend of Mor’du” was produced for the video release and not shown in theaters.  This very cool film tells the history of Merida’s land of Mor’du that adds to the background story.
  • Behind the Scenes: This feature is broken into segments with a lot of fun stuff to watch. “Brave Old World” shows how the crew took a research trip to Scotland to look at locations and landscape scenery for their artists to develop into Brave’s homeland. “Merida & Elinor” talks about creating the two main leads. “Bears”, “Brawl in the Hall”, Wonder Moss”, and “Magic” are self explanatory.  “Clan Pixar” shows Mark Andrew’s style of direction with a trip inside Pixar during the creation of Brave. “Once Upon a Scene” goes into versions of the opening scene.  Also included here are the “Extended and Deleted Scenes.”
  • Audio Commentary: Commentary by Directors Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell along with the story supervisor and film editor are available.  Unless you are a scholar of animation and really want to hear how most every scene was created, you may want to skip this feature. I did however enjoy the commentary about the vistas and during the brawl in the castle over Merida’s hand in marriage.

Bonus features on Disc 2:

  • “Fergus & Mor’du”: Shows an alternate opening with description by Director Mark Andrews who talks about why they chose not to use it.  This is mostly shown with rough footage.
  • “Fallen Warriors”: Director Andrews goes over several scenes that did not make it into the film, but were completely drawn and colored like the final feature.
  • “Dirty Hairy People”: Here Co-Director Purcell talks about the creation of the funny characters in the film pointing out their dress, facial features and body elements.
  • “It Is English…Sort of”: Talks about the using Scottish accents to bring realism into the feature.  This is a very comical bonus that the youngsters may like a lot.
  • “Angus”: Goes into the animation of Merida’s horse and best friend, a beautiful Clydesdale with flowing hair and a playful personality.
  • “The Tapestry”: Several production crew members talk about the importance of the tapestry in the film showing Merida and her family.
  • Promotional Pieces: These are not ads, but some great clips from the film and other elements including; “Feast Your Eyes”, “Relics”, “Clan Dun Broch”, “Launch”, “Flying Guts Theater”, and trailers of the films used in the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom.
  • Art Gallery:  This feature shows hundreds of drawings the crew used in choosing how to develop the characters and scenes in the film. The extra is interactive and allows you to rate the drawings.

FINAL ANALYSIS:  Definitely in the running for Video Release of the year for me and probably won’t be beat. (A)

Specifications and additional film information:

  • Cast: Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane
  • Directed by: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell
  • MPAA Rating: PG for some scary action and rude humor
  • Genre: Comedy, Animation, Adventure
  • Running Time: 1 hr 33 min
  • Street Date: November 13, 2012
  • Original Film Release Date: June 22, 2012
  • Language: English, French, Spanish
  • Format: 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Disc
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
  • Audio: 3D and Blu-ray- English Dolby 7.1 and Dolby 5.1, DVD- Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Video: 1080p High Definition, DVD- Widescreen Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
  • Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
  • Number of Discs: 5 Discs
  • Distributed by: Buena Vista Home Entertainment


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