By Casey Tourangeau

Mailed on June 26, 2012

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Dear Brenda Chapman

Dear Brenda,

What a shame you had to leave this project back in 2010. Of course, that hasn't stopped the hype machine from taking advantage of your contributions. Pixar's first female lead! Pixar's first female director! But now, with some version of your ginger warrior finally reaching the screen, I can't help but wonder if Brave might have ironed out some of its kinks by sticking to a bold, singular vision.

The biggest (and best) parts of _Brave _tell the story of Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a willful, self-confident princess in medieval Scotland, and her relationship with her very proper mother (Emma Thompson). Merida doesn't want a life dictated by protocol and what it means to be a lady in waiting; she yearns to break free of everything her mother represents. After tensions reach a breaking, she does just that, fleeing the kingdom, igniting tensions between the various clans that have come to compete for her hand in marriage. What happens next between mother and daughter is the heart of the film, and even with its fantastical elements (including wisps, witches, and spell gone wrong), it's handled with the nuance and attention to character that I've come to expect from Pixar.

However, this film comes from two very different sensibilities, and has two distinct, discordant voices. One comes from a tradition centered on character, emotion and organic storytelling. The other, well that one comes from the Pixar who made Cars.

And here is where I wonder if your voice got lost.

This other part of the film, for lack of a better term, I'll simply call shenanigans. Characters who are always doing something crazy (and noisy); scenes ending in a cavalcade of slapstick (and noise), whether it's appropriate to the tone or not (did I mention the noise?). These aren't constructed jokes, with an intricate build up and payoff. No, they're just noise that made me think some of those involved didn't trust the story enough to hold an audience's attention on its own. I was disheartened to see this element smash its way into the film because in a setting this rich, with animation this gorgeous, I was happy to just luxuriate in the environment. I didn't want my attention diverted every 30 seconds. The film was, from the beginning, in such a hurry to be funny before anything else, I had to actively work against what I was watching to enjoy the film. It's pretty much the opposite of the early scenes in Up.

I also couldn't help but notice that one of your two co-directors, Steve Purcell, had a story credit on Cars (as he does here). Does he represent the part of the Pixar story machine that's uneasy about crafting a film that's too, dare I say, girly? I don't mean to use that as a pejorative, I'm simply trying to find a reason for these shifts in tone. If both Up and WALL-E could spend large chunks of their first acts in near silence, slowly integrating the audience into their worlds, why does _Brave _need to try so hard? I'd hate to think that Pixarˆresponsible for bringing so many of Hayayo Miazaki's strong female leads to North American audiences—would turn out to feel more at home with Mater than Merida.

Thankfully, though, most of this forced wackiness is in the early parts of the film, and things do eventually settle down into a moving, character-driven tale. Even though you're listed as one of three directors and one of three scriptwriters, you have the sole story credit. And it's that story's heartbeat that can be heard clearly through all the added noise and fury, making Brave such a satisfying experience.

Pushing myself aside,


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