The Brave Effect
We said we were going to go to Colorado or something like that for our holidays, then after we saw the film at the premiere in LA, my daughter turned to me and said, ‘Can we go to Scotland instead?’”
Sitting in Edinburgh, with the castle behind him, Scottish star Kevin McKidd reveals that he’s among the first to feel the Brave effect. Now best known for Grey’s Anatomy and HBO’s Rome, McKidd broke through in Trainspotting, Danny Boyle’s modern classic, a film about heroin and psychopaths that was never likely to bring too many people to visit its violent and sometimes nihilistic vision of Scotland. But McKidd’s latest project with Disney-Pixar is a very different bucket of heather.
“I think that’s a good sign,” he smiles. “That’s what Disney are wanting to hear – 10-year-old girls are nagging and dragging their parents to Scotland.”
These sentiments are echoed by Brave’s star and fellow Trainspotting alumnus, Kelly Macdonald. Now living in New York with husband Dougie Payne (bassist of Scottish band Travis) and her four-year-old son, Freddie, Macdonald says the film is so effective that it made her homesick.
“It’s kind of like the concentrated version of Scotland,” she adds. “They’ve got all the best bits. There’s not nearly enough rain for it to be authentic, but you can’t help but swell with a bit of pride when you see it. I feel glad I’m from a place that could inspire such a beautiful film.”
As the opening scenes sweep over craggy peaks, lush valleys, lochs and castles in glorious 3D, it’s immediately clear that Scotland is the biggest star in the latest film from the animation geniuses at Disney-Pixar. A historical epic steeped in myth and featuring Pixar’s first ever female lead – the feisty, arrow-wielding and decidedly unprincessy princess Merida – Brave is expected to turn millions of little girls worldwide into cheerleaders for Scottish tourism and thus bring in £140m to the country’s economy.
Debuting in the US with a £42.8m opening weekend, the film is the 13th consecutive number one for the animation studio, continuing the remarkable world-beating success of the guys behind Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., Up, WALL-E and Finding Nemo.
From its base in Emeryville, California, Pixar has woven the dreams of a generation, but to capture the heather and will-o’-the-wisps they had to decamp from San Francisco Bay and get among the Scottish landscape and people. Over two trips in 2006 and 2007, teams of filmmakers, story artists, editors and designers descended on Scotland to attend Highland Games, sketch landscapes, sample tartans and whisky, and garner character ideas from the people they met along the way.
To keep things authentic, the Pixar team assembled a cast packed with top Scottish talent – Boardwalk Empire star Macdonald breathes life into the flame-haired heroine Merida, while Billy Connolly plays her dad, and Craig Ferguson, Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd provide the voices for a trio of quarrelsome clan leaders. Unlike previous Scottish-set favourites Braveheart, which starred an Australian turned naturalised American, or Rob Roy, which got a Northern Irishman, Brave has an authentic voice, especially as the cast members were allowed to improvise and add in the odd bit of Scottish slang.