Kate ThurstonCompare-Contrast9/28/12Professor Renee Hobbs On June 22, 2012 the Disney/Pixar media industry mega power released what theyhoped to be the highest grossing animated children’s film of the year. The film, which accordingto PixarPlanet.com earned seven hundred and thirty million domestically and abroad in saidyear, was entitled Brave. At its core Brave is the rollicking tale of a fiery, young, Scottishprincess, named Merida. As the first born and only daughter to the loveable King Fergus andconservative Queen Elinor, the energetic lass has the natural beauty of her mother yet theinnate, wild, unruly demeanor of her father. She is an expert archer and horseback rider, who israther tom-boyish and unwilling to conform. When she learns her non-consensual hand inmarriage will be vied for by members of allied clans in the Highland Games, she declares shewill beat them all by fighting for her own hand. The spirited Merida and the conversely proper Queen Elinor obviously do not see eye toeye and the distressed teen takes off on a hasty journey joined solely by her beloved horseAngus. This is the point where he plot explodes with spells, suspense, and surprise and theviewer witnesses Merida asking, “If you had a chance to change your fate, would you?” Meridamust decide to put her own ego aside for the benefit of her family and uncovers the balancebetween self and loved ones.
Brave is an animated film that certainly provides the expected elements from thechildren’s genre. The premise is alluring to each sex, both boys and girls alike, for some of thesame reasons and some seemingly different. Sure the central character, Merida, is a femalewhich surely appeals to the young ladies. However, there are many masculine qualities of thefilm, for example sword fights, archery, and burly, warring Scotsmen that definitely capture andhold the imagination of little boys. That being said, it is the overall enchanting story line that istruly the essence to drawing in the attention of the child audience. There is a common universalcharm andreliability to the characters. The fable like theme within Brave is utilized in manyDisney movies and allows the children to hopefully leave the theater with a learned lesson andthe ability to apply it to real life. It appears a fair amount of the strategic choices within the film were clearly decidedupon with the child audience in mind. While thoroughly fulfilling, both visually and audibly,Brave stealthily intertwines many educational aspects to the child viewer. The ScottishHighlands setting, with its rolling green hills, the indigenous clans in their traditional garb, andthe many myths and legends presented, serve as virtual history lesson. The presence of theancient, folk-lorish and uniquely European will-o-the-wisps and menhirs, inspire immediate aweand curiosity. Disney/Pixar yet again successfully delivers that potent one-two combinationpunch of children’s entertainment, oh so nonchalantly combined with enlightenment andwonder.
With the debut of Brave one cannot help but to become reminiscent of anotherpassionate, fierce, Disney animated red-head, who desperately yearned to conspire to changeher ultimate fate. In nineteen eighty- nine, the film The Little Mermaid featured sixteen yearold Ariel, who lived a splashy life “under the sea” with her family and friends. Under the controlof her commanding father King Triton, Ariel, like Merida must try to navigate the future of herexistence. The similarities that lie within these two films are much more extensive than the mereformerly mentioned. Besides the distinct fire-engine colored coifs that both girls adorn, thereare many common threads woven into each fairy tales. Both Merida and Ariel are strong andaware of their individual needs, neither afraid to pursue that which they desire. They eachendure a familiar conflict between parent and child, Merida with her antiquated value drivenmother and Ariel with her overwhelmingly overbearing father. There is the mutual rebellion tothe rules and what is expected of them, to their parent’s dismay, as they honestly had theirchild’s best interest at heart. Then, of course, there is the essential deal that they each mustmake with the “devil” that each time comes in the form of the evil, old, conniving witch…andthen the spells are cast. The conclusions to both films involve the slaying of the villains and theheroines receiving theirs sought after happiness. With as many coinciding themes as appear in the films, there are even more extensivecontrasts. While Ariel is very feminine and demure, Merida is stoic and silly. Ariel wishes, inessence, to change who she is from mermaid to human, and leave all she knows and loves, fornone other than a man, whom she has seen twice. In the deal she makes with Ursula the sea
witch she trades the one thing that woman have fought for centuries to attain, her voice. Hervoice. What kind of message does that send to young, impressionable girls? Merida, on theother hand, uses her voice to assert that she will not be subject to a marriage founded inarrangement and ostentatious, foolish, male rituals, which she proves to be better at in thefirst. While Ariel does not learn any real lesson in The Little Mermaid except that if you causehavoc on the lives of your family and friends in a selfish pursuit, you will in the end berewarded, the outcome is different in Merida’s case. She acquires the wisdom that one can bethemself while still valuing and embracing that which makes us the same yet different from ourfamily. The similarities and differences in the two films do showcase how far we have come as asociety in twenty three years. It seems apparent that children and adults alike love a good, oldfashioned, well written, story. To have a character like Merida, who is strong, athletic, bold, andbeautiful and is not afraid to stand up for her sense of self and personal beliefs, yet also adoresher family, is quite telling to us as a society. It proves that, hopefully, gone are the days of thedocile princesses like Ariel, who only fight for something like a man and give up themselves. Itseems that girls and woman are being depicted in a more respectful, positive, cerebral light,even in children’s media where it just may be most important. I asked my seven year old nieceCaroline to tell me in a few words what she learned from watching Brave, the answer was shortand sweet like her, “Girl Power Auntie.” A final thought is keep up the good work Disney/Pixar,we have come a long way baby.