A first look at Pixar's princess

Last updated 11:13 22/06/2012

A new Pixar film is always an event. The studio has sustained an astonishing and unmatched quality over its 17 years making films. Films such as Toy Story, Ratatouille, Up and Finding Nemo have stood out for their crafted stories, endearing characters and striking imagery.

Pixar have made a unique name for themselves by somehow consistently creating idiosyncratic, beautifully crafted and stunning movies. In 13 films there have been few misfires, and even those were still entertaining and profitable. I thought Cars and Cars 2 were disappointing, but only compared to the impressive films around them. Cars was preceded by The Incredibles and followed by Ratatouille. In that kind of company, nothing less than perfection is going to look bad.

So, how does their new film fare in this lofty canon?

Last night, I went to see their new film, Brave. I will try my best to avoid spoilers, but if you want to go completely fresh, then come back when you have seen it.

Brave poster

Brave is a break from the Pixar tradition in a couple of ways. For a start, it is the first Pixar film with a female lead - Celtic princess Merida.

It is also, more excitingly, Pixar's take on the Disney princess story. The Disney princess legacy is not to be trifled with. It started in 1937 with Snow White and progressed through Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, Mulan, The Princess and the Frog and then Tangled.

Quite a legacy that stretches back to the founding of the Disney empire. So, what does Pixar do with this legacy?

Well, it's pretty respectful. The traditional elements of queens, witches, spells and magic are all in place, but the story is redefined and renegotiated.

While Shrek satirised and cocked a snook at the Disney legacy, Brave happily and respectfully changes the rules to create a more satisfying, strong and active princess who forges her own destiny. The differences are dramatic, but the attitude is respectful. It pays tribute rather than takes the Mickey (Mouse).

The visual style also seems a loving nod to classic Disney. The photorealism seems oned down to give it the less textured and stylised feel of an early 2D Disney film like Snow White.

The only drawback is that it takes the original edge off Pixar's work for them to be playing in such familiar territory. This is not a lonely robot (WALL-E) or an old man in a hot air balloon house (Up), it is the more familiar princess in a castle.

So, where does Brave sit in the Pixar canon? It is certainly not classic Pixar. The story mechanics take a while to get going and there is an over-reliance on magic to keep the plot moving forward. Surprising for a studio that prides itself on story.

If the Toy Story trilogy is at the top and Cars 2 is at the bottom, then Brave is probably mid-table. It is not Finding Nemo or Ratatouille, but it is still good.

Pixar is a bit like sex and pizza. Even when they are bad, they are good.

But, what do you think? What is the best Pixar movie? What do you think of Brave? Let me know.

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Michael   #1   11:20 am Jun 22 2012

Certainly the best looking Pixar film with soem great voice acting...but the movie is just OK never great, but certainly not bad...7/10

ben10   #2   11:46 am Jun 22 2012

Saw it last night in 3d la premiere ... I think it's one of those films where you get a lot more out of it by being relaxed on a couch than the standard cinema sitting experience.

The artwork was beautiful, the short story La Luna before it was gorgeous also.

The story was fine, not sure why people get annoyed with the 'relied on magic to get the plot going', it was a magical fairy tale ... it's to be expected, and as such it was a good story well told.

Voice acting was great, comedy was at just the right level ... I think I personally enjoyed this much more than finding nemo, and a close call to ratatouile. 9/10

Sam   #3   01:26 pm Jun 22 2012

My favourites in no particular order Up, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Toy Story 3 and Bugs Life. The montage of Carl and Ellies life brought a tear to the eye, the blooper reel during the end credits of Bugs Life was hilarious...looking forward to Brave.

D   #4   02:59 pm Jun 22 2012

best Pixar - has to be Incredibles.

"That was WICKED!"

Jazz   #5   04:39 pm Jun 22 2012

My favourite would be the Incredibles, followed closely by Toy Story 3.

Realistic   #6   11:28 pm Jun 22 2012

"In that kind of company, nothing less than perfection is going to look bad."

Nothing should surely be anything??

Sophie   #7   06:12 am Jun 23 2012

It sounds silly but I am just happy to have a film where the princess has curly hair! For nearly all the Disney films both animated and filmed, the 'pretty' main characters have straight (or perhaps slightly tangy hair) while curls are reserved for ugly wicked witches or the high school girl that finds happiness as soon as she has her hair straightened (looking at you, Princess Diaries). It was a horrible message to get when I was little - my massive set of curls meant that I was always made to be the evil/ugly one in playground games. But now -here's a princess that not only has AMAZING curls, here's a princess that actually makes for a decent character. No passive sleeping for a hundred years while seven dwarfs polish her glass slippers for her! Love it, it's about time.

Mike B   #8   09:59 am Jun 23 2012

"Pixar is a bit like sex and pizza. Even when they are bad, they are good."

My new favourite quote :)

Mel   #9   12:28 pm Jun 23 2012

I love most of the Pixar collection but Wall-E stood out to me as ingenius! Next to no verbal script with a very important, well portrayed message about human behaviour & it's consequences & of course, Love! awww

Old Pixar Fan   #10   06:11 pm Jun 23 2012

I just wish that Pixar would stick to making movies and stop doing their best to belitle the work done on movies like Tintin (including doing their best to block it from being eligible for an academy award nomination in the animated movie category). Combined with the cheap disclaimer about "not using motion capture of any shortcuts" that they now put at the end of their movies, they've lost a lot of my respect as a company.

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