Our interviews with the people behind Disney/Pixar’s Brave included a session with the director, Mark Andrews, and the producer, Katherine Sarafian. It was great to sit and talk with them and really get to pick their brains. While I did not have a chance to personally ask any questions during this interview there were some great ones asked and today I wanted to share a few of them with you. It’s such a great way to get a little deeper look into the movie and the people behind the movie. Without further ado, here are some of the questions and answers from the session with the producer and director.
Q: What kind of age group are you seeing for Brave? Is six a good age?
Mark: I think it’s everybody. I mean I think that’s, you know, that’s the parents’ prerogative, I mean. As parents know our children so we would know whether it would be good for them or not. I mean I have my five year old. He can watch, you know, Lord of the Rings PG13 movies, Ghost Rider. The face is melting off.
Katherine: You took him to see Ghost Rider?
Mark: Oh, yeah, that’s what they want to see so, you know, now they’re talking to me about seeing Friday the 13 movies and all this stuff. I’m all okay. So, they can definitely take it. I don’t know about some other children but I think it’s up to the parents.
Katherine: You know, I think it’s a good question. There’s no specific age we would say start it, but, I would say it’s a real PG movie. It’s a PG movie for a reason. We’re advertising it as PG because I mean even in the classic G rated like Disney tales they’re usually killing off a parent or shooting somebody in the woods or whatever. So this had some dark elements. This one though it is a PG for a reason for that kind of scary action that’s in there. I think every parent will have to make the choice. I’ve got a three year old and a three month old. They’re not gonna see it for a while. They’ll see it when they’re ready but, you know, it’s too — the three year old can’t even sit through a movie yet. He’s twitchy.
Q: Was it always going to be a Scottish princess?
Mark: Yes, it was from the get go, from the original pitch. The three things that John Lasseter and Pixar look for is a great character, a great story and a great setting. So Brenda Chapman, my fellow director on the project, her original pitch was about that parent child relationship based off of her own experiences at the time with her six year old daughter who’s very precocious and independent and talked back. And she kind of projected ahead going “what kind of teenager is this little girl gonna be if she’s already a teenager at six”. And then she has a love for Scotland. It’s just a land that’s rich with legends and stories and stuff so why not put it there to, you know, call from that environment, you know, a story and that’s what she pitched to John Lasseter at Pixar. They said, yeah, that sounds great, let’s do it. Then the details of how it worked out, you know, those are things that we were hammering out for the next, you know, five to six years.
Q: How did you get emotions from the talent?
KATHERINE: They’re amazing. First of all you start with hiring amazing, amazing actors. Emma Thompson and Kelly McDonald in particular for that mother daughter relationship, you know, you don’t want to mess around in that casting process. We really knowing that Emma Thompson — we went after her. She was very much the first choice for the role because you needed the stature of a queen and yet the warmth and humor of a mother. You need to be able to make this character appealing and likeable because you really could have gone too far the other way if you’re not careful. So they brought a ton to the role. But, unfortunately like you were saying they were working separate from each other. You can probably speak more about how you crafted that.
MARK: So, so what we do is animation is this — it’s very unique in the film world because we’re working out of context because we have to build everything from scratch, everything. I mean the air, the mist that I put in is from scratch, right? So we’re building our characters from scratch and every sense of the design to help support the story. So even with these performances we’re building from scratch from the actors aren’t there to feed off of each other, right? So I have to get them to say the lines in very subtle different ways a lot more because I don’t have them in the room and I can’t say okay, Kelly, Emma let’s do the scene again and Kelly you’re not gonna give up inch of what you want and Emma, you’re not gonna give up an inch of what you want either and be even more aggressive and let’s see what happens. You know, you can kind of work in those, that chemistry and find those happy accidents. Animation is devoid of happy accidents. Animation is devoid of organics.
So how do I get that in? I have to construct that as a director by projecting ahead and I give them enough to feed the scene because I know about what it’s going to be about. For example, the argument. I know they’re pleading their case because it’s a desperate time so they go in with that but there’s so much little subtleties in performance that I can get out so I have them say the lines differently so that when I’m back in editorial and I have now Emma next to Kelly and I can say oh, that was a great line from Emma. This one from Kelly that I got doesn’t work anymore. Let’s go through all her lines and find that one that’s just combative enough or, or weakening a bit and things like that and that’s how you build upon, build a performance out of it.
Q: How long did the entire process take?
MARK: Principle photography? Two years. The entire process?
KATHERINE: The entire process? Eight years because the first pitch, because the process includes early development and pitch when there’s only two people on the movie, you know, a writer and a director. So 2004 Brenda Chapman pitched this story about her six year old daughter and the relationship that they were having. And it didn’t really get a green light until later in 2006 because she sort of works it and starts developing the Scottish setting. And I came on in the end of 2006 and Mark and Brenda and I and the team went to Scotland in August of 2006 and that was when production started so six years from there. Yeah, it’s, you know, what? It’s a family. I think that’s why it’s good to start with a research trip because you better get a bond and you better love each other ‘cause you’re in it together the whole time and it gets hard, really, really hard. But there’s a lot of love and trust and a lot of collaboration so to see you through.
The interview went so great it could have went on much longer if we weren’t on a time schedule. It was wonderful getting to get the story behind “Brave” and how they got their inspiration. We, of course, had to have a group shot with them so check it out:
Don’t forget to keep up with all things Brave on their website, check out Brave on Facebook and follow@DisneyPixar on twitter for all the latest happenings. It opens today so head out and see it in theaters, even the crowds are worth dealing with for this one folks. Also, check out and keep up with all my other#BraveCarsLandEvent posts!
Disclosure: Disney/Pixar sponsored my travel, accommodations and activities during the #BraveCarsLandEvent. All opinions expressed are 100% honest and my own.