brave merida fergus Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly & Emma Thompson Interview For Pixars Brave

Since ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. In “Brave,” a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) confronts tradition, destiny and the fiercest of beasts. Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late. Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, Pixar’s ’Brave’ is unleashed in cinemas June 22nd in the US and August 17th in the UK.

Pixar are known for making visually stunning and hugely entertaining films for kids and adults alike. Also, there’s always relatable themes at the core of their films…..

Kelly Macdonald: Yeah. I think ’Brave’ has these great themes of family, fate and bravery. And I think everybody can relate to those things. Then you add this sweeping Scottish landscape, and then these really interesting, loveable characters. ‘Brave’ is set in a sort of medieval Scotland, it’s not very time specific. It’s a kind of magical kingdom. You get this strong sense of Scottish folk-lore, they’ve got these Will-o’-the-wisps that are talked about, but nobody believes in them. Merida sees one when she’s a young girl and knows that they’re real. So there’s this magical aspect to it as well. It’s really a young girls coming-of-age story. It’s that time, it’s time for her to grow up and she’s reluctant.

Emma Thompson: It’s about growing up and the heart of a girl, this brave girl, Merida. Who’s trying to work out how to be. We meet her at the point in her life where all of us, girls and boys, need to rebel, need to say, “That’s not what I want. I want something different, I need something different because I’m not like you.” And it’s at that moment where we find her.

What are your thoughts on the themes Billy?

Billy Connolly: It’s the triumph of good over evil. But it’s also about a little girl becoming a woman and getting to understand things that are really quite difficult to understand. ‘Brave’ goes through her whole growing up process. It’s really quite unique because the lead is a little girl, who becomes a big girl in the process – a red haired little girl, who becomes a big girl in the process. A lot of things that I’ve never seen accomplished before on screen. It’s about her relationship with her father, her relationship with her mother. It kind of reminded me of my own family.

brave image Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly & Emma Thompson Interview For Pixars Brave

Kelly, what was it like for you taking on this role of Merida and working alongside this cast?

Kelly Macdonald: When you think of animation, you think of Pixar and Disney. To just be asked into a room to try out for one of their films was enough for me. And I can’t quite believe that it kept going from that day on. It’s just totally, totally thrilling and completely unlike anything I’ve ever done before. I love Emma, I’ve been lucky enough to work in the same room as her, which I didn’t get to do on ‘Brave’ (laughs). She’s an incredible actress, an incredible lady. The whole cast is…..Emma is an honorary Scot, her mum is Scottish, every holiday in her youth was spent in Scotland, so I just think of her being Scottish (laughs).

Billy, you voice King Fergus, this heroic, boisterous warrior. He has also a big heart underneath all of that….

Billy Connolly: Definitely. I’m Fergus, I’m the King – and I like being the King! I like him because he’s a good warrior and all that, he’s a good shot with his bow and arrow. But actually he’s not quite what he seems. He’s much softer than he appears, because he’s massive, he’s like a mountain, he’s really loud. But actually he’s quite soft and warm underneath (laughs).

Emma Thompson: Fergus is a great big beast of a man, always fighting, always getting into trouble. My character, Elinor, she absolutely adores him, there’s great love between the two – which has produced a really terrific daughter. But Elinor has had to close her doors a little bit, she’s always saying to her daughter, “Look, I don’t want you always out with the boys with your bow and arrow, rushing off with the horses, doing this and that.” She’s quite a tomboy, very physical, very active, very brave. She doesn’t want to be like Elinor, she wants to be her own person. And Kelly as Merida, she’s one of my favourite people in the world. She played Evangeline in a film I did called ‘Nanny McPhee.’ I love her because she’s an exquisite human being, but also a wonderful actor, just wonderful. There’s nothing “actressey” about her, there’s nothing precious about her, she’s very direct. She’s very clean and clear and loving. Strong, original, rather eccentric in a way, I like her very much because she doesn’t conform to anything in particular, she’s just a remarkable woman – therefore she’s the perfect choice for this very remarkable girl, Merida (laughs).

The Scottish landscape in ‘Brave’ is sort of a character in itself….

Emma Thompson: Yeah, the character of Scotland, because it is really a character in the film, has been brilliantly realised because they all went, they didn’t just look it up in a book. They went of to Scotland, the directors, the producers. They went off looking at the different landscapes and said, “We like that for that bit, this for this…” They went and they addressed the landscape with their story, like, “Right, this part of the story will be perfect right here,” therefore there’s a real connection with the countryside there. And of course they loved it, as everyone does, because it’s the most beautiful country in the world (laughs).