Pixar’s “Brave” gives girls a bold new hero to cheer for

Let’s get a little background out of the way right away. I love Pixar. I have two Pixar movies downloaded onto my phone (WALL-E and Finding Nemo, if you must know). I cry each time I see the opening 10 minutes of Up, which is going on about half a dozen times now.

Other things you should know, I consider myself a feminist who champions the importance of women and girls telling their own stories. And until this point, that put me in a little pickle with Pixar because the animation studio has never made a feature film with a female lead before. That is, until now.

The first concept art for Pixar’s 13th film, Brave, has been released and it is gorgeous wrapped in beautiful tied with a lock of fiery red hair. Entertainment Weekly got a first look at the artwork for the movie, which also represents a lot of firsts for the studio. Not only is it its first female lead, but its first fairy tale and first film co-directed by a woman. Of course, simply having a female hero or even a female director does not guarantee a great girl power experience. But it certainly doesn’t hurt.

The film is set in the Scottish Highlands and follows “tomboyish” Princess Merida, voiced by Scottish actress and Boardwalk Empire star Kelly Macdonald. Joining her in this stellar voice cast will be Emma Thompson as her mother, Queen Elinor, and Billy Connolly as her father, King Fergus. According to EW, Merida is described as “an unruly daughter and an accomplished archer” who one day “defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to the kingdom.”

Princess Merida must then find a Wise Woman (Julie Walters – seriously, how great is this cast?) only to be granted an “ill-fated wish.” Along for the laugh are Kevin McKidd (enormous Lord MacGuffin), Craig Ferguson (surly Lord Macintosh) and Robbie Coltrane (disagreeable Lord Dingwall) as the three lords of the kingdom.

I couldn’t be more excited about the story, I mean she’s a Scottish red-haired tomboy who breaks ancient tradition. As an Anne of Green Gables fan, former tomboy and lover of the Scottish accent, this is like manna from the Highlands for me. I like the idea of her going on a quest and it’s interesting to note that there does not seem to be a romantic male lead/handsome prince in the story as of yet. Could this sister actually be doing it for herself? Gosh, that would be refreshing.

Reese Witherspoon was originally attached to voice Princess Merida, but scheduling conflicts made it impossible so Macdonald and her lovely authentic accent stepped in instead. I like Reese and all, but I love Macdonald much more for the part.

The film is slated for release in June 2012, which seems so far away right now. But with any luck it will continue a small string of strong, resilient roles for young women. From Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit to Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, these tough, empowered parts give girls – and girls at heart – something to cheer about.

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