With "Brave," an ambitious animation project slated for a summer 2012 release, Pixar has been keeping many details close to the vest. Teaser posters released in early 2011, for instance, show only a red-haired figure walking through a stark, dreary landscape. At the recent D23 Expo, a gathering of fans of all things Disney, the studio unveiled key pieces of art and talked a bit about the creative process behind the film. As a paying D23 member in attendance, I sat in on a 40-minute presentation on August 21 where Tia Kratter, shader art director, and Steve Pilcher, production designer, offered their insights into the making of "Brave."
Originally titled "The Bear and the Bow," "Brave" tells the story of Merida, a flame-haired young woman who defies the traditions of her Scottish homeland and the wishes of her father, King Fergus. Like other Disney/Pixar heroines before her, Merida must face the consequences of her decisions, some of which could prove fatal to her people. Picher, who said he was born when Disneyland was first opened, said that his job is to work closely with the director to create and literally establish a narrative of what the story is doing.
"It's a Scottish fairytale, but what's important to me is the emotional tone of the film. That's the first thing I try to feel out when I am working on a new project. I talk to the director or directors and try to figure out what they are feeling," Pilcher said.
The production team took two research trips to the Scottish Highlands, taking photos and making sketches to capture the feeling and essence of the Highlands. Pilcher also reiterated the importance of emotion when he spoke to co-director Brenda Chapman.
"I said 'You don't need to tell me the details; we both know what the time period is. How does it feel?' And she made this kind of grunting, powerful sound and I said 'OK, got it.' That's where we went from there," he said. "This is a fairytale, but we wanted to take it in a serious way. We wanted you to believe in the lines of this world and all the power and emotion that go with it."
Taking a playful jab at Pilcher, Kratter said she was born when the brand-new Cars Land attraction opened in Disneyland.
"My job as shader/art director for Pixar is on any particular film I am working on," she said. "I have to figure out, with the guidance of Steve and our director, the colors and textures of every model that's created, no matter if it's a big Scottish Highland or a tiny, tiny wisp."
"Brave" is scheduled to open nationwide June 22, 2012.
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