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Western Animation: Brave

Brave, Pixar's 13th feature-length film, is their first journey into the Fantasy genre (of the Fairy Tale kind), and their first with a female protagonist. It tells the tale of a Rebellious Princess named Merida in the mythical Scottish kingdom of DunBroch, who wants only to live as freely as she desires. Her father, the rough and boisterous King Fergus, has an eternal grudge against all bears since he lost his left leg to a demon bruin named Mor'du. Her mother, the restrained and graceful Queen Elinor, wants her to marry the eldest son of the head of one of the three neighboring clans, all brought together under her rule. When the mother and daughter have a falling out, Merida encounters a mysterious witch in the forest and buys a spell to change her mother, hoping to reverse her decision on the marriage. Said spell has unforeseen consequences for Merida and her family, leading to a race to undo it before the damage becomes permanent.

While in development, the film was called The Bear and the Bow, and was originally directed by Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt), but she was replaced by story artist Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell. Chapman, who is Pixar's first female director, has a co-directing credit.

The film was released in the USA on June 22, 2012. The teaser trailer can be viewed here. The full trailer can be seen here, as well as one of the film's publicly released scenes here.

The movie was largely well-received, though not as well than some of the more well-known Pixar productions. It would go on to win a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature during the 2013 award season (beating out fellow Disney movie, Wreck-It Ralph). Merida later became the first Disney Princess from a Pixar film.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Accidental Aiming Skills: Twice:
    • During the tournament, Wee Dingwall handles the bow as if he's never touched one before the tournament. When Fergus gets tired of making fun of him, he screams for him to "Shoot, boy!" and Dingwall jumps and looses his arrow - into a perfect bulls-eye. Everyone is understandably shocked.
    • When Merida recounts the story of the four lords banding together to save Scotland from invaders.
    Merida: And we all know how Lord Dingwall broke the enemy line -
    Macintosh: With a mighty throw of his spear!
    Dingwall: I was aiming at you, you big tumshie!
  • Action Dress Rip: Merida during her archery contest. Rather than the skirt, it's the shoulders and back that get ripped when she deliberately flexes to overcome the restrictive clothes. It gets further shredded after she is thrown off a horse and runs through the forest.
  • Adult Fear: The scene where Fergus finds Elinor's torn dress... just think what awful scenarios he must have been imagining.
    • And then running into the tapestry room and finding what looked like the same bear who killed Elinor attacking his daughter.
    • Merida is down in the abandoned castle and Mor'du shows up and tries to kill her. Elinor is helpless to protect her daughter who is trapped with this bear because she cannot fit through the hole.
    • To say nothing of, in the beginning, when Fergus sees the giant demon bear Mor'du bearing down on his wife and young daughter, who are completely defenceless, when they'd been feeling completely safe, or what Elinor must have felt taking Merida and running away on horseback, leaving her husband and his men behind to fight the bear, with no way of knowing the outcome until after the whole affair.
    • Plus, what both Elinor and Fergus may have thought after realizing that they had sent their tiny daughter into the woods to fetch the arrow, alone, defenceless, with that very same giant bear stalking her the entire time, where he could have attacked and killed her without their knowledge.
    • When Merida runs off after the fight with her mother, her mother is clearly very relieved to see her again and voices that she had no idea when she'd be back or if she was all right - after all, her daughter was running on horseback in the woods, roamed by a monster bear, without her bow or any kind of protection. Even without the threat of a bear attack, there's still the fact that she could be hurt or killed in many other ways out there on her own, such as being thrown by her horse and injured with no one to help her. She was thrown, but thankfully wasn't harmed.
    • A more minor one: Elinor is hesitant about leaving the castle temporarily because she doesn't want to leave the triplets behind. Merida assures her they'll be fine. And they are...except they decide to sample the magic bear pie.
    • The fear of war breaking out if the marriage isn't arranged properly.
  • Adventurous Scottish Violins: Befitting the ancient Celtic setting, the musical score of Brave contains this trope.
  • Almighty Mum: Queen Elinor can halt a full-blown mob brawl with a look and a few words.
  • Ambiguous Situation: At the end, did Elinor transform back to a human because the sunlight had to shine on the tapestry before it'd work ("mend the bond" literally), or did she transform because Merida finally acknowledged that she was the cause of her mother's predicament and tearfully told her she loved her ("mend the bond" metaphorically?) Or were both needed?
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Regular example: Angus the horse. The other examples were magically enhanced: the witch's crow, Mor'du the demon bear, and the enchanted Queen Elinor, also a bear.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • The tartan (15th-16th century), kilt (18th century)note  and woad warpaint (Iron Age); forks and tea (didn't make landfall in Britain till mid-17th century); Highland games (19th century, and Canadian); bagpipes (14th century); references to recently fighting both the Romans (1st-5th century), and the Vikings (8th-11th century); the carnyx (Iron Age) and bears (extinct in Scotland since prehistoric times) at the same time.
    • The sleeves on Merida's dresses are too tight to have existed before sewing technology developed in the 14th century (unless she sews them up each morning), and the slashes on the shoulders and elbows are a fashion of Renaissance Italy.
    • One mainly justified through Rule of Funny: the witch uses a welding mask when making the spell.
    • The castle has features not introduced until the very end of the medieval period, yet looks like it's been there for centuries.
  • Animal Motifs: The DunBroch clan symbol is three black bears. King Fergus hunts them for sport, too.
  • Animal Nemesis: Mor'du the bear, for Fergus (and eventually Merida).
  • Animal Reaction Shot: Angus serves as silent and slightly sarcastic commentary throughout the film.
  • Animation Bump: The film is technically very impressive and improves on several aspects of Pixar's already impressive 3-D technology. They even rewrote their entire animation system for the first time ever.
  • Animorphism: Merida purchases a spell from a witch that will "change" her mother ... into a bear.
  • Annoying Arrows: Merida's arrows don't do much to Mor'du, who has arrows and weapons sticking out of his skin from all the other warriors he has faced. Mor'du isn't just a normal bear.
  • Arranged Marriage: The sons of the three lords compete in the Highland Games for Merida's hand in marriage. She prefers her freedom and does not want to get married yet, so she sabotages their chances by entering and winning the archery contest. And at the end of the movie the three suitors reveal that they weren't exactly thrilled at the idea of getting married just yet either.
  • Arrow Catch: The big guy from Lord Dingwall's entourage pulls this off at one point.
  • Ate the Spoon: The cauldron full of goop from which the witch's spell-cake is made.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: King Fergus and the three lords. All four in charge, all can hold their own in a fight.
  • Badass Fingersnap: The Witch does all of her non-potion related magic with snaps. Up to, and including, summoning a horde of flying knives, axes, and other sharp implements to threaten Merida.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Queen Elinor and the triplets are turned into bears, just as previously happened to the prince that became Mor'du.
  • Ballroom Blitz: The three lords and their clans gather at the castle for the Highland Games, in which their sons will compete for the right to Merida's hand in marriage. At some point a massive fight breaks out (including biting and at least one purple nurple). Fergus makes a feeble attempt to defuse the situation before diving into the fray, leaving Elinor to restore order.
  • Bears Are Bad News: The demon bear Mor'du, who is described by Pixar as "Moby-Dick on land". The curse threatens the kingdom by changing Elinor into a bear — and a target for those aware of this trope.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Wishing for "the strength of ten men" or something to "change my mother" both result in the same thing. Judging by all the carvings, it's possible that this is the only spell the witch knows.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Well, a kilt ladder, actually.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Elinor — polite, genteel, formal, a diplomat who abhors weapons and violence, always seeking to unite the clans and bring peace and prosperity to Scotland. But when you threaten her daughter...
  • Big Damn Heroes: Merida and the triplets to Elinor.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Fergus and Elinor do this near the end of the movie... right in front of Merida and all the clans, no less!
  • Big Good: Queen Elinor. Her grace and wisdom are what holds the kingdom together and is the one doing the talking for the royal family. She's worried that Merida will not be ready to step into her shoes.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Young Macintosh's reaction to not hitting a perfect bull's-eye.
    • Later in the movie, Fergus yells this when Bear!Elinor hurts Merida.
  • Big "Shut Up!": Used a few times, first by Fergus, later by Merida.
    • "SHUT IT!!!"
  • Big "WHAT?!": Lord Macintosh does this when his son reveals that he doesn't want to compete for Merida's hand.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In Scots Gaelic "mòr" means big, and "dubh" (pronounced "du") means black - an apt description of the demon bear Mor'du.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: King Fergus, in spades.
    • In fact, ALL the men in the movie.
  • Braids of Barbarism: Many of the men.
  • Brave Scot: This is essentially Brave Scots: THE MOVIE.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Early in the movie, Merida says she will buy all the carvings in the witch's house. After the credits, the witch's crow comes up to deliver all of them. The shocked guard who receives the delivery is the same one the boys were picking on earlier when they cut off his moustache. And once again, he's sleeping on the job.
    • After Elinor is turned into a bear and has to struggle to keep her dress on, Merida rolls her eyes and reassures her that she's not actually naked if she's covered in fur. Near the end, when she's turned back, she has to gently break the news to Fergus that she's naked under her blanket.
  • Bright Castle: Castle DunBroch, though it looks more like a fortress than the traditional fairy tale variety.
    • Helps that when the team at Pixar went to Scotland, they made sure to study Scottish Castles which Castle DunBroch is a near picture perfect recreation of in terms of building style; less extravagance, more utility.
  • Cant Get Away With Nothing (comedic version): Merida's little brothers never get caught while Merida can never catch a break.
  • Carrying a Cake: If there are sweets in the area, the triplets will steal them.
  • Cassandra Truth: Fergus doesn't believe in magic. Nor does he believe Merida when she tries to explain that the bear in the castle is actually his wife.
  • The Cauldron Knew You Would Say That: The facsimile the witch leaves behind for Merida rolls its eyes in exasperation and repeats itself when Merida fails to understand the cryptic advice.
  • Chairman of the Brawl: A variant, as Young MacGuffin uses a bench, not a chair.
  • Chasing A Butterfly: In the opening scene, a young Merida follows the wills-o'-the-wisp into the forest, where she is attacked by Mor'du the bear.
  • Chekhov's Gun: When Elinor as a bear accidentally runs into one of the standing stones, it cracks and wobbles. This is later used to kill Mor'du.
    • The tapestry may or may not qualify, depending on whether one interprets the witch's instructions as telling Merida to repair the tapestry or her relationship with Elinor.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The last prince from Elinor's story.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Merida uses some of her hated lessons (public speaking and history) to excellent effect late in the film.
    • Additionally, one of Merida's not-so-hated skills, archery. She uses it to help Elinor survive in the wilderness, proving archery's value.
    • Also, the ability to climb stone walls wearing a heavy woollen dress. Anyone who had tried simply WALKING in one of those things can appreciate just how much of a skill this truly is.
    • And knowing how to sew, for the climax with the tapestry.
      • While riding Horseback, at night, in the rain.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: Seen as a place where Merida keeps being drawn to, and where the curse on Elinor and Mor'du is broken.
  • Color-Coded Characters: The four lords have red (MacGuffin), blue (DunBroch, Merida's clan), green (Dingwall), and yellow (Mackintosh) tartans.
  • Comic Role Play: Fergus as Merida, helping Elinor practise patching things up.
    "I don't want to get married, I want to stay single and let my hair flow in the wind as I ride through the glen firing arrows into the sunset!"
  • Completely Different Title:
    • In some countries they used Merida's name as the title, while in some it was "Merida the Brave".
    • In France it was Rebelle ("Rebellious" - feminine form of the word.)
    • The Foreign Subtitle: Some countries went for this. For example, in Spain the title is Brave (Indomable) ("Indomitable").
  • Compressed Hair: It is nothing short of miraculous how Queen Elinor manages to tuck all of Merida's profusely curly, waist-length hair under a small wimple that barely bulges — and of course, when Merida reveals herself at the archery tournament, her hair flows as freely as if it had never been subjected to the accursed wimple.
  • Continuity Cameo: The royal family appears in car form on a tapestry inside a pub in Cars 2. Here is the pic as it appeared in Cars 2, and here is how it looks in Brave.
  • Cool Boat: The three lords each have one of these and use them to cross the loch to reach Castle DunBroch. As soon as they notice each other they basically start up an impromptu drag race.
  • Creator Cameo: Co-director Steve Purcell voices the witch's crow familiar.
    • And composer Patrick Doyle voices Martin (one of the guards).
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Wee Dingwall appears dim at best, but when the fights break out he's a fierce and almost psychotic fighter.
    • Almost like a berserker in fact. The name comes from the words for "bear shirt" (that is, the clothing they wore into battle), which means it just might be intentional.
  • Cue the Sun: Played with. The sun rising after the terrible, stormy night is symbolic of the defeat of Mor'du and the end of his curse but it's also a moment fraught with worry because of the need to change Elinor back before it happens. So it's both a relief and suspenseful.
  • Curse: A "beastly curse" is unleashed on the land as a result of Merida's wish, specifically Queen Elinor being transformed into a bear.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Aside from the Celestial Deadline of breaking the spell before the second sunrise, there's an actual rhyme whose meaning Merida must puzzle out. "Fate be changed/Look inside/Mend the bond/Torn by pride."
    • Interestingly, in a short film on the DVD, the witch explains more of the back-story for Mor'du and how he was given a similar clause. She made a small cauldron for him, which he could use to gain the strength of ten men as he wanted, or he could instead use it to heal the rift he caused within his family. As you can probably guess, he chose the former, slaughtered his brothers, and then his own men either turned on him, or fled in fear because they only saw a beast, not their leader. So unlike Merida, he ended up destroying his kingdom due to his wish to change his fate.
  • Damsel in Distress: Merida, despite being pretty active and fearless, needs rescuing several times in the movie. Sometimes while trying to save someone else or just after escaping from some other danger.
  • Darker and Edgier: Lee Unkrich has described the film as a "very gritty adventure", darker and more mature in tone than the typical Disney Princess movie. The trailer also breaks Pixar's tradition with funny gag-based teaser trailers and Audience Alienating Premises, setting the audience up for a story akin to that of a traditional High Fantasy. Still, they're mind-bogglingly aimed at the youngest crowds, choosing to focus on the comic relief and completely hiding the true premise of the movie, possibly because of its darker and edgier roots.
  • Death Glare: Merida and Elinor do this to each other right after the last arrow hits the bull's-eye.
  • Death of Personality: Merida and Elinor must Race Against the Clock to break the spell that gave Elinor a bear's body or she will lose her humanity and become like any other non-sentient bear.
  • Deconstructed Trope: To Tomboy Princess. While Merida's frustration at society's expectations of her is treated sympathetically, the negative consequences of her headstrong and selfish backlash are what set the plot in motion, forcing her to atone for her actions and find a compromise between her desires and her responsibilities.
    • Screw Destiny, too. "Changing one's fate" is not as simple as finding a loophole or asking for a spell; in real life, this sort of thing is complicated and there are serious consequences for doing it incorrectly. Merida's true journey will be centered not just on flipping the bird to rules and tradition and getting away with it solely because she's The Protagonist, but on seeing that forging one's destiny is more complex than one thinks and that you must face both the pros and the contras of such decisions.
  • Dedication: The film was dedicated to the late Steve Jobs.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Elinor may be a non-romantic version of this trope for Merida. A great deal of their problem was that Elinor is very prim and proper and exceedingly frustrated that Merida isn't; both of them have to change by the end but Elinor is notably much more relaxed in the end.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The scene in the Ancient kingdom, complete with Splash of Color.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: "Dun" and "broch" are, respectively, the Gaelic and Scots words for "fort". Therefore, "Castle DunBroch" could be translated as "Castle CastleCastle".
  • Deuteragonist: Although it's not given in the advertising, the movie's tale is just as much about Elinor learning to understand her daughter's perspective as it is about Merida learning to own up to her actions and face her (eventual) duties.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Refreshingly, this is a Disney Pixar film in which the princess doesn't want to be "got" and succeeds in remaining single.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In the climax, Fergus punches Mor'du in the face, but this only serves to enrage the beast. The one who finally takes him down is Elinor.
  • Died Happily Ever After: Mor'du's ghost, in human form, rises regally from the corpse of his crushed ursine body, nods respectfully to Merida and her mother and then vanishes.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Wee Dingwall has...difficulties with his bow and arrow.
    • Elinor's reaction upon seeing Merida's scratches mimic a human parent realizing s/he's become abusive.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Up until the last few seconds, after Elinor seems to have turned permanently into a bear in body and mind, Merida assumes that the tapestry is what needed to be mended as "torn by pride", and not her relationship with her mother and changing her attitude toward the situation from blaming the witch to blaming herself. Although it may be worth noting that the transformation back didn't happen until the sunlight actually fell across the re-stitched tear in the tapestry...and this in turn happened right after Merida's change and declaration. Whether this was mere symbolic coincidence or if there really was a connection between the tapestry and Merida's actions is up to the viewer to decide.
    • It's true metaphorically inasmuch as her repairing the tapestry to save her mothers life, made Merida realise in spite of everything how much she cared about her mother and made her want to repair the relationship between them.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Merida, to Elinor, at the end when mending the tapestry to reverse the spell doesn't seem to work, and Elinor will be a bear forever.
  • Empathic Environment: The climax of the movie where Mor'du is faced once and for all (and Merida works to break the spell on her mother) takes place during a violent, fairly frightening thunderstorm, which ends after he is killed, just in time for the (fateful) sunrise.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: After the spell takes effect, Elinor's torn robes are left on the floor of her room. When Fergus eventually discovers this, he goes ballistic.
  • Endless Winter: According to the DVD Commentary, the film was going to do this as an addition to Merida and Mor'du's bear curse, but in the end chose not to.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: After Merida realizes the prince from her mother's legend is Mor'du, she then realizes that said bear has appeared behind her.
    • This concept art poster, which makes it appear that Merida is hunting while being stalked by a bear. She's actually protecting it.
  • Engagement Challenge: A contest is set up for the hand of Merida as part of tradition. Merida does not approve. She tries to fight it by competing in the contest for her own hand. She wins.
  • Escapism: Merida rides her horse, practices her archery and does anything she can to keep her mind off what she considers the boring lessons her mother is teaching her regarding etiquette and managing a kingdom. Things come to a head when time catches up with her and she has to actually deal with matters head-on.
  • Everything's Better with Princesses: Played with; in a refreshing twist, being a Princess is shown for what it is, a position of future power that requires genuine work and training as opposed to being simply free to do as one pleases.
  • Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: The pipers strike up whenever the lords start fighting. One even casually dodges a bench that flies at him.
  • Exact Words: Merida wished for her mother to "change" without specifying in what manner; the prince of the legend asked for "the strength of ten men". Merida takes advantage of this when the contest for her hand is declared among "the first-born of each clan".
  • Expository Hairstyle Change:
    • When Elinor dresses Merida for the presentation, she shoves her hair into a wimple. It's fairly bursting at the seams, just like Merida's personality. When she defies her mother, she ditches the wimple and announces herself by pulling her hood off and revealing her wild, loose locks.
    • By the end of the movie, Elinor has let her hair down from its former tight braid into hanging loosely down her back. This is a subtle indication that she's mellowed out.
  • Face Palm: Lord MacGuffin does this after his son's arrow misses the bull's-eye.
  • The Fair Folk: The Wisps. They're also said to have the power to change fate.
    • They're frequently shown leading Merida away from danger. Twice they lead her away from Mor'du and towards help before she even knows he's there. They also lead her to the ruined castle so she can learn the truth about the legend of the princes, and the true danger of the spell, and in the end they lead her back to the stone circle so she can save her mother. If not benign, they are at least fairly neutral.
  • Feuding Families: The three lords don't get along with each other and are the leaders of their respective clans. It's up to the royal family to keep the feuding from escalating into war.
  • Fiery Redhead: Merida, her father and her three little brothers are all red-headed and spirited.
  • Food As Bribe: Merida gets her brothers to help her and Bear!Elinor get out of the castle by offering to let them have all her desserts for three weeks. When this is met with a hard look, she revises the offer to a whole year of her desserts. They help her out after that.
  • Foreshadowing: "You're a beast!"
    • At the abandoned castle, Bear!Elinor knocks over a large rock to keep Mor'du from getting her daughter.
    • When Merida is leading her mother upstairs after feeding her the enchanted cake, there is a shot where the two of them are framed right behind the stuffed bear Fergus was using for target practice on the throne.
    • All the bear carvings in the witch's cottage.
    • Also this:
      Merida: Did he get what he wanted?
      Witch: Oh, yes.
    • In the legend of the four princes, when you see the last one turning on the others, he gives a roar that sounds very much like a bear.
    • At the very beginning when Elinor is playing with Toddler Merida "I'm gonna gobble you up!" which later on she as a non-sentient bear attempts
  • For Inconvenience, Press "1": The witch leaves a recorded message on her cauldron when she has to go to Stornaway, complete with "pour in the first vial" options.
  • Four Is Death: The four princes in the legend.
    • The four (present-day) lords can't get along at all. "You saved me!" "I was aiming for you!" (laughter)
  • Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better/Anthropomorphic Zig Zag: Played for Drama, as Bear!Elinor spends most of her time on two legs (and acting human) but reverts to Running on All Fours whenever she starts losing her humanity and becoming a "bear on the inside".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: If you look at the title closely, you can see Merida hidden in the letter B, and Elinor in the letter E.
  • Full House Music: Starts to play in the background when Merida gives her speech to the three lords and her father on resolving their conflicts. It even features bagpipes!
  • Funbag Airbag: One of the bear cubs dives into Maudie’s chest to get a key which Fergus gave her to keep Merida from escaping and she stuffed down her dress to keep it from them.
  • Funny Background Event: Every time the big muscular guy is in the shot, keep an eye on him.
    • Just after the first major fight between clans, a sheep flies through the air behind Lord Fergus's shoulder.
    • When Lord Dingwall's son hit the bulls-eye, Lord Dingwall does a victory dance ending with him mooning the other two lords... and two little kids next to their mother in the crowd, causing the little girl to put her face into her mother's dress and start to cry.
  • Gag Boobs: Maudie, the castle maid, who has a cleavage in which you could quite literally lose a bear cub.
  • Gentle Giant: Young MacGuffin seems rather shy and sweet-natured, if hard to understand.
    • Same for Angus. He's a massive Shire stallion, but certainly sweet-natured.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • In the first scene, Fergus playfully grabs Elinor's butt. It's just off-camera, but her reaction makes it undeniable.
    • This little bit of dialogue:
      Witch: The last time I did this was for a prince.
      Crow: Easy on the eyes! Tight pants!
    • One of the bear cubs dives directly in between Maudie's bosoms to retrieve a key. One of the other two looks away. The other looks on excitedly.
    • At the end after queen Elinor turns back to a human, she wears nothing but the fabric that was needed to undo the spell. She announces quietly that she is naked to Fergus. His reaction? He proceeds to look her down with a perverted smile on his face. Her following reaction to tell him not to stare at her and do something (other men being around) sells it completely.
  • Ghost Lights: The Wisps.
  • Girls Need Role Models: Merida and Elinor, depending on each viewer's opinion of what a good female role model is. Merida is athletic and fierce, while Elinor is intelligent and composed. Both of them are courageous, able to handle themselves in dangerous situations in their own ways, and are not dependent on male protectors, while still appreciative of the backup.
  • Glad I Thought of It: When Merida goes back to the stone circle, only to fail to find any wisps, her mother immediately begins following the direction Merida said she'd gone to reach the witch's cottage, logically assuming that, barring magic being used to conceal the path, it should still be there. Once Merida begins recognising landmarks, she immediately acts as if physically retracing her steps was her idea, and upon finding the cottage again cries, "I did it, I found it!" Her mother's expressions throughout all this are priceless.
    • When Merida gives Elinor's decision to let her marry for love instead of station, Lord Macintosh starts to exclaim how stupid the idea is. After everyone else agrees it's a wonderful idea, he changes his tune and claims "I'm glad I thought of it".
  • Gray Rain of Depression: During their night in the ruins of the witch's cottage, after Merida has learned her rash act of obtaining a spell to change her fate has possibly doomed her mother to live forever as a bear.
  • Guys Smash, Girls Shoot: Played straight for most of the movie – Merida's weapon of choice is the bow and arrow, while male characters mostly use swords. There is one scene, though, which shows Merida is a pretty good swordfighter too.
  • Harpo Does Something Funny: Not much Scots dialect was actually in the script, but the Scottish actors were encouraged to add as much as they could think of.
  • Headdesk: One of the triplets drops his head on the dinner table while listening to Fergus retell his encounter with Mor'du. It would seem that the king is more impressed with the story than his sons are.
    • Later, when Bear!Elinor discovers that the berries she got were nightshade berries and the water was full of worms, she drops her head on the makeshift table, causing it to go flying.
  • Holding the Floor: In order for Bear!Elinor to get into the castle and retrieve the torn tapestry, Merida has to distract her father and the lords, who are all at the point of starting a war. She essentially fills in for the queen by giving an eloquent speech that ultimately restores peace; Bear!Elinor helps Merida out a lot by Miming the Cues.
  • Hollywood Cuisine: "Boys! Don't just play with your haggis!"
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Elinor isn't freakishly tiny, but she is thin, average-sized and married to a man so large that a small family could comfortably live inside him if you hollowed him out.
  • Hunk: The only guy Merida seems impressed with at all, if only because of his sheer size, is a guy who looks like this. Too bad he's not really Lord Dingwall's son. Also, that guy ends up being interested in Maudie, the maid.
  • I Can See My House from Here: When the triplets lure the men hunting the bear in castle to the top of a tower, someone in the group says this Stock Phrase.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Played for laughs at the end. Wee Dingwall does it to Merida - and she looks none too comfortable with it, since he just won't stop.
  • Implausible Deniability/Most Definitely Not a Villain: The witch, who continually insists her shop is a normal store, that her carvings do not have magic spells enchanted in them and that she is most certainly not a witch.
    Merida: (gleefully) You're a witch!
    Witch: (furiously grinding on a lathe} Wood-carver!
  • Improbable Weapon User: During the Ballroom Blitz, Young MacGuffin uses a long bench as a weapon.
  • Informed Ability: We're told that Fergus, the clan lords and their heirs are great warriors who won great battles against Vikings. What we see of their combat abilities mostly consists of mosh pit antics and getting flung around by bears.
  • Insistent Terminology: She's not a witch, she's a woodcarver. A witch. Woodcarver! Witch! WOODCARVER!
  • Involuntary Transformation: Elinor and the triplets turn into bears, and the prince was turned into Mor'du.
  • I Resemble That Remark: A self-inflicted case: a frustrated Elinor complains to Fergus that Merida inherited her stubbornness from him. Oh, really, Elinor?
  • Ironic Echo: "How do you know you don't like it if you won't try it?"
    • "...Which is not my fault"/"This is all my fault!"
    • "You were never there for me"/"You were always there for me."
  • Jaw Drop: The triplets, along with the mounted deer head they were playing with, upon seeing Bear!Elinor for the first time.
  • The Kingdom: DunBroch.
  • Landmark of Lore: The circle of standing stones is loosely based on the Callanish Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis, with a bit of Orkney's Ring of Brodgar thrown in.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: When Merida sees the witch's broom move by itself, the witch assures her she's mistaken: "You can't magically imbue wooden objects with life, and I should know, I'm a wi— a whittler. Of wood."
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The trailers and official website go to great pains to hide a number of details about the plot, but the toyline and at least a handful of pins (including one for Father's Day) are quite clear about the fact that Elinor and the boys are turned into bears.
  • Left the Background Music On: During the Ballroom Blitz scene, there's a whole group of bagpipers who start playing as soon as the fight breaks out. They stop when it stops and start again when it starts again.
  • Le Parkour: Right before Merida's day out on horseback, she does a couple of very traceur-like moves.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: This happens at the end of the movie as a symbol of how much Elinor has changed.
    • In the tapestry Elinor works on, Merida is shown with her hair in a neat braid, her head under a coif — completely unlike the wild mane we see her sporting. This also happens when Elinor forces Merida's hair under a coif to present her to the heads of the clans; it's bulging out under the cloth and Merida performs a minor version of this trope by tugging out a lock of her fringe to hang in front of her face as a minor act of rebellion. However, Merida's hair is portrayed as wild and curly in the new tapestry Elinor and Merida sew together at the end f the film, showing, again, how Elinor's opinion of her daughter has changed considerably.
  • Letting the Air out of the Band: Happens twice when the bagpipers stop playing the fight music when the Ballroom Blitz is interrupted.
  • Licensed Game: Read all about it here.
  • Like Father Like Daughter: Although Merida clearly has inherited her mother's stubbornness and pride (contrary to Elinor's opinion), Merida is very much a chip off the old block when it comes to her love of fighting, weapons and woods exploration, and her overall badassery. In the end, however, it turns out there's badassery in her mother too - she's the one who holds the whole kingdom together.
  • The Little Cottage That Wasn't There Yesterday: Played with; the witch's cottage is still there later when Merida and her mother return, but the place is abandoned, with no stock, and the witch has gone off "to the Wicker Man festival." Merida even says "It Was Here, I Swear"! Then it blows up. So it won't be there tomorrow, either.
  • Loophole Abuse: The first-born of every clan competes for Merida's hand in a contest of her choosing. Merida's the first-born of her clan, and is really good at archery. She uses these facts to her advantage. (It ends up being pretty pointless, since, despite the fact that Merida won the competition, her mother essentially tells her "tough luck".)
  • The Lost Woods: The woods outside the town are home to a witch and spirits and an old abandoned castle.
  • Loyal Animal Companion: Merida is joined by a bear in her quest — it's loyal because she's her now-cursed mother.
    • Angus the horse, even when he doesn't agree with Merida.
  • Made of Iron: Everyone who fights Mor'du and doesn't die, especially Fergus. Even with a peg leg, he still tries to take him on, and survives being hurled against a huge rock at full speed without any noticeable injuries. Mor'du himself is peppered with scars and broken arrows from old encounters.
  • Mama Bear: You can't miss the literal example late in the film. Queen Elinor, as a bear, breaks herself free to save her daughter and Fergus from the dreaded bear Mor'du.
    • This is just prior to an inversion of the usual roles in the trope, in which the princess defends Elinor against her own father, who has no idea that the bear he's fighting is his own wife.
  • Man Bites Man: Wee Dingwall, of all people, does this to Lord Macintosh during the Ballroom Blitz scene.
  • Man in a Kilt: Justified as the setting is the Scottish Highlands from where the kilt originated, albeit about 800 years too early.
  • Match Cut: In the epilogue, the shot of Fergus throwing one of the naked triplets in the air becomes him catching him clothed back at Castle DunBroch.
  • Meaningful Background Event: The bear in the poster. See Bears Are Bad News.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Legends are lessons. They ring with truths."
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Lord Dingwall, though his official profile makes him seem more like The Napoleon.
    • MacGuffin and Macintosh are most likely puns on MacGuffin (a plot device) and Apple Macintosh (a reference to Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs).
    • The name of the bear Mor'du comes from the Scottish Gaelic "mór dubh" (pronounced the same way), meaning "large and black." 'Mordu' is also French for 'bitten' which is a fitting bear name.
    • And in Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish "mord" means "murder".
  • Medieval Morons: Look no further than the scene at the royal court where almost everyone is fighting like children.
  • The Middle Ages:
    Mark Andrews: It's actually a non-period in Scotland ... Between the 8th and the 12th centuries.
  • Miming the Cues: Elinor does this to help Merida give a speech to the clans - she can't give the speech herself, after all, since she's a bear.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: A problem with Queen Elinor, and the prince much earlier.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: Merida appears in the first scene as a child before it switches to her as a teenager.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: Fergus stumbles upon Elinor's torn dress and then on her bear-self attacking Merida. He nearly kills her in vengeance for his wife.
  • Moby Schtick: Fergus's grudge against Mor'du, and bears, stemming from the loss of his leg.
  • Mood Whiplash: A heartwarming and hilarious scene of mother-daughter bonding as they catch fish together turns into Bear!Elinor nearly attacking Merida as she reverts to animal instincts.
  • Morphic Resonance: Averted with Elinor, though she tries vainly to keep her regal posture in bear form and insists on wearing her coronet for a while.
  • Most Writers Are Male: John Lasseter on why Pixar hasn't had a female main character before: "We're a bunch of guys."
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • During a huge fight between Elinor and Merida, Elinor tosses Merida's bow in the fire. Merida leaves the castle in tears. When she hears the bowstring pop from the heat, Elinor suddenly realizes what she's done and desperately tries to dig it out of the fire before it's destroyed. Elinor holds the singed bow, her daughter's most prized possession nearly destroyed by her own hand, and collapses to the floor in tears. Before that, if you listen closely, you can hear her whisper, "What have I done?"
    • Later in the movie, Elinor gets it again when she snaps out of acting like a bear, only to discover that she's hurt not only her daughter, but also Fergus.
    • The latter half of the movie is one long case of this for Merida herself, as she fully realises what her own actions through the movie have brought to everyone and herself.
  • Naked People Are Funny: The result of the clans climbing down from the top of the roof using their kilt cloths as a makeshift ladder. Also the triplets, when they turn back.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: The giant "demon bear" is named Mor'du.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • This Japanese trailer tries really, really hard to make this movie into Pixar's Princess Mononoke by implying the renegade prince and Merida broke "the law of the forest." The only similarity to Princess Mononoke/Studio Ghibli films is a female protagonist, the wisps/forest spirits in appearance, and a forest setting.
    • The trailers never seemed to meet a middle ground on what the film was truly about:
      • Some of the trailers try to play up the "epic adventure" aspects of the story by focusing on natural panoramas, shots of Merida wandering through the wilderness, and taglines about taking journeys. In reality the farthest that Merida ever travels is to the witch's cottage (which isn't even that far from the castle), and there's far less action in the movie that the trailer seems to suggest. The bulk of the story is about Merida's conflict with her mother.
      • Some of the trailers emphasized Shrek-like slapstick, subversive humor (in the form of setting up for something epic and grandiose and making a lowbrow joke out of it for laughs), and comedy rather than the personal story of mother and daughter that it is. Some Christmas DVD advertising used almost every single appearance by the triplets getting up to mischief, plus a few token shots of Merida, to make it look like a "girl struggles to babysit her tearaway siblings" movie.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Twice by the same person
    • Merida brings the kingdom to the brink of war by competing for (and winning) her own hand in marriage.
    • Merida makes a wish that turns her mother into a bear, almost leading to her death.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Bear!Elinor pretending to be the stuffed bear.
  • Noodle Incident: "Here we go, another hunt through the castle!"
  • No Peripheral Vision: When Elinor as a bear sneaks into the crowded ballroom by backing against the wall and tip-toeing, Merida distracts everyone by having them focus on her. No one, not even the men who face the wall (but are further back) can see her large form moving around with their peripheral vision. The only one who notices is a guard who has his back to the wall and she just pretends to be a stuffed bear when he turns around.
  • Not This One, That One: Merida and her parents assume the big strong guy Lord Dingwall is pointing at is his son (and one of her possible suitors), when he's really pointing at the scrawny kid hiding behind him.
  • Of Corset Hurts: Merida didn't like being laced up.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: It becomes quite clear there is something wrong with Elinor when she gets out of the river and leaves her crown behind.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The movie poster, pictured above.
  • Out Numbered Sibling: Merida has three little brothers, though unlike most examples, they get along just fine.
  • Parody Commercial: "Kilt. Are you brave enough to wear one?"
    • "Royalty Records presents 19 of the greatest bagpipe hits ever collected on one LP! Freedom Broch!"
  • Perfectly Arranged Marriage: Elinor mentions at one point that she and Fergus were betrothed. Despite her admitting she had misgivings at first (This is news to her husband), they are very happy together.
  • Plot Irrelevant Villain: Mor'du. The plot of the film concerns Merida reconciling with her mother and undoing the curse she accidentally brought about. Mor'du is only tangentially related to any of this - he's just a bigass warlord turned bear who wants to eat everyone because he's a bear.
  • Primal Scene: Downplayed at the end of the movie, when Merida witnesses her father and naked mother kissing fairly passionately in front of her. Oooops.
  • Quirky Curls: Merida is definitely quirky in the context of the movie.
  • Race Against the Clock: Merida has to break the curse before "the second sunrise" or else it's permanent.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Queen Elinor's hair reaches down to the floor. Merida's hair counts too. According to the Disney Wiki, if it were straightened it would be four feet long.
  • Reality Ensues: Merida thinks her Loophole Abuse during the contest will save her from marriage which is usually what happens when a character finds a loophole in fantasy. She actually makes everything worse. She pisses her mother off so badly that they get into a huge fight which results in Elinor burning Merida's bow and Merida running away, and her humiliation of the clans' sons brings everyone to the brink of war.
  • Recitation Handclasp: Merida assumes this position when receiving elocution lessons from Elinor.
  • Recurring Extra: The Hunk from Clan Dingwall.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Fergus, who is so set on bringing down Mor'du, and later the bear he thinks killed his wife, that he won't listen to Merida trying to tell him the bear is his wife. In his defense, it's a bit much to believe out of nowhere.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: The royal family of DunBroch qualifies as a whole: Merida is a Badass Princess. Elinor is shown in the opening meal scene receiving letters of many sorts, thus implying she is the one handling matters of state. Fergus was explicitly chosen as their king after he led the other clans to victory against invading Vikings and whether it's evil monster bears or invading armies he takes care of it. Even the toddler triplets are crafty tricksters capable of distracting an entire castle. The other clan leaders and their heirs are also shown as being pretty battle-happy, especially against each other.
  • Rule of Symbolism: The rent tapestry / shattered carving of the four princes. Empathic Environment/Cue the Sun. Merida tearing her dress to win the archery tournament (just as she wants to tear free of her role / tear through the expectations) — a dress she earlier said made it so she "couldn't breathe". All the Foreshadowing. The scene where Elinor tells the legend of the four princes using a chess board and pieces to illustrate it. The burned bow. The ruined castle of the fallen kingdom versus Bright Castle DunBroch (both are located on suspiciously similar peninsulas above a loch). Bear!Elinor taking her crown off to indulge in bear feeding habits, then leaving it behind as she regresses. There's a lot of it — and it's all done right.
  • Rule of Three: The Three Lords, the three failing suitors and Merida's identical triplet brothers who only she's able to tell apart (even when they're bear cubs!).
    • Elinor: "Weapons off the table." "Weapons off the table!" As a bear: "Grrr-rrrr rrrgh RRR!"
    • Merida after discovering she turned her mother into a bear: "It's not my fault." "It's not my fault!" "I'm so sorry, it's all my fault!" which breaks the curse.
  • Say My Name/Skyward Scream: Fergus screams "ELINOOOOORRRRRR!" when he finds her torn dress and believes she's been killed by a bear.
  • Scary Shadow Fakeout: Merida's little brothers use a plucked chicken to make a shadow which looks like a bear to help lead the adults on a wild goose chase looking for the bear in the castle.
  • Scenery Porn: Pixar is animating the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Just look at the concept art.
    • Notably, the animation was so complex that Pixar had to completely rewrite their animation software, something that they haven't done in 25 years.
  • Scotland: Takes place in a fictional Scottish kingdom.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Finding Nemo: Aside from the "rebellious child and strong-willed parent learn to appreciate each other after a crisis" plot, there's Bear!Elinor's pupils widening into Black Eyes Of Animal-ity when she becomes a "real" bear, just like Bruce the great white shark's eyes go black when he goes into feeding frenzy-mode.
    • "Sorry, I don't speak bear."
    • The Witch's answering cauldron says she's gone to The Wicker Man festival in Stornoway.
    • Clan Macintosh's sigil looks suspiciously Art Nouveau.
    • The shot of The eldest of the four princes with a human body and Mor'du's head is a reference to Porco Rosso.
  • Shown Their Work: According to this article, regarding archery.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Queen Elinor. Always polite, always well dressed, well-versed in every courtly art, and she can stop an all-out brawl simply by walking through the middle of it.Director commentary mentions a cut ending scene where the queen reveals she is also proficient in archery.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: The Witch did not appear in any of the trailers and had a few seconds in featurettes at most.
  • Sistine Steal: Of all things, this appears in the witch's cottage among her carvings. With bears, of course.
    Witch: Here's a conversation starter!
  • Slapstick Knows no Gender: Maudie, and later Bear!Elinor.
  • The Smurfette Principle: The film has a 1:3 female-to-male ratio. However, this is Pixar's first movie with a female protagonist.
  • Spit Take: Fergus pulls one of these at the dinner table. Bear!Elinor does it later after Merida tells her that the water she’s drinking has worms.
  • Splitting the Arrow: Merida does this when she wins the archery contest.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • ACXIII. note 
  • The Stinger: Earlier, Merida arranged to buy all the witch's woodcarvings if she got some magical help; as the witch promised, they are delivered to the castle by the crow — to the surprise of the guard ("Sign here, please").
  • Talking Animal: The witch’s crow.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Averted with Bear!Elinor.
  • This Was His True Form: Mor'du's spirit rises from its body in the form of the human prince he used to be.
  • Those Two Guys: A pair of castle maids, usually seen with Maudie.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: Maudie lucks out at the end of the movie.
  • Title Drop:
    Merida: Fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: The triplets love pastries a lot.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Merida's impatience and unwillingness to listen to her mother's advice, results in the situation that she has to fix in the first place.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: As beautiful as the "Mother's Day" trailer is, the trailer may have given away a few of the ending shots of the film at the tail end of it.
    • Some new trailers and in-movie shots also shows Merida walking with, saving or jumping to the rescue of a bear, which is pretty spoilerish when the first trailers shows the main antagonist, or one of the main antagonists, of the movie to be a giant grizzly. Apparently sources have already revealed the smaller, more timid looking bear that's seen with Merida to be her transformed mother.
    • Several movie tie-in books were released before the movie itself, too. Naturally, reading them spoils the whole plot of the movie.
    • A toy commercial also completely spoiled the bear transformation.
    • And now the movie is being distributed with trailers for a video game that offer minor spoilers.
  • Transformation Sequence: Averted; we never see Queen Elinor or the triplets turned into bears, or back.
  • True Blue Femininity: Elinor tries to invoke this with Merida before and during the contest, making her wear a tight turquoise dress. Merida doesn't like this, preferring her darker and less restrictive green dress.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: Between Merida and Elinor in the beginning, including quite a few cases of Finishing Each Other's Sentences.
  • Unflinching Walk: The Queen does this impressively during the Bar Brawl scene.
  • The Unintelligible: Young MacGuffin has a brogue so thick that even the other Scots can't understand him. He's actually speaking a real dialect: Doric, spoken in the voice actor's native region of northeastern Scotland. He utters only a handful of understandable words throughout the entire film, and even those aren't enough to figure him out.
    • The Italian dub, unable to render the Doric dialect used in the original version, gives him an unintelligible, over-the-top rendition of juvenile slang, in a perverse cross of world salad and outright Buffy Speak.
    • Elinor becomes this after being changed into a bear, averting the usual Talking Animal trope that often comes with humans-turned-animals. Justified, because... Bear.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Entrusted with a key, Maudie hides it in her bosom.
  • The Villain Sucks Song: The Song of Mor'du.
  • Was Once a Man: Mor'du, having asked for the strength of ten men, seems to have taken heartily to his new identity as a complete monster.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: The witch's bear motif is noticeably prevalent in all her professional dealings. The only spell she seems to know is turning people into bears.
  • "Where? Where?": In the scene where Elinor turns into a bear; Merida screams, Elinor turns and sees a bear's shadow on the wall, and attempts to shield Merida with her body because she hasn't realised yet that she is the bear.
  • White and Gray Morality: Both due to the main focus of the story being a mother-daughter conflict where both have their reasons, and the antagonist per se being a wild animal - though a vicious one who used to be human.


Wreck-It RalphAnnie AwardFrankenweenie
TangledShoutOut/Post MU Life ScreamThe LEG Omovie
Toy Story 3All-CGI CartoonMonsters University
Toy Story 3Creator/PixarMonsters University
Back to the FutureCreator/MattelBravestarr
A Boy Named Charlie BrownAnimated FilmsThe Brave Little Toaster
The Black CauldronFantasy Animated FilmsCastle in the Sky
Puss in BootsAcademy Award for Best Animated FeatureFrankenweenie
Big MiracleFilms of the 2010sThe Brass Teapot
Tropaholics AnonymousImageSource/Animated FilmsCircle of Standing Stones

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