Merida (voiced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald) is a feisty princess in medieval Scotland who much prefers the bows that come with arrows to the ones you tie in your hair. Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) works tirelessly to tame her free-spirited daughter and prepare her for the throne, but Merida refuses to relinquish her independence. Her dad, the good-naturedly brutish King Fergus (Billy Connolly), is too fun-loving to be a disciplinary force; it falls to Elinor to maintain stability in the kingdom.
Matters come to a head early in the film, when Elinor tells Merida she must fulfill her royal duties by allowing the dim-witted sons of the kingdom's rowdy clan-leaders to vie for her hand. Merida rebels and flees to the woods, where she encounters a witch who offers the chance to change her fate. When a spell is cast with unexpected and potentially tragic consequences, mother and daughter must work together to undo the damage before it's too late.
Brave is Pixar's thirteenth offering; several elements distinguish it from its predecessors. Remarkably, it's the studio's first story to revolve primarily around a female character—and we actually get two strong women in Merida and her equally iron-willed mother. It is also Pixar's first "fairy tale," albeit an unconventional one refreshingly devoid of formulaic romantic elements.
Most notably, Brave represents the debut of Pixar's completely rewritten animation system. The results are jaw-dropping. The film is a visual feast; each strand of Merida's cascading red hair, each intricately veined tree leaf, each ripple of water and wriggle of fish is rendered in lush, hyper-real detail. The sensation is not one of watching animation, but rather of entering a parallel universe ...