“We wanted it have that feeling where you wonder, ‘Was that a real fairy tale?’” says producer Katherine Sarafian. “Because it feels like a classic, dark ancient tale but told in a new way.”
Director Mark Andrews adds that it took years to fine-tune the story. “We didn’t really have the story done, done-done-done-itty-done-done in all its permutations, until December of last year.” He says. “In the last three months I honed it. That happens by watching it over and over and over again.”
“The film will tell you what it needs and it doesn’t need much,” says Sarafian. “It doesn’t need every bit of dialogue ever recorded. You need to get the point across.”
The inspiration for the story of Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a flame-haired tomboy-turned-princess, who clashes with her mother and learns that you have to be careful what you wish for —especially when that wish is granted by an absent-minded witch — came from a number of sources.
“There are stories about people changing onto animals,” said Andrews. “There are stories about asking for a wish and it going wrong and teaching you a lesson. There are all those aspects of it in different pieces so we built this thing from scratch; pulling ideas that we know have worked in other places.”
The final stop before theatres is the head office of Pixar, home to hits like Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3.
“The people I have to show the film to have been through it,” says Andrews. “They have Academy Awards, so if they say, ‘I smell a rat,’ I have to get back in there. They are the best guys to have on your side. I want their response.”
“Our bosses are creative,” says Sarafian. “They have all directed, rather than having suits or business people make the decisions by focus group or budget. They’re making decisions based on what they find entertaining based on their experiences and training.”
The result is a classic feeling film, with no pop culture references. “We didn’t want to be glib,” said Sarafian, “we want generations to watch it.”