EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND – Leave aside the prospect of Oscars or overflowing box office coffers. Pixar’s latest feature, “Brave,” will have fulfilled its destiny if children across the United States begin to inject Scottish accents into their playground adventures.
Sure to be leading that charge will be destiny-defying red-headed firebrand Merida, who is the first female focal protagonist in a Pixar film. An ace archer, Merida resists her mother’s entreaties that she tame her unruly hair, set aside her beloved bow and accept responsibility, adulthood and marriage.
Much of Merida’s spirit comes from her determined eyes and a fiery mane that took Pixar years to develop, but it would be hard to undersell the value of the vocal contribution from Glasgow-born Kelly Macdonald, who wins audience adoration with every exasperated grunt, spunky exclamation and crisply delivered zinger.
In live action form, Macdonald has been embodying feisty heroines dating back to 1996’s “Trainspotting” and following through features like “Gosford Park” and superb TV work like “State of Play,” an Emmy-winning turn in “The Girl in the Cafe” and her current Emmy nominated role on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.”
And, in person, Macdonald is every bit as feisty.
At Disney and Pixar’s junket for “Brave” in Edinburgh, Scotland, I sat down with Macdonald and we discussed Merida’s place among Pixar protagonists, what aspects of Teenage Kelly made it into Merida’s voice and whether, in the upcoming third season of “Boardwalk Empire,” Margaret Schroeder finally gets to become a little Merida.
As the stand-up introduction to this interview indicates, I’ve got a lot of “Brave” interviews coming over the next few days. After Macdonald, I’ll have interviews with co-star Kevin McKidd, Pixar chief John Lasseter, and director Mark Andrews & producer Katherine Sarafian. And, you got a snippet of this in the intro, I’ll probably be posting a really embarrassing video of my attempts to master archery, Merida style.
“Brave” opens on Friday, June 22.