published: June 27, 2012
Pixar is kind of a big deal. For almost 17 years, the Disney subsidiary has created massive hits that at once delight and depress. Just try to say the opening scenes of Up weren’t among the most beautiful and soul-crushing in cinema.
Pixar’s one of the rare studios that manage to capture lightning in a bottle with every effort—except Cars 2, but we forgive them. Its films beg the question, how much magic and whimsy can you cram into two hours?
Set in ancient Scotland, Brave tells the story of Merida (Kelly Macdonald), a princess who wants to defy tradition and change her fate. When a witch’s spell goes awry in granting her wish, Merida must discover the true meaning of bravery on her quest to break the spell.
In the wake of new classics like Up and Wall-E, Brave has a tough act to follow. And it’ll probably live up to the lofty standards set by its predecessors, due to Pixar’s out-of-this-world animation, enchanting stories and—oh, yes—the music.
Composed by Scottish-born Patrick Doyle, the score employs a variety of native Scottish instruments such as bagpipes, solo fiddle, Celtic harps, flutes and the bodhran. Custom electronic sounds, along with electronically treated dulcimer and cimbalom, enhance the mood and keep the music fresh.
“I employed many classic Scottish dance rhythms such as reels, jigs and strathspeys, which not only serve the action but keep it authentic,” said Doyle. “I particularly loved composing the Gaelic lament Noble Maiden Fair with my son Patrick Neil, sung so beautifully by Emma (Thompson) and Peigi (Barker).”
Brave will also feature two original songs performed by Scottish Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis. Touch the Sky, which plays during Merida’s liberating ride through the forest, is written by Pixar’s Alex Mandel, with lyrics by Mandel and co-director Mark Andrews. Into the Open Air, written entirely by Mandel, plays later in the film during a moment between Merida and her mother.
“If ever we imagined a singing voice for Merida—the beauty, the clarity, the directness and honesty—Julie embodies that and she’s fantastic,” says producer Katherine Sarafian.
Rounding out the soundtrack is a third song, Learn Me Right, performed by Birdy, whose debut album has hit Gold and Platinum status in the United Kingdom and Europe, and British folk rock group Mumford & Sons. The Grammy-nominated group also wrote, arranged and produced the track.
It’s quite fun doing a song for a movie rather than for an album,” said Marcus Mumford. “We liked the idea of having an orchestra in the background and having a girl like Birdy sing—it’s been quite liberating.”
“The music of Brave supports the story, bolstering this epic journey with Merida,” Andrews says. “The music really sets the tone for the film and underscores the time period. We wanted to capture this ancient feel of Scotland and the music really adds another layer of authenticity.”