Three of the Scottish actors who voice prominent characters in Pixar’s new animated feature Brave, are currently enjoying success on American television – Kelly Macdonald as Margaret Schroeder on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Kevin McKidd as Dr Own Hunt on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Craig Ferguson as, well, himself, hosting the popular Late, Late Show on CBS.
Brave tells the story of Merida (Macdonald), a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. Determined to create her own destiny, she defies tradition by refusing to allow suitors to compete for her hand in marriage, throwing their unruly fathers, including Lord MacGuffin (McKidd) and Lord Macintosh (Ferguson) into a tizzy.
Merida seeks out a witch for help, who conjures up a haphazard spell, turning Merida’s mother into a bear, and unless the young princess can undo the beastly curse that she involuntarily caused, the spell will remain forever.
What was it like playing a Pixar princess?
Kelly: Attention to detail is not my strongpoint and until quite recently it totally passed me by that I was going be the first female protagonist in a Pixar movie. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t know when I was doing it, because it would have been a lot of pressure.
I don’t think I personally have watched a Pixar movie and felt wronged that there wasn’t a female protagonist. They make films about fish, toys and robots. And there are some really strong female characters in those films.
To what extent could you identify with the character?
Kelly: I wasn’t Merida-like when I was a teenager. She’s very adventurous, outdoorsy and energetic, and I was not. I was indoorsy. But I was a teenage girl so that was the thing that I zoned in on. All teenagers are awful, but teenage girls are worse, I think, than teenage boys.
Did you ever get to work with other actors while voicing the movie?
Kevin: No, not at all. Everyone was in different areas of the country and parts of the world. It was a shame we didn’t get a chance to do sessions together.
Kelly: I think it’s the norm that you’re on your own.
Kevin: Which is great, because it’s all about you!
Craig: I think it’s nice, because you make the movie in your head while you’re doing it. You close your eyes and you see the film in your head and just participate in it.
The interesting thing with this film is that when I saw the film after I had seen it in my head, it was better, which means that Pixar are better than me at making animated films! But I think that that’s not going to be news.
While you were voicing the movie, did you have the feeling that this film was going to be special?
Kelly: Just the name Pixar, you know it’s going to be special. And so I had no doubt in my mind that the finished product was going to be really special and cutting-edge. That’s the great thing about Pixar.
Every movie that they bring out has the most cutting- edge technology, but you look back on films like Toy Story, which was fifteen years ago, and you don’t go, ‘Oh, if they had the technology they have now it could be such a better film.’ It stands up.
What they do is extraordinary and I think that comes from the top. John Lasseter is a very special man.
Craig: When the name Pixar is on the offer, it’s not really an offer, it’s more of a summons. ‘Pixar requires your presence in this film,’ and you go, or you’re a fool.
They’ve earned that right by what they’ve done and so what I think the special feeling, if you have any special feelings, is realizing what these people have done, trusting that they’ll be able to do it again, and letting them.