Brave director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian | Interview
Although Brave might not hit all its marks story-wise (check out our TOCK review here), you can't argue with a chart-topping $66-million opening weekend. Shortly before its release this past Friday, we sent one of our staffers to meet two Pixar pros for a closer look at the elements that make the movie a box-office winner. But this interview didn't happen in a hotel like so many do: It happened outdoors, and included a bow and arrow.
I recently took to the Lincoln Park Archery Club's range at Belmont Harbor to try my hand at archery with two pros from Pixar: Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian, the director and producer of upcoming film Brave. After a quicker primer from a helpful instructor of Archery Bow Range, I had the chance to ask the bow-plucking pair about the sport's role in their lives, as well as in the life of the film's tomboy-princess protagonist Merida.
Time Out Chicago Kids: I was so impressed with Merida when I saw Brave. Where did get the idea to use of archery in the story?
Mark Andrews: It’s something that’s been around for a long time. It’s one of mankind’s first inventions, and it’s very iconic. Most mythologies have a [bow-wielding] god or a goddess. There’s Diana, the goddess of the hunt. In Indian mythos, there’s Ramayana. In the Japanese traditions of the Samurai we always think the sword is the soul of the Samurai, but before the sword it was actually the bow. So it goes way back; we all have this idea about [archery] being this mystical, magical, dynamic thing.
What was the thinking behind making the main character a princess and not a prince?
Katherine Sarafian: We write what we know. Brenda Chapman, one of the filmmakers and one of the directors on the film, she had this idea way back in our development phase because she was examining her own relationship with her daughter—six years old at the time—who was feisty and opinionated and spirited. She said, "What will this girl be like in her teenage years?" [Brenda] started spinning a story right then and there. Going forward, we couldn’t sit there thinking, "It’s a girl, it’s a girl, it’s a girl." We needed to look at it as just character. So, yes, it was a girl, but we had to look at the character at odds with his or her family. We almost had to take gender out of the story, and then we could say, "Now that we’re done, is this a hero who we’re rooting for? Is this a real Pixar hero?"
MA: Yeah, being a princess raises the stakes of a story. If it was about a girl who herded sheep? Big deal, she doesn’t want to go along with the traditions of her family—versus a decision that could bring the kingdom to its knees. That’s a lot heftier stakes, which means, what she wants out of life and what she’s really struggling with is that much more important for her to make that kind of decision.
We wrote an article in our last issue about how young girls are becoming interested in archery because of characters like Katniss in The Hunger Games and now Merida in Brave. Are any of your children getting into archery?
MA: Oh yeah, I got all my kids bows and arrows for Christmas and my daughter’s a big Hunger Games fan. They’re out there in the backyard. I’ve got hay barrels up and we shoot all the time. My kids just love it.
KS: My kids are too young still, but I suspect that as soon as my three-year-old is able to wield the bow, he’ll want to. It’s a great sport because it requires discipline. There’s great power to it. I can imagine lots of kids—adults, too—really wanting that rush of energy and power that comes from concentrating so long and then getting that reward.