Set in a fictional 10th century Scotland, the
computer-generated look of the movie
Brave is gorgeous.

As critic Dale Roe wrote in the Austin
American-Statesman, “. . .the animation in
Brave is frequently breathtaking.”

Director Mark Andrews led his crew on two
trips to Scotland, where they were affected
by the country's sheer rugged variety.  In
both 2006 and 2007, they studied the land
and
Eilean Donan Castle, the main setting
for the events, as well as the
Calanais
Standing Stones
on the Isle of Lewis.

"You can't escape the grandeur and beauty
of Scotland.  It's so wild and rough.  It evokes
the mysteries and legends that have come
out of the Scottish culture.  Everything has  
texture," he said.

They visited the Games of the
Braemar
Gathering, which they studied for Merida's
archery skills, and they kept journals that
helped them recall what they'd seen when
they returned to California.  They took
photos and video, sketched and wrote
stories and loaded it all into their computers.

Pixar rewrote its
animation system.  To
reproduce the lush texture of the Highlands,
they created some 350 custom brushes in
Photoshop so they could layer designs and
patterns to achieve a realistic look.

I really appreciate the effort they went to for
authenticity.  They didn't say, as they so
easily could have, "It's for little kids.  They
won't know the difference."  
By showing respect for their primary audience,
they made the setting seem more real for all of
us.

As
John Lasseter , executive producer, said,
"When we start a project, . . .there's something
in the story that we need to do, that we don't
know how to do when we start the process.  
Every single one.  And with
Brave, there was a
lot.  

"It's our first
period film set in history.  This is
extremely difficult to do with animation, because
to make it believable to the audience, everything
you see in the film, the castle, the stones the
castle is made of, the trees with the moss on
them, all this has a sense of history to it, has an
age.  You can see it in there.  It's been there a
really long time. We don't get that for free.  

"Live action film, you can go on location and film
stuff.  But everything you see in a Pixar film has
to be designed, and modeled, shaded."

Celtic and pictish design and patterns are
integrated  throughout the film--on Merida's bow,
on clothing, walls, as well as natural elements
like snowflakes, moss or tree branches.  The will
o' the wisps came from a combination of
Scottish legend and bog gas.

According to
Danielle Feinberg, director of
photography, "Mist is an important part of the
setting in Scotland.  We changed the lighting of
forest scenes to highlight the mist and bring out
the mystery of the forest."
May 2014
Billie Silvey
: The Setting
Advertisement from Scotland's National Tourism Organization (above); Eilean Donan
Castle (left), model for King Fergus's seat, the most photographed castle in Scotland.
Art director Steve Pilcher gestures in front of a wall of photos and ideas.