With 13 films now in the can, Pixar has yet to make an outright dud - fine, Cars 2 is pretty darn close. If diversity is supposedly key to a successful portfolio, the Emeryville, California-based company's offerings have proven it, banking $7 billion worldwide. From trash-compacting robots to closet-dwelling creatures, Pixar has delivered the goods with near flawless creative flair.
In keeping with the constant push to stretch its boundaries, Pixar has not only produced its first (not set in outer space) period piece with Brave, but also created a plucky protagonist role model for young girls the planet over - one that's destined to be toted around by tots in doll form in 3,2,1...
Our soon-to-be-seen-everywhere heroine Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), on the precipice of being betrothed to a suitor from one of the three neighboring clans of Scots, takes off for the forest in a fit of teen angst. P.O'd with her prim and proper mum, Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), Merida seeks something - anything - to put an arrow through the heart of the royal baggage that's bogging her down.
The wish to change her fate is granted by a witch, but as is often the case with magic spells, they backfire in the most ironic of ways. In the Pixar world, they turn all furry-like and are sated solely by a smorgasbord of salmon - a clever twist that carries with it some max-laugh moments.
Merida's fiesty spirit carries the film far, racing against the proverbial clock to set things straight before they reach an unbearable result. All as her supersized papa, King Fergus (Billy Connolly), attempts to appease the neighboring tribes after his daughter's razor-sharp display of defiance.
The princess' bow and arrow prowess would make Katniss Everdeen envious.
The film's message of challenging destiny and changing one's fate - repeated roughly 600 times for effect - is especially strong given the medium in which its delivered. Last I checked, kids aren't exactly subjected to that sort of stirring theme on SpongeBob SquarePants or The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
While Pixar parted ways with the film's initial director Brenda Chapman over creative differences and replaced her with Mark Andrews, any evidence of the swap out is unseen. Brave looks every bit the dazzling gem we've come to expect from Pixar's team of sage CGI specialists - traditional animators be damned.
The hopping lamp gang has done it again, giving birth to a sharp, fresh fairy tale that in the pantheon of Pixar releases may not go down as a centerpiece, but comes close enough to the bullseye to sate moviegoing subjects kingdom-wide.