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Brave's medieval Scottish princess, Merida (voiced by Boardwalk Empire's Kelly Macdonald), almost never wears princess clothes. Instead, she rides a horse and shoots a bow and arrow. Her mom Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) insists she follow tradition and let the eldest sons of the heads of the kingdom's clans compete in a series of games for her hand in marriage. But Merida doesn't tell her mom that she's going to pick her own husband, as princesses sometimes do in films. This is a fairy tale without a romance. Merida tells her that she isn't marrying anyone. Then she fights bears. But mostly, like all teenage girls, she fights with her mom.
Chapman, who's a redhead like Merida and part Scottish, took conflicts with her then 5-year-old daughter and fairy-tale-ized them. In one scene, which has since been cut from the film, Merida and her mother take a break midargument to hug and say good morning before they resume fighting, just as Chapman and her kid did. "I have this amazing daughter, and she is really strong-willed, and I'm strong-willed," Chapman says. "She competes with me for her dad. I was thinking, What's she going to be like as a teenager?"
Chapman isn't worried that boys will shy away from a film about a princess, even though industry research indicates that boys have more influence than their sisters in convincing their parents which movies to see. "Back in my day, boys and girls both went to see Cinderella and Snow White and Sleeping Beauty," she says. "It's just a change in media and advertising."
When I ask Lasseter why boys would see Brave, he answers just as a 12-year-old boy would: "Because it's awesome! It's got awesomeness in it! It's got bear fighting in it!"
There's guts in marketing a princess movie to boys, but it's just bad business not to give your princess a tiara, wand or frilly pink dress, since that's what little girls buy. The 10 official members of the Disney Princesses make up the top licensed toy brand for girls in the U.S., with more than $4 billion in global sales. But Ed Catmull--the bespectacled, gray-haired, bearded computer scientist who co-founded Pixar and is now president of both Disney Animation and Pixar--doesn't seem to care. Pixar, he says, never makes story decisions based on selling toys, even though the two Cars films alone have generated global retail sales of more than $10 billion. "Cars was anomalous. Toy Story as a whole has been very big. But you don't sell a lot of rat toys," Catmull says, referring to one of Pixar's most critically acclaimed films, Ratatouille.