Sarafian has been an integral part of the success and growth of Pixar Animation Studios, joining Pixar
in 1994 as a production coordinator on the studio’s first full-length feature film, “Toy Story.” From there,
she continued to develop her film production experience as production manager in Pixar’s short film
department, and as art department manager on the studio’s second feature film, “A Bug’s Life.” She then
shifted gears and moved on to positions in the creative services and consumer products departments.
She eventually became director of marketing for the studio. In 2000, Sarafian transitioned back into
production at Pixar, first as production supervisor on “Monsters, Inc.” and then as production manager
on the Academy Award®-winning feature “The Incredibles.” She next took on the role of producer
for the Academy Award®-nominated short film “Lifted,” which screened in theaters worldwide with
Oscar®-winner “Ratatouille” in 2007. Prior to Pixar, Sarafian worked in development at Castle Rock
Entertainment and in digital entertainment at Sanctuary Woods Multimedia. She holds a Master of Arts
degree in Film and Television Critical Studies and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication Studies,
both from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has taught undergraduate film and television
courses and has represented Pixar at a variety of film festivals throughout Japan, Europe and the United
States. A native of Oakland, Calif., Sarafian is active in the San Francisco Bay Area theater, music and
What is “Brave” about?
“Brave” is about a quest to reconcile who you are with who the world wants you to be. Merida is a
spirited, adventurous, athletic Highland lass. She loves her life; she loves being outdoors. She’s a
creature of nature; she’s happiest exploring with her horse Angus, practicing archery and sword fighting.
She also likes playing with her triplet brothers. She’s just a happy kid. But there’s a painful contrast to
what she loves doing and being bound by the duties of a royal. Queen Elinor strives to keep Merida
on track to be a proper royal, which means lots of lessons within the walls of the castle, which is very
confining for Merida, who’s more of a daddy’s girl.
I’m a mom, so I can relate to Elinor’s efforts to maintain control of the household. But I think a lot of
people—adults, teenagers and kids—are going to relate to the idea that you want to choose your own
path, and at the same time, you have an allegiance to your family, so you’re always walking that line.
What’s overstepping and what’s not? I wasn’t rebellious, but I chose a different path than my family of
doctors, priests and teachers, so I find the family dynamic within the DunBroch clan very relatable.
The Highland Games should be an exciting time for Merida—she loves sports like archery and
caber tossing. However, this year the Highland Games will feature suitors competing for her hand in
marriage—not a happy day for Merida. The thought of marrying into one of these clans and falling
into this tradition goes against everything that the free spirit believes in, so she resents her mother for
enforcing the tradition. Merida, like a lot of teenagers, wants her mom to change, of course. She’s so
worried she’ll turn into her own mother that she fails to see who Elinor really is—and that the two of them
are not so different.
How is Merida’s character realized on the big screen?
Merida’s design was inspired by the spirit within the character. Fiery red hair made perfect sense—it is
beautiful aesthetically against the colors of the Scottish setting, and the untamed curls and vibrant color
fit Merida’s wild personality perfectly.
Merida is voiced by the phenomenally talented Kelly Macdonald who’s fantastic in the role, channeling
teenage angst, as well as heart and the humor. There’s a real warmth in her performance that balances
the teenage nuances.
Who is Elinor?
Queen Elinor is a working mother. She’s raising the family. She’s keeping the peace. She’s handling
the royal duties with elegance and dignity. And she has goals for her daughter. Elinor wants Merida to
be able to take on royal responsibilities and practice diplomacy. But learning all of the necessary skills
means Merida must spend all her days inside the castle when she’d rather be outside riding her horse.
They’re at an impasse.
Queen Elinor is voiced by Emma Thompson. She’s remarkable, bringing warmth and sternness to the
character. She exudes that need to keep the rules of the kingdom alive while still being a loving mother.
She has a loving and funny relationship with Fergus. And though Merida may not realize it, Elinor
remembers her own struggles as a teenager.
Describe Fergus and his relationship with Merida.
Merida’s father is King Fergus, a wild Highland warrior king who lost his leg to a bear. He loves to tell
tales. Fergus and Merida are like two peas in a pod who love being outside practicing sword fighting,
archery and hunting. Fergus has taught Merida everything about the outdoors and how to be his kind
of royal. One of the central bonds between father and daughter is the bow. Merida has a bow that her
father gave her when she was just a wee lass and she still carries it everywhere.
King Fergus is voiced by Billy Connolly and he’s a comedian on every level. Billy brings this great
authenticity to the role. When [director] Brenda [Chapman] conceived the role of King Fergus she had
one name in mind: Billy Connolly.
Why are the Lords so important to the story?
I think the Lords are a great comic element of the film because they’re relatable—everyone will recognize
someone they know in the Lords: the guy you work with who gets ticked off too easily or that uncle who
always says the wrong thing at an important dinner.
Who are the triplets?
Merida has three brothers: Harris, Hubert, and Hamish. They are identical triplets who get into so much
trouble. They love sweets and they are constantly taunting their nanny. They know every secret passage
in the castle and are always game to help Merida—and not just because she slips them desserts as a
Who is the Witch?
The Witch is really a retired witch who does wood carvings—she whittles lovely bear creations and sells
them out of her shop. She’s very sweet and unassuming. But if pressed—as Merida manages to do—the
Witch can be convinced to create a spell. It just might not be exactly what’s expected.
Julie Walters voices the Witch with all her sweet, salesperson sort of humor.
How does “Brave” push the envelope?
“Brave” has a visual complexity that’s at a new level—even for Pixar. Ancient Scotland—with horses,
bears and human beings—is about as organic as you can get. There’s absolutely nothing easy in the
film. We’ve pushed the look, pushed our technology and pushed our artists to new heights. Merida’s wild,
curly mane of red hair and the complexity of clothing on all of the characters—from formal dresses to
tunics, cloaks and armor, plus layers and layers of kilt—made this our most challenging film yet.
Discuss the research trips you took to Scotland.
We took two research trips to Scotland—the first was in 2006 with 12 people for 12 days. We started in
Edinburgh and roamed throughout the Highlands, lowlands, lochs, Isles of Skye, Lewis and Harris. We
dove really deeply into the culture and the storytelling. We met people and talked to them. We ate like
locals and immersed ourselves in the landscape and experienced the weather and how it was constantly
changing and moving. It could be raining and you don’t care because it’s so beautiful. Then, all of a
sudden, it’s sunny—and there’s this mist. It’s one of those places that hooks you—the people are warm
and generous, and the landscape—it’s ridiculously dramatic. It just draws you in. It’s almost mystical.
You want to be part of this environment.
Our second trip was in 2007. We spent a lot of time at the Standing Stones of Callanish [on the Isle of
Lewis]. It felt like the perfect setting for something important to happen in the story. The stones are in
a perfect circle on a big exposed cliff with the sky as their backdrop—it’s very striking. You can’t tear
yourself away from them. On both trips it was really hard for me to get any of the artists back on the bus.
We wrote stories and kept journals. We took photographs and video, filled sketch books and created
pastels. We brought everything back and spread it all out on tables and loaded it into our computers and
said, “What is this land and who are these people and how does it mesh with the story we’re trying to
tell?” We worked really hard to bring the magic, the beauty and the ruggedness of Scotland to life in the
How did “Brave” break ground when it comes to clothing and layers?
In “Brave,” the clothing was really important in defining the characters and capturing the feel of Scotland.
We wanted it to have the rugged texture of the land and the layers and layers of garments that were
common at the time.
Boo wears a T-shirt and leggings in “Monsters, Inc.” Mom wears tight-fitting pants in “Toy Story 2.” That’s
what we were able to do at the time. In “Brave,” King Fergus has eight layers—chain mail, body armor,
several layers of kilt, a belt, a sheath for his sword and even a bear fur cloak. Merida has to be able to
ride her horse in her skirt and still shoot arrows. That all has to be programmed in the computer so that
each layer moves like it should and reacts to the other layers. Our team came through, though: new
technology, new software, unbelievable artists.
What did the two directors, Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, bring to “Brave”?
Mark and Brenda have so much in common, and they also complement each other as storytellers and
filmmakers. They’re both family focused and esteemed story artists with years of training and impressive
credits. They each bring something unique to the process. Mark has a much more rambunctious
approach and loves action. Brenda loves the quieter moments. “Brave” is this incredible blend of those
skills—it reflects Brenda’s inspired concept and the adventurous excitement that Mark brings.
What are your thoughts on the music of “Brave”?
Patrick Doyle composed the score for “Brave.” He’s Scottish, so he was able to tap into his own heritage.
We have bagpipes, Celtic fiddles and Irish flute, among other truly interesting instruments, creating a
beautiful score that reflects the action and swelling emotion, as well as the film’s great comic bits.
We were delighted that [Pixar’s own] Alex Mandel’s songs were ultimately exactly what we needed for
the movie. We love working with in-house artists. They work right alongside our story team and know
the goal of the story point and can really collaborate with the director along the way to get the meaning
behind a song in a wonderful way.
Julie Fowlis performed [two] songs. If ever we imagined a singing voice for Merida—the beauty, the
clarity, the directness and honesty—Julie embodies that and she’s fantastic.
[With Birdy on vocals], “Learn Me Right” is an amazing song. I feel something every time I hear it.
Mumford & Sons sketched out a piece that would do justice to the culminating moment of the movie,
underscoring the emotion, heart and the lessons learned between mother and daughter. They really
found that moment of truth in the story we were trying to tell, and it takes the movie to a new level at the
Why should audiences see “Brave”?
Though set in a different time and place, at its core, “Brave” is a highly relatable story of a family. The
heart of the film is how family members interact and how they don’t always understand each other. In the
end, relationships come down to trust, love and forgiveness.
“Brave” has battles and comedy, light moments and high drama, plus big action and adventure—it’s all in
there. The humor is character driven and the characters are relatable to modern kids and adults alike. It’s
the kind of film that makes audiences chuckle and get choked up.
In “Brave,” magic has transformative abilities. We can take something to a whole different place with a
little bit of magic. While the story is very much grounded in reality with an organic feel and real family
issues, there’s just enough magic to make it special.
Who’s brave in “Brave”?
Each character has to be brave in a different way. Mom has to relinquish control for the first time in her
life. I think a lot of working moms can relate to that idea. Initially, Merida considers it brave to pursue the
kind of life she wants to pursue, speaking out against traditions she does not agree with. But Merida also
has to bravely face her own weakness, which is particularly tough for someone who’s good with a bow
and arrow, skilled with a sword and great at hunting.
What makes “Brave” a true Pixar film?
“Brave” is the next in a progression of unusual pictures that have nothing in common with each
other. Each film is different than the one before it and “Brave” is another in the great cannon of Pixar
storytelling. “Brave” has all of the things audiences expect from a Pixar film—heart, humor, grand
adventure and warm storytelling—as well as things they don’t expect. It’s simply great entertainment.
Some compare director Mark Andrews to King Fergus and you to Queen Elinor. True?
One might say Mark [Andrews] is a bit boisterous and I’m more of a low-key diplomat. His language may
be a little more colorful—he has the wild spirit of a Highland warrior…if only I were a royal.
ABOUT THE MOVIE:
Set in the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland, Disney•Pixar’s “Brave” follows the heroic
journey of Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald), a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus
(voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to change her fate,
Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord
MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous
Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane), unleashing chaos in the kingdom. When she turns to an
eccentric Witch (voice of Julie Walters), she is granted an ill-fated wish and the ensuing peril forces
Merida to harness all of her resources—including her mischievous triplet brothers—to undo a beastly
curse and discover the meaning of true bravery. Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, and
produced by Katherine Sarafian, “Brave” is a grand adventure full of heart, memorable characters and
signature Pixar humor. Disney•Pixar’s “Brave” debuts November 13, 2012, on Blu‐ray™ Combo Pack,
HD Digital and On-Demand.
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