Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
List Price
$49.99
Amazon
$31.97 (36%)
3rd Party
$24.00
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4.5 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Brave - 3D

Street Date:
November 13th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
November 12th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
2012
Studio:
Pixar
Length:
93 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of the 2D Blu-ray release of 'Brave.'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Once Pixar joined the Disney family, any self-respecting movie buff knew it would only be a matter of time before the studio made a princess movie. After all, princesses are as vital to Disney as ice cream is to apple pie, and though Pixar possessed a smattering of prior experience with young female royalty (remember Atta and Dot in 'A Bug's Life'?), it had never before allowed a princess - or for that matter a girl of any age - to dominate one of its films. Of course, one would hope any Pixar princess picture would stray far enough from the Disney mold to achieve a degree of integrity and individuality, and I'm happy to report the headstrong heroine of 'Brave' remains true to the Pixar brand by taking the role in a new and exciting direction. A roll-up-her-sleeves self-starter with contemporary ideas, a fiery spirit that matches her bushy red hair, plenty of backbone, and enviable athletic prowess, Princess Merida of 11th century Scotland is a force to be reckoned with, a modern lass trapped in a period setting, and with one hand tied behind her back, she could kick Cinderella's ass.

'Brave' is a breath of fresh air in the princess genre, a film that foregoes frilly dresses, saccharine songs, and gooey romance for action, thrills, and a seductive darkness. Even the generic elements it does embrace are shaken up and given an appealing twist. Though it surely doesn't rival the 'Toy Story' movies or 'Finding Nemo' for top Pixar honors, 'Brave' is nevertheless a vigorous, involving, and wholly entertaining family film that does the studio proud. After 'Wall-E and 'Up,' 'Brave' brings Pixar back down to earth with a back-to-basics, traditional, and wholly accessible yarn to which both kids and parents can easily relate. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald) lives what seems to be an idyllic life with her father Fergus (Billy Connolly) and mother Elinor (Emma Thompson), yet as she enters her teenage years, a rebellious streak comes to the forefront as she questions age-old traditions and challenges her mother's rigid nature. Elinor wants Merida to be a lady and model of propriety befitting her title, but the young girl scoffs at such a notion, preferring to pursue outdoorsy activities and indulge her untamed spirit, much to her mother's chagrin. When Elinor invites three clans to the castle to compete for Merida's hand in marriage, the princess sulks over the prospect and disrupts the games, sparking a heated argument. Determined to make Elinor come around to her point of view, Merida flees the castle and convinces an old crone to concoct a transformative spell that will "change" her mother. What the princess doesn't realize, however, is that the potion incites a physical change, not an emotional one, turning Elinor into a massive bear and making her vulnerable to human assaults. What follows is a race against time, as the pair tries to reverse the spell and escape harm before the changes to Elinor become permanent and their relationship is destroyed forever.

Pixar cleverly uses the princess framework as a vehicle to explore the deeper issues of mother-daughter bonding. If you take away the cancer angle, 'Brave' could be classified as a 'Terms of Endearment' for the younger set. (Elinor is far from an Aurora Greenway, but the dynamics of the relationship are strikingly similar.) Learning to accept differences, make concessions, understand opposing views, and adapt to changing times and mores all within the tightness of the family unit is what 'Brave' is all about. The hints of mysticism and broad comedy nicely complement the main theme and make the message more palatable and less overbearing, and its medieval setting shows us such conflict isn't indigenous to the modern age. Pixar films always incorporate irreverent humor, and 'Brave' seems to enjoy sending up Scottish culture, even giving an off-hand nod to 'Braveheart' along the way.

The animation is, of course, spectacular, with meticulous attention paid to the smallest of details. The performances are fine, too, infused with enough enthusiasm and warmth to make the characters as dimensional as the images they populate. And after a couple of sequels (there's that Disney influence once again), it's nice to see Pixar return to an original story that transports us to a foreign setting and simpler time, and give young girls a spunky role model they can learn from and emulate.

At 93 minutes, 'Brave' is one of Pixar's shorter films, but despite its efficient storytelling, it still possesses a fair amount of depth. Though the characters it depicts may reside on a rarefied plane, the issues they confront are universal and timeless, and the ultimate message emphasizing the strong bonds of family, however trite, is presented in a poignant and effective manner. 'Brave' may not be as bold as its title, but it's a solid Pixar effort, celebrating not just girl power, but the power of understanding and mutual respect. It's a princess movie that should make the mouse beam.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

'Brave' arrives on Blu-ray in a five-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition packaged in a standard multi-disc case tucked inside an attractive 3D holographic sleeve. The case holds a Blu-ray 3D disc (containing just the movie and Pixar short 'La Luna'); two Blu-ray discs (the first contains the movie and a number of bonus features, while the second houses additional supplements); a DVD (containing the movie, two Pixar shorts, and an audio commentary); and a Digital Copy disc, which enables 'Brave' to be viewed on portable players via iTunes or Windows Media Player. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and both 7.1 and 5.1 Dolby TrueHD tracks are included. Once the disc is inserted in the player, an assortment of Disney previews play before the animated menu with music pops up.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Five stars is getting to be a routine score for Pixar video transfers, but the sheer pleasure that comes from watching the pristine, razor sharp, and gorgeously colorful images of Pixar movies on Blu-ray disc is never routine. And in the case of 'Brave,' the impact of those vital components is even more dazzling and palpable in 3D. From the opening sequence forward, 'Brave' is nothing short of breathtaking, with a picture so full of brilliant texture, astonishing detail, and eye-popping vibrancy, it's easy to forget it's an animated film.

Never been to Scotland? Forget buying a travelogue disc; 'Brave' transports you there, impeccably capturing the incredible light patterns, lush and predominant greenery, rocky crags, rushing rivers, and rolling hills that define the rugged landscape. Individual blades of grass sway in the breeze with jaw-dropping clarity, while superior contrast enhances depth and highlights foreground objects. Human figures are equally impressive. One look at Merida's flaming red, wild, curly, flowing locks and it's impossible not to be impressed with how accurately and naturally it's been rendered. Though faces still maintain a cartoonish appearance, expressions are fluid and realistic, with special attention paid to distinguishing details that set each character apart.

Colors burst forth with rare intensity. The orange-red of Merida's mane is mesmerizing, but the verdant hues of the trees, moss, and endless meadows are equally rich and varied. The pastels of costumes, such as Merida's pale blue gown, are delicate yet beautifully saturated, and the masculine browns exude terrific grit and boldness. Blacks are about as inky as they come, yet even nocturnal scenes and those that take place in dank, dark ruins maintain a pleasing crispness. Textures, from the wool kilts, burlap archery targets, and satin gowns to bushy eyebrows, wooden carvings, and bear fur, are incredibly life-like, and even the smallest bits of detail come through clearly. Lines are incredibly well defined, yet there's an elegant smoothness to the picture, a natural fluidity, that keeps this treatment from becoming a sensory assault.

The use of 3D is potent yet restrained. The purpose of the dimensionality is not to provide cheap thrills with plunging projectiles (although a couple of muted instances of such a gimmick are employed), but to rather expand the cinematic canvas and allow a greater sense of immersion through depth. Foregrounds protrude just enough to give us a point of embarkation, a path into the cavernous glens and stark coldness of lengthy stone corridors. Close-ups are stunning, with that extra layer of dimension lending greater weight to reaction shots and highlighting individual facial features. Large scale fight scenes and chases fare particularly well, with isolated bits of action crossing the screen's plane to deliver greater excitement and a thrilling sense of motion and velocity. In short, this is one of the best 3D treatments I've seen, rivaling 'Hugo' with its seamless construction and intelligent use of the process.

Of course, not a single nick, scratch, or mark could be detected on this antiseptically clean image, nor could any form of digital anomalies, such as noise, pixelation, banding, or edge halos. The 3D is perfect as well; no instances of ghosting, blur, or other issues cropped up during my viewing. Watching 'Brave' in 3D or 2D is a memorable experience from start to finish, and should impress the most discriminating videophile. The rest of us will simply be blown away.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Two lossless options - Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and 5.1 - are available, and both provide immersive, nuanced audio that beautifully complements the stunning image quality. Superior dynamic range handles all the action well, with bright, full-bodied highs and guttural lows bringing the various set pieces to glorious life. Surround activity is almost constant, ebbing and flowing with the story, smoothly bleeding from the front to the rears, and never feeling forced. From subtle atmospherics, such as birds chirping and rustling leaves, to powerful accents like slamming doors, clanking swords, and arrows hitting their targets, the sound dances across all five speakers with both ease and distinction.

Bass frequencies are also strong, lending some oomph to stomping feet and the powerful roars of Mor'du, yet the LFE track seamlessly blends into the whole. Patrick Doyle's music score, by turns rousing and introspective, also gets a nice treatment here, benefiting from solid fidelity and fine tonal depth. The delicate reeds emit a wonderful purity, while the pulsating percussion ramps up excitement but never overpowers the other instruments. Dialogue is well prioritized throughout, and though the authentic Scottish accents can, at times, be a bit difficult to understand, all conversations are clear.

No imperfections mar this high-quality track. Despite a smorgasbord of sonic elements competing for attention, distortion is never an issue, and no break-ups or drop-outs, hiss or surface noise ever crop up. Once again, Pixar comes through with a terrific mix that adds body and texture to an involving story.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Most of the supplements are high-def exclusives (see below), but a few are shared between the Blu-ray and DVD editions.

  • Audio Commentary – Director Mark Andrews, co-director Steve Purcell, editor Nick Smith, and story supervisor Brian Larsen sit down for a lively commentary that allows us to see inside the creative minds of the filmmakers. From an abandoned alternate opening and a homage to 'The Sound of Music' to character insights and scene analyses, the quartet shares a wealth of interesting information in an easygoing, accessible style. They talk about, among other things, adding fresh elements to stereotypical figures, such as princesses and witches, various concepts that never materialized, balancing comedy and dramatic intensity, managing the movie's pace, and the incredible amount of trial and error that go into making an animated film. Kids may find the discussion a bit dull, but adults, especially animation fans, will find this commentary a worthwhile time investment.
  • Pixar Short Film: 'La Luna' (HD, 7 minutes) – This whimsical, magical tale of a young boy who climbs up to the moon with his father and grandpa exudes a subtle sense of wonder and is filled with beautiful imagery.
  • Pixar Short Film: 'The Legend of Mor'du' (HD, 7 minutes) – A cautionary fable about the pitfalls of jealousy, ambition, and forsaking one's family, this dark tale ties nicely into the plot and themes of 'Brave' as it charts the development of the movie's scariest villain.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

A cavalcade of extras, spread across two discs, provide 'Brave' fans with a wealth of fascinating material to enhance their viewing experience.

Disc One

  • Featurette: "Brave Old World" (HD, 13 minutes) – This engaging piece chronicles the production team's research trip to Scotland and how the participants gained a greater understanding of the Scottish landscape, lifestyle, and culture by interacting with the people, touring castles, and communing with nature. We also see how they translated their experiences into the animated environment.
  • Featurette: "Merida & Elinor" (HD, 8 minutes) – The mother-daughter relationship - the conflicts that tear Merida and Elinor apart and how they resolve their differences - is explored in this absorbing featurette that also addresses the physical and emotional development of the characters and such challenging technical issues as Merida's wild, curly hair and the pair's elaborate costumes.
  • Featurette: "Bears" (HD, 6 minutes) – Here we learn how the artists maintained physical realism while reflecting underlying human characteristics in their design of the film's bears, and how they constructed the monster bear, Mor'du.
  • Featurette: "Brawl in the Hall" (HD, 5 minutes) – Raw footage, sketches, and frame-by-frame clips show the development and philosophy behind the fight scenes in the film. We also see the Pixar creative team rehearsing and choreographing the battles outside their offices.
  • Featurette: "Wonder Moss" (HD, 3 minutes) – Math is an important factor in the production of any Pixar film, and this brief featurette shows us how it's used to make moss and other natural elements look varied and realistic.
  • Featurette: "Magic" (HD, 7 minutes) – An interesting look at how the producers incorporated bits of Scottish legend, such as the will-o'-the-wisps, and other forms of fairy tale magic into the film without disrupting its modern frame of mind.
  • Featurette: "Clan Pixar" (HD, 5 minutes) – An insider's look at how Pixar employees blew off steam during the production of 'Brave' by indulging in Scottish activities - eating haggis, wearing kilts, and engaging in nerf warfare. Boy, does Pixar look like a fun place to work!
  • Featurette: "Once Upon a Scene" (HD, 8 minutes) – More than 100 sequences were mounted and deleted during the 'Brave' production process for various reasons, and this featurette, through rough sketch animation, allows us to see some of the alternate openings, character intros, and abandoned concepts (such as a comic relief crow for the witch and a romantic crush for Merida) that didn't make it into the finished film.
  • Extended Scenes (HD, 13 minutes) – Four extended scenes - "Meet the Lords," "Triplets' Distraction," "The Ruins," and "Blockade" - are introduced by co-director Mark Andrews, who also divulges the reasons behind the final editing decisions. A clever scissors icon appears in the lower right corner of the screen to denote the material that was cut prior to the movie's release.
  • Sneak Peeks (HD) – Trailers for 'Monsters University,' 'Planes,' 'Peter Pan: Diamond Edition,' and 'Finding Nemo' are included, as well as promos for Disney Movie Rewards, Disney Adventures, the new Disney Junior series 'Sofia the First,' and the 'Brave' video game.

Disc Two

  • Alternate Opening (HD, 3 minutes) – Director Mark Andrews introduces an abandoned alternate opening that features Fergus encountering Mor'du and engaging in a violent battle.
  • Featurette: "Fallen Warriors" (HD, 2 minutes) – This montage of deleted shots and snippets celebrates the hard work that goes into even the tiniest sequences in an animated film.
  • Featurette: "Dirty Hairy People" (HD, 4 minutes) – This piece shows how the animators stayed true to the movie's time period with regard to personal hygiene and appearance. Rotted teeth, unkempt hair, and sullied clothing are a few of the challenges they faced in composing their subjects.
  • Featurette: "It Is English...Sort Of" (HD, 4 minutes) – This featurette showcases the numerous Scottish actors who lent their voice talents to 'Brave,' and examines the various dialects they employ, as well as some of the foreign Scottish words and phrases sprinkled throughout the film.
  • Featurette: "Angus" (HD, 3 minutes) – Animating a Clydesdale horse wasn't easy, and here we learn about the particulars of hair, movement, and body language - all vital components of Merida's horse that needed to be subtly but accurately conveyed to the audience.
  • Featurette: "The Tapestry" (HD, 4 minutes) – This piece shows us what went into animating this critical element of the 'Brave' story that symbolizes family unity and structure. Achieving the proper texture and movement of this object required a surprising amount of research and various trials.
  • Promotional Pieces (HD, 15 minutes) – A collection of five fun promos and three trailers (from the U.S., Japan, and Great Britain) comprise this section. "Feast Your Eyes" (4 minutes) is a clever, amusing, and visually dazzling sampler of 'Brave' characters and personalities; "Relics" (1 minute) introduces us to the lovable, bumbling, comedic trio that comes to court; "Clan Dun Broch" (1 minute) introduces us to Merida's family via a vigorous swordfight with her dad; "Launch" (30 seconds) shows us Merida's archery skills and the mischievious nature of her brothers; and "Flying Guts Theater" (1 minute) gives us the backstory of the courtship of Elinor and Fergus as acted out by their three boys.
  • Art Gallery (HD) – More than 470 images are spread across five galleries under the headings Characters (178 images), Color Keys (95 images), Development Art (96 images), Environments (65 images), and Graphics (37 images). Different viewing methods and bookmarking capabilities allow you to somewhat tailor the viewing experience to your personal preference.

Final Thoughts

Pixar shows its feminine side with its first princess movie, but 'Brave' is no shrinking violet. With as much muscle as its more masculine Pixar counterparts, this captivating portrait of a willful, free-thinking lass in 11th century Scotland combines action and mysticism with a relatable emotional core to produce a period piece that's refreshingly contemporary and utterly entertaining. And like all the Blu-rays in the Pixar canon, this disc shows off the film in the best possible light. A drop-dead gorgeous video transfer (that's even more mesmerizing in 3D), exceptional audio, and a wealth of supplements spread across two Blu-ray discs make 'Brave' a dazzling and memorable home theater experience. Unlike Merida's archery skills, the film may not always hit the bullseye, but this five-disc set sure does, and without question, it comes very highly recommended.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
  • 5-Disc Set

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.39:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround
  • English 2.0 Near Field Mix
  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround
  • English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
  • English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround
  • French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 Surround
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles

Supplements

  • Audio Commentary
  • "La Luna" Animated Short
  • Bonus Short: "The Legend of Mor'du"

Exclusive HD Content

  • Featurettes
  • Promotional Pieces
  • Art Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Extended Scenes
  • Alternate Opening

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List Price
$49.99
Amazon
$31.97 (36%)
3rd Party
$24.00
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»

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