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Q&A: 'Brave' director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian

(Brock Brake for RedEye )
June 20, 2012|Matt Pais | RedEye movie critic

Given the chance to shoot a bow and arrow alongside “Brave” director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian, I completely humiliated them.

No, no I didn’t. The 43-year-old, Bay Area-based folks behind Pixar’s latest animated film—in which young princess/archery enthusiast Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) attempts to deflect her mother’s insistence that Merida marry whichever suitor wins her hand—fittingly outshot me by a mile at the Lincoln Park Archery Club.

The movie wasn’t such a snap; Andrews, Sarafian and the entire Pixar team worked ceaselessly to vividly depict an animated world that’s the most reality-based of the studio’s efforts.

“Any organics was the hardest element,” Andrews says. “We have a scene in the movie that takes place by a river, and the water in that thing took a year to do on its own.”

Of course, the studio behind classics like “Ratatouille” and “Toy Story 3” doesn’t believe in doing things the easy way. “I go down wrong roads like anybody and I make mistakes,” says Andrews, making his feature directorial debut with “Brave” after working on the stories for “The Incredibles,” “Ratatouille” and “Toy Story 3.” “But Pixar understands that that’s the process to getting something good. I don’t want to make a bulls-eye every time with every decision. I have to find out what I’m even shooting at so I have to make my mistakes. I just have to make ‘em often and I have to make ‘em fast to find out what direction the true answer is going to be.”

Andrews and Sarafian talked more about bringing the movie to the big screen.

Why do you think archery has become so popular in pop culture right now?
Mark Andrews: I think we go in and out of these cycles of it. It’s been around for a long time. It’s one of the first technologies besides fire that man actually made. It’s deeply rooted in mythos across the world. We have Diana the huntress, a bunch of the Greek gods have it, the Roman gods have it, Indian mythology, you have Ramayana, and to the samurai we always get that the sword is the soul of the samurai, but it was actually the bow before the sword. So it goes way, way, way, way back. It’s just an iconic, dynamic weapon that just takes a lot of skill and practice and focused attention to be able to do well.

How much more significant was the discovery of archery than fire?
MA: Huge, ‘cause then I don’t have to run and catch my prey. I can just spot it and kill it from afar. And then fire is essential ‘cause I don’t like raw.
Katherine Sarafian: You need to cook your prey.

I tried to cook my steak with a bow and arrow; it did not work.
MA: It does not work.
KS: It’s an excellent skewer for kabobs though.

How would Merida do in a competition against Katniss, Hawkeye or Robin Hood?
MA: She’d blow ‘em all away.
KS: She’s young and adventurous. She has the elements against her; she can’t just go take shelter in a nice, warm heated house or anything like that. She’s out in the elements.
MA: She doesn’t need mechanical contraptions on the end of her arrows to help make the shots. She’s younger than Hawkeye. Hawkeye’s what, in his 20s or something like that. She’s just getting into her prime. She’d take ‘em out.

And she doesn’t have humans trying to kill her.
KS: And she’s riding a horse a lot of the time.
MA: Shooting from horseback, it’s crazy.

People have talked about Pixar finally having a female lead character. Why do you think it took as much time as it did, and did that add to any pressure in helming the story?
MA: No, we can’t really be constrained by the [notion] of, “Here’s our first female protagonist.” Because then when we’re making the story it would become about that and not about the character, not about the story of who this young woman is and her role in life, that point of time when she’s transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, the dynamic tension between her mother wanting so much more for her, all the best but not giving her room to explore it herself. We focus at Pixar on the characters first and build from the ground up instead of marketing ideas or [that] now’s the right time to have our first female protagonist. It’s the right story at the right time and the right idea.

You did a research trip to Scotland and ate like the locals.
KS: Yep. Haggis haggis haggis.

How did that sit with you, and was there anything you weren’t up for trying?
MA: No. well, there are fish in milk. Kippers in milk. Which is a unique taste.

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