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Fun Facts: The Making of Brave

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When we go to see an animated movie and watch the characters perform on the big screen, we aren't really thinking about all the little details and the years and layers of work and effort that went into each little scene -- and that's just the way that filmmakers want it. They want audiences to be engrossed in the story and immersed in the world. But, we got to go behind-the-scenes with some of the artists who worked on Brave, and learn about some of the amazing details that translated a beautiful story set in Scotland to the big screen. Here are some fun facts about the making of the movie: (Click on photos for a larger image.)

1. Filmmakers's Trip to Scotland

To gain experiences, observations and reference material for the film, filmmakers actually traveled all over Scotland. Not only did the they get amazing ideas for the artistic components and setting of the movie, but they also had experiences that shaped the movie in ways they never would have imagined. Story artist Louis Gonzales related his favorite memory from the trip of a waitress who sang them a Gaelic lullaby. He said of the experience:
...It was just one of those moments that you can really remember, fondly remember in your life where it’s like, wow, that just--it’s burned in my mind, and I’ll never forget what that was like. That whole night, and how it smelled and how it felt.

2. Every Detail of a Character Reflects Her Personality

It's not by chance that Merida's hair is wild and unruly, while her mother's hair is very controlled and tightly formed. About Elinor's look, shading artist Tia related:
We’re trying to figure out how we can best emphasize Elinor’s personality visually... Steve and the character designer have created this elegant person. She’s definitely royal, but they gave her more weight at the bottom--she’s carrying the weight of the Kingdom on her shoulders...How can we find ways to show the control that she, you know, lives on? And so, we bound her hair in ribbon, tightly bound it. And we added these vertical shapes that was sort of emphasizing that weight again, that virtual nature.

3. Merida's Hair

Simulation supervisor Claudia Chung told us that Merida's hair contains about fifteen hundred hand-placed, sculpted curves. Each layer of hair has different colors, lengths and variations in stiffness. In order to create the hair, the artists had to actually create a computer curling iron that allowed changes in the size of the cylinder to create different looking curls. Claudia said:
The curls themselves are really tightly wound curls but the movement of her overall curl is nice and soft. And there's also these hairs that break away from her silhouette to show her wildness, her adventureness. And that's kind of the key look for Merida's hair that we had to hit when we designed her.

4. The inspiration for Merida's Hair

One Pixar female employee with naturally curly hair and a whole lot of people in wigs served as models for computer animators creating Merida's hair. They had to sort of recreate scenes to observe how curly hair flows around a hooded cloak, or blowing in the wind while the model shoots a bow and arrow. In this photo a willing Pixar artist poses in the wig as Claudia Chung observes how the hair should look.

5. Angus' Hair Was Even Harder than Merida's

About Angus the horse, Claudia told us:
Angus itself is actually must more complex. He has eight layers of groom but his layers aren't like Merida's layers which are layered on top of each other. His layers are the different types of hair he has on him. He has his tail, his mane, his fetlocks, he has belly fur and he has chin fur and they all have to move.
She revealed that "Angus has a hundred and eleven thousand curves that are hand placed on him. He's a big Clydesdale. And those grow out to about one point eight million curves to make up his full groom."

6. Scottish Tartan Plaid

You can't have a movie set in Scotland without the traditional kilts and Tartan plaid. Pictured here, artists take a look at how traditional Scottish garb hangs on the body. In the movie, like in Scottish history, different families wear differently colored patterns of plaid. You can see some of the plaid in this photo of the Scottish Lords in the movie.

7. To Animate a Dress, you Need a Pattern

Merida has over 22 costume changes in the movie. She has about five dresses, her cloak and accessories that combine differently to make 22 different looks. Fascinatingly, computer graphics artists have to actually create patterns, just as if the dress was going to be sewn, so that the dresses look right when animated. Here is a photo of a dress pattern for one of the dresses in the movie.

8. Shopping for Ideas

Coolest job ever. Shading art director Tia Kratter related that as part of her job on the movie, she had to go shopping for different textiles and various items to help them create reference material for the computer artists. Tia related that she spent a lot of time at the beginning of the film looking at fabric and pelts. She then does various things to the fabric, including painting it, to get the right effect. Picture here, pearls and gems served as inspiration for Merida's formal gown.

9. Different Types of Art

Production designer Steve Pilcher told us that there are three art directors that worked on the movie: Character Art Director, Sets Art Director, and Shader Art Director. Along with Steve, these artists work as a team to create the perfect look and feel of the film. The process begins with a general concept and some black and white drawings. The artists then move into other mediums such as watercolors and other paints to explore different visual effects. Not only do the artists come up with the visual ideas, though, they also come up with story ideas as well.

10. First Step - Story Boards

when making an animated movie, filmmakers start with story boards, which are drawings that show the progression of the story. Each story board represents a scene in the movie. Here, story artist Louis Gonzales goes over the story with director Mark Andrews. You can see the drawings on the board in the background. These drawings make it easy for filmmakers to flesh out the story and change things around before the expensive animation process begins.
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