Japanese trailer for Pixar’s Brave has a Mononoke vibe

ok, this is just stunning, and completely changes my assessment of Pixar’s new film Brave, in both plot and in tone:

My earlier complaint that Brave was going to be just another Princess movie was taken up by Erik over at Forbes, who rightly pointed out that there doesn’t seem to be any love interest in the movie, and the trailer above confirms that the plot is definitely not a standard Disney formula.

In fact, as Nordling at AICN remarks, it’s actually got a much more Miyazaki vibe. Maybe it’s all a matter of the trailer editing process, the different emphasis for Japanese vs American audiences, and choice of music. But the movie looks more like Princess Mononoke or the (non-Miyakazi, but Miyazaki-esque) Secret of Kells.

There was never a chance i wouldn’t faithfully see Brave just like I see everything by Pixar, but the trailer above has me substantially mollified. Maybe the earlier trailer was just aimed at the Disney demographic that expects the formulaic plot, as a kind of lure. There’s a reason that appreciation of anime hasn’t gone mainstream in the US and why Ponyo didn’t garner the respect it should have.

To return to Erik’s response to my earlier post though, he’s right that Brave is a Pixar film more than a Disney one. This is a 3D animation film with Lasseter et al running the show, not something out of the old animation studios (though I was quite impressed with Princess and the Frog). My complaints centered on the Disney Princess franchise, of which Rapunzel from Tangled is the sole 3D member – the rest are all pure animation. Thematically, Rapunzel fits – her old dream of seeing the lantern lights fulfilled, her new dream is her man, as per her own literal confession. And the theme of escape is there, which the first trailer from Brave certainly overplayed.

The key complaint I have though remains, and Erik’s post doesn’t really address it. Where are the male role models for young boys? In UP, the main characters are an old man desperate for sentiment and loss, and a young kid who’s basically a round goofball. The animal sidekicks have more personality than the boy does. Moving, yes. Beautiful, yes. But it doesn’t address the void I perceive (though still, a masterpiece on its own merits, in its own category).

Erik goes on to list other counter-examples:

Toy Story was about friendship rather than romantic love; Finding Nemo explored the relationship between father and son; The Incredibles dealt with the sometimes-rocky travails of having a family, and of finding great things even in the mundane; Monsters Inc. was about friendship in the workplace and the fear of the other

All true, but again, none of these provided a role model for a young boy dreaming of adventure and finding his place in the world. These are all movies about adult relationships and family, they look inward rather than interact with the outer world.

Maybe I’m not articulating what I am looking for properly.. I certainly am NOT asking for more testosterone or railing against a proliferation of wimposity or anything like that. What I want in a nutshell is to see characters in Disney animation that a boy can relate to with the same part of the brain that I as an adult relate to when I see a character like John Crighton, or Han Solo, or Samwise Gamgee. These archetypes appear in other media, there’s no shortage in our culture of them, but they don’t seem to have penetrated children’s animation yet.

Brave goes where every Disney film has gone before

I’m an unabashed fan of mahou shojou as a genre in anime, but in American animation the trope of the oppressed girl who takes control of her own destiny has been done to death:

Ariel: follows her heart for true love despite overbearing father (and saves the day)
Belle: follows her heart for true love despite overbearing society (and lifts the curse)
Jasmine: follows her heart for true love despite overbearing law (and kicks some ass)
Pocahontas: follows her heart to save her people despite overbearing Clash of Civilizations (and gets the guy)
Mulan: follows her heart to save China despite overbearing culture (and gets the guy)

meanwhile, how do the Boys of Disney/Pixar fare?

Aladdin: lies about who he is, chases the girl, marries into royalty
Nemo: gets lost

Monsters Inc. and the Toy Story franchises meanwhile aren’t about boys at all – every character is basically an adult. It’s like a fantasy analogue to The Office.

The only two recent Disney stories with any real meaningful characters in them for boys are in Lion King and Brother Bear, and in both cases these are more about society and responsibility rather than any message about finding your own path. Cars doesn’t count, because it’s not about an ordinary “boy” it’s about Michael Freakin’ Jordan (note to storytellers: a superstar celebrity athlete has advantages that regular boys do not).

Ok, Ratatouille was sort of about that, but since it revolved around RATS and FOOD the message was kind of lost, especially since the boy in question had a rat (literally) pulling his strings (literally). And the boy in The Incredibles did have to come to terms with being Super but he had like 5 minutes of screen time, half of which was the admittedly awesome running-on-water-chuckle-in-amazement bit. Pinocchio was about the last movie from Disney that I can think of that had any kind of self-reliance and follow-dreams message, but that was decades ago.

And now we have Brave, Disney/Pixar’s latest:

The funny thing is that there’s all this antipathy towards Disney’s treatment of girls as forcing them into some kind of unhealthy self-image. I don’t see it at all, and believe me as the father of two young girls I am hyper-sensitive to it.

I’d just like to see a movie from Disney/Pixar for once where the main character is a young boy, who follows his heart and defies his own society and culture, and achieves something more than just mere personal happiness, but actually makes a difference.

The many worlds of Monsters, Inc

In Monsters, Inc, the blooper reel clearly shows that the movie was a movie, with outtakes by everyone including Randall indicating that they were just playing roles. But included in the blooper reel is the Company Play, titled “Put That Thing Back Where It Came From” and that seems to be in a separate continuity than the bloopers. So the question is, it is a silly play put on by the cast of Monsters Inc in “real life” or is it actually part of the movie continuity, occurring sometime after the events of the film?

No, this is probably not even remotely important to anyone besides me. And maybe Brian. This is what pops in my head while trying to get my youngest to drink her milk while playing the blooper reel of Monsters, Inc as a distraction.