Wow: Pixar’s “Brave” Went Through So Many Rewrites, It Was Originally Named “Coward”
Pixar Animation is known far and wide as an entertainment titan, a veritable wonder emporium staffed with only the finest Magoriums. But in order to achieve that stellar reputation for quality family filmmaking, their creative process is more grueling than any other studio. Each movie goes through extensive rewrites, sometimes throwing out entire characters and scripts, and it was no different with their 2012 hit Brave.
Directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman confirmed as much when we recently started a laundromat for directors only and they happened to walk in, needing to do a giant load of whites.
“Originally, we wanted to make a film about the most stupid idiot girl in the world, just afraid of everything,” Chapman said, adding too much bleach to the mix. “It was going to be Pixar’s first truly scared lead character, and it was going to be called Coward.”
Pixar likes to challenge themselves with a new breakthrough in animation for each film; having tackled fur in Monsters, Inc. and water in Finding Nemo, the company wanted to build on the work they had done animating the fearful, neurotic Rex in Toy Story, taking it to the next level with a lead character who would be easily 10 times as spookable.
“Steve Jobs chose to die right when we mentioned the whole ‘10 times more scared than Rex’ thing,” Andrews reminisced, setting the dry time to 1 hour and 45 minutes. “He stood up at his end of the boardroom table and said ‘Not in my lifetime, or the next, will Rex’s jangling nerves ever be topped. He is the platonic ideal of spookable characters. The humble earthworm’s scootch, the trickle of a summertime creek, the flutter of gossamer wings — all these things shake Rex to the very core. You can taste the lizard boy’s fear. His sweat is cinematic nectar. To craft this flame-haired, moron chicken woman is to defy God. I’m going to die now, here goes my olly.’ And he skateboarded clean out of the boardroom without ollying or doing a pop shove-it. Steve always thought…”
Andrews trailed off, chuckling to himself as he stared out the window of the laundromat, folding a crisp beach towel. A glint in his eyes formed as he thought of his old friend, and continued. “Steve always thought a skateboard was called an ‘olly.’ No one ever told him otherwise. He’d just skateboard down the halls, screaming about either Rex or the iPod Nano, going in a straight line. And that, to him, was ‘ollying.’”
“In some ways, he was the best Magorium of us all.”
Jobs was right, as it turned out: Pixar’s render farm had such a difficult time animating a character even 1.5 times as jittery as Rex that they had to start from scratch! Here are some of the other changes that Coward went through on the way to becoming Brave:
- Merida’s original name was McDreamy for 8 drafts
- Changed location from the Watergate Hotel to Scotland, when research eventually bore out that there hadn’t been princesses in the Watergate for centuries
- Instead of fighting for Merida’s hand in marriage, the visiting suitors from each nearby clan were competing for a rose gold iPod Nano
- Early montages of Merida riding her horse through the forest were set to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out For Summer” until children objected
- Nobody gave a shit about Scotland until the 10th draft
- Every character was introduced as being in their mid-30’s, and “a sharpie, a bunco, a real flim-flammer. Watch out for this one.” Animators protested over the difficulty of having to specially animate every single character as someone to watch out for
- The witch’s spells were originally the words “Zarm Nosaj” over and over until someone caught that this was just “Jason Mraz” backwards; the directors were then forced to look up real Gaelic incantations
- Instead of a bear, Merida’s mother was turned into 3-dimensional Homer Simpson from the “Treehouse of Horror” episode where Homer enters a computer graphics landscape — this did not affect the plot or dialogue at all
- Until the final draft, the ending of the film always consisted of Merida shaking her fist at the sky and screaming about Rex