Oscar night will soon be upon us (Sunday, February 24) and this past Thursday, February 21 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California – a special Oscar Celebrates Animated Features event took place.
Hosted by actor Rob Riggle, each director from the five Oscar-nominated Feature Animated Films was given a one-on-one Q&A, afterwards, they were all invited back on stage for a group discussion (time-mark 1:00:50).
As always, Director Mark Andrews was as entertaining and engaging as he was the first on stage, where he gave the audience insight into the Oscar-nominated film Brave. Andrews mentioned some of his own personal experiences that he used to break down that hierarchical barrier between the characters’ relationships in the film.
One of our readers, Lisette, happened to be in attendance and was kind enough to share her thoughts of the event and the ever-charasmatic Mark Andrews:
My mother and I had the fortune of seeing Mark Andrews at the Oscar Celebrates Animated Features event (Brenda Chapman was absent, due to her feeling ill.). As you all know, Brave is one of the great nominees for the Animated Feature Film Award, and for good reason. With a theme for family, understanding, and for following your heart, Brave is an excellent contender for the award. But hearing the inspiration to what began the film and very well created it made it all the more special.
As it would turn out, Merida’s family in Brave was greatly inspired by Mark Andrew’s and Brenda Chapman’s own family. It began with Brenda wondering how her six-year-old daughter would be when she’d become a teenager, seeing how she’s already strong-willed despite her young age. The story and idea grew from there about a young girl and her relationship with her mother. Mark’s family greatly influenced the film as well.
Mark himself claimed to be like the king and Merida’s father, Fergus, and his wife to be like the queen and Merida’s mother, Elinor. And as it would turn out, he has one daughter and three sons, Just like Merida and her family. Although unintentional, he was able to take from his own experiences and put them in the film. Even his sons played a role in giving life to Merida’s young siblings. According to Mark, one day when his daughter was being scolded by him, she claimed it to be the brothers’ fault. As she was being sent to her room, she had said, “They get away with murder.”Which ended up contributing to the triplet’s devious but playful behavior.
What contributed the most, however, was perhaps the arguments between his wife and daughter, saying the very things that Elinor and Merida tell each other in the film, such as, “Why won’t you just listen?” or, “If you could just try to see what I do, I do out of love.” These lines made it into the movie, and also into a vital scene in the between Merida and her mother.
In the scene, Merida and Elinor have an argument without actually speaking to each other. The storyboard team and Mark agreed that this would be an important scene to signify the relationship between Merida and Elinor, and all of the unsaid things that create a tension and gap between them. However, what they at first could not agree on, was how it would be done. As stated by one of the storyboard artists, “It’s not going to work! If Merida and her mother talk to each other, then it’s the end of the movie!”
Which then brought a revelation to Mark as he replied, “Then let’s have them talk it out… Without them actually talking it out.” According to Mark, it was silent for a moment before they all unanimously agreed to the idea. It was a rare sight, to see all eleven of the storyboard artists nod their heads in agreement at once. They all agreed that the answer to their dilemma was to create that wonderful and authentic scene between Merida and her mother. The scene was followed by another vital scene to the movie, where Elinor had the opportunity to tell Merida what she wanted to say, but instead stayed silent and let the moment slip away. As, as Mark mentioned, would at times happen between his own daughter and wife.
Another important factor that Mark mentioned in which he included into the movie from his own personal experience, is having playtime with his children. He mentioned how important playing with your children is, because that’s the time you truly bond with your children. The scene in the beginning of the film where Merida is playing with Elinor and Fergus was greatly influenced by Mark’s opinion about playtime.
It’s during that time that the roles of father, mother, and child are forgotten, and you’re all equals creating memories and bonds together. It’s a time where you’re interacting as human to human, and you share a special connection with each other. Playing together is a great equalizer that brings family together, rather than when constantly assuming the role as a parent or child. Which brings about another vital scene in the movie, where Merida and her mother are playing together in the river; sharing, creating, and reviving a bond they thought was lost to them years ago.
Mark himself would go home and play with legos with his children, or yell out “Wrestling time!” which, as he put it, basically means, “dog-pile on dad.” A great deal of Fergus can be seen in Mark Andrews, and it’s clear that his family is important to him. His love for his family is truly reflected into the movie, making the love and bonds between Merida and her family seem truly authentic and all the more special.
It’s clear that the love both directors have for their families were reflected inside the movie, Brave. What makes the movie so special, after all, is the authentic love Merida and her family have for each other; which was given to them by the directors’ own love for their own family. As Mark Andrews spoke, it was understood that Brave is more than simply a movie about a rebellious teenage girl. It’s about family trials, growing up together, and never forgetting about the true essence of what makes you a family. It’s the bonds and memories you’ve created over the years, and the common love you share for one another because when it comes down to it, that’s all the common ground you need along with an open ear and heart.
It was truly enjoyable watching Mark Andrews being interviewed. It was amusing to see his similarities to Fergus, and it’s easy to see how Fergus came to be the way he is in the movie. Hearing Mark speak about the inspirations behind Brave added more perspective to the already enjoyable and heartfelt movie. He added more depth to it, and the sincerity of the story and feelings it held became more clear. Every experience leads to a story, and his own led to a Oscar Nominee for Best Animated Feature.
Thank you again Lisette for sharing your experience with us – it sounds like it was a wonderful fun-filled evening.
Another great video posted by Oscars is the Brave: Academy Conversations with Producer Katherine Sarafian, Director Mark Andrews, Film Editor Nicholas C. Smith, A.C.E, Shading Art Director Tia Kratter, and Director of Photography (lighting) Danielle Feinberg. This video was originally posted in June 2012 (back when Andrews still had his long flowing locks of hair).