Brave: Five Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition – Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD + Digital Copy (Blu-ray Review)

Since ancient times, stories of epic battles and mystical legends have been passed through the generations across the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. From Disney and Pixar, a new tale joins the lore when the courageous Merida (voice of Kelly Macdonald) confronts tradition and challenges destiny to change her fate.  Brave follows the heroic journey of Merida, a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane).  Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish.  The ensuing peril forces Merida to harness all of her skills and resources – including her clever and mischievous triplet brothers – to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late, discovering the meaning of true bravery.  Directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, Brave is a grand adventure full of heart, memorable characters and signature Pixar humor that audiences of all ages around the world have come to eagerly expect.


Pixar has had an almost unblemished record with only a few missteps which normally would have been more favorably received if the movies had been be released by anyone else but Pixar.  Their stellar reputation has become a double-edged sword for them which is frankly somewhat unfair even if it is understandable.  Brave is another example of a Pixar release that suffered from the high expectations place on it thanks to the studios’ earlier triumphs. The movie is funny and gorgeous to look at, but the story is thin and one that we’ve seen many other times in other movies, some of them even from Disney itself.

Set in ancient Scotland, this tale revolves around the wild maned princess Merida (Kelly Macdonald), whose exuberance for life and adventure is constantly kept in check by her mother Elinor (Emma Thompson) and the expectations place upon her.  We watch Merida grow up through flashbacks and during one of them, we see her receive a bow and arrow from her father Fergus (Billy Connolly), much to her mother’s dismay.  When the family is attacked by a massive bear named Mor’du, Elinor and Merida escape to safety while Fergus battled the bear and ended up losing a leg to it in the process.  Not that that fact seems to bother Fergus in the least, in fact he later proclaims that part to be his favorite part of his oft-repeated tale of the battle.  That doesn’t mean he’s forgiven the bear though since he has vowed revenge as soon as the bear makes another appearance.

Time passes with no sign of Mor’du and eventually Fergus and Elinor decide to invite the other clans to join them to find a spouse for Meridia which makes her very unhappy which is understandable considering the choices she’s offered.  The sons from Lords Macintosh (Craig Ferguson), MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), and Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane) aren’t the brightest, best behaved, or talented options to pick from which only make it even more infuriating to the independent Merida.  Merida learns that the winner of the competition of her choice will be the one to win her hand, Merida selects archery for the tournament and she competes for her own hand which makes her mother furious especially when Merida wins.  The two have a serious argument with neither listening to the other and Merida destroys part of a sewn tapestry that features their family while Elinor throws Merida’s bow into a fire.

In tears, Merida rides away on her horse Angus deep into the forest to escape her mother until she sees some Will O’ the Wisps flickering a trail to a cottage.  Entering the cottage, Merida quickly realizes that the occupant isn’t just the woodcarver that she claims to be, but that she’s also a witch.  Merida offers to buy all of the carved wood items in the shop in exchange for  a spell that will change her fate.  To do so, she will need to change her mother and Merida is given a tart to feed her mother that contains the magic spell.  When Elinor eats the tart, she immediately feels sick but that’s only the beginning as a bigger change is about to happen to her that will have serious ramifications for the family and put them all at risk.

I don’t want to spoil the rest of the movie but suffice it to say that Merida and her mother are put into a situation where they both are given the chance to listen to each other and learn where the other is coming from.  Merida realizes that she’s been very selfish while Elinor sees how much pressure and responsibility she’s placed on Merida’s shoulders over the years.  The movie also shows how even a troubled family can come together to help each other overcome the many challenges that arise.  Like most fairy tales, this one ends on a happy note with everyone learning some valuable lessons and becoming closer to another by surmounting their difficulties together.

Originally conceived as “The Bear and the Bow”, this movie was to herald a couple of firsts for Pixar – it would be the first fairy tale done by Pixar and it would also mark the first time one of their movies was directed by a woman, in this case by Brenda Chapman.  When Chapman was replaced by Mark Andrews due to “creative differences”, the movie itself also evolved into what eventually became Brave.  With an emphasis on a strong female lead, a lot of people believed the movie would stand apart from earlier releases like Tangled (originally title Rapunzel before it was changed to make it more enticing to guys), as Merida wouldn’t be a co-lead, but the actual lead character that the story revolves around.

I enjoyed the film a lot even though the last act of the movie handicaps what worked earlier in the movie.  What happens to Elinor feels like it’s from a different movie and changes the movie’s dynamics.  While it doesn’t completely derail the movie, it just doesn’t work and it hurts the movie.  The first half of the movie is filled with a lot of humor that’s a mix of slapstick , sight gags, and some great line readings from the cast.  Merida’s three young avaricious brothers also add a lot of fun to the movie too.  This movie could have been an out and out comedy if they hadn’t tacked on the mystical ending to it which doesn’t fit.

Seeing Pixar/Disney attempt to take one of their princess stories a new direction was exciting but unfortunately, despite the film’s strong start, by the last act, the movie reverses back to a traditional Disney movie princess movie that fits in perfectly with earlier Disney classics like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Even the whole concept of a witch offering some magic that will have a less than desirable effect is straight out of Snow White.  With Pixar’s mandate for crafting compelling stories, I’m not sure what happened this time.  The film feels disjointed which perhaps makes sense due to the changing of directors but those kind of changes have happened before at Pixar with no discernible ill effects.


2D Video                      3D Video  

Given Disney/Pixar’s recent record with stellar video transfers to Blu-ray, I always have high expectations for their releases and this one is even surpasses their usual high quality.  This transfer may very well be their finest effort and the 3D transfer is their best one so far.  This film feels more like a DreamWorks movie than a Pixar release with one exception – the lush visuals.  The 3D transfer for this movie looks fantastic and the characters look simply amazing. Merida’s cascading red curly locks seem like a character in itself and it’s the most realistic hair that I’ve seen rendered.  The wilds of Scotland also look fantastic as does the rest of the production design.  The colors are vibrant and the variety of different hues on screen is very impressive and beautiful.  Black levels are pitch black and solid and there’s no sign of any blemish or digital defect to be found.  Detail is jaw-droppingly perfect and you will be shocked at just how much you can see onscreen compared to its theatrical run.  Every bit of texture, hair, character details and more look incredible and this is one of those times that the movie looks better at home on Blu-ray.

The 3D transfer is just as good and so far, it’s the best 3D Blu-ray I’ve seen this year and the best Disney one as well. This movie is perfectly suited for 3D with all of its castle hallways and its Scottish environment that always looks like there’s something mysterious just over the hill.  The depth added is shockingly good and it seems to pull the viewer right into the action.  The extra dimensionality is also welcome and it does wonders for Merida’s wild mane of hair and more.   It’s those kind of  touches that will remind the viewer that this is a Pixar movie even if the story does not. I’m happy to say that I have a new demo disc to show off just how good a 3D Blu-ray can look.


As if all of that video awesomeness wasn’t enough, Brave’s Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround mix is just as stupendous as the picture quality.  From start to finish, this is an incredible lossless mix and one of the best that I’ve heard.  This powerhouse mix knows when to keep it low and when to blow the roof off.  The dialogue is clear and clean while the rear speakers deliver some extremely accurate ambiance and sound effects that flow around the room along with the action.  The LFE channel is powerful indeed, especially when the film allows it to show what it can do.  Every aspect of this mix is perfection itself and fans will be pleased to hear just how well this lossless mix improves the overall experience.


The extras included here are all good and interesting  and I liked that even the 3D disc has something to offer which it usually doesn’t.


The 3D Disc includes:

  • La Luna –  A cute Oscar-nominated cartoon that shows an Italian family performing their unlikely job of taking care of the moon.
  • 3D Trailers – It’s nice to see 3D trailers for Monster University, Finding Nemo 3D, and Planes.


Blu-ray Disc 1 (Feature film and bonus features):

  • Audio Commentary – An entertaining commentary with directors Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell, story supervisor Brian Larsen, and editor Nick Smith.  I was interested in hearing whether or not there would be any mention of original director Brenda Chapman but she’s barely mentioned at all.  In fact, Andrews does most of the talking but his energetic personality is appealing.
  • The Legend of Mor’du  – This is another short cartoon that shows in more detail than the movie how the evil black bear Mor’du came into being.  Only some of it is in CGI while the rest of the animation reminded me of a storybook app.  Honestly, I think the movie pretty much covered this already.
  • La Luna –  A cute Oscar-nominated cartoon that shows an Italian family performing their unlikely job of taking care of the moon.
  • Brave Old World – A look a the production teams’ trip to Scotland for research for the film.  We see a lot of what inspired the movie including the scenery, plants, trees, moss, castles, and more.  Original director Brenda Chapman plays a big part in this extra and the following one.
  • Merida & Elinor – This extra focuses on the mother-daughter relationship in the movie that includes comments from actresses Kelly Macdonald and Emma Thompson as well as original director Brenda Chapman.
  • Bears – A look at the differences between Mor’du and a transformed bear.
  • Brawl in the Hall – The second director Mark Andrews talks about how he staged the fight scene and how he tried to choreograph every participant differently.
  • Wonder Moss – This extra focuses on how mathematics were used to create the moss in the movie and that realization finally ended any idea that I would be able to be a Pixar artist.
  • Magic – We learn how the will-o’-the-wisps were created and evolved into the fiery creatures used in the film.
  • Clan Pixar – Here’s another look at how cool it is to work at Pixar.  They mix fun in with their work which involved wearing kilts, games, and for some – eating haggis.
  • Once Upon a Scene  – A collection of unfinished scenes that were cut from the movie at different point during the production.  They include an alternate opening scene among others.
  • Extended scenes  –  We get four extended scenes that include “Meet the Lords,” “Triplets’ Distraction,” “The Ruins” and “Blockade.”  None of them would have added that much to the final movie.
  • Trailers for Peter Pan, Monsters University, and Planes.


Blu-ray Bonus Disc 2 contains the following extras:

  • The Alternate Opening of the Movie – Another scene that could have been is shown in its unfinished state that shows the initial confrontation between Fergus and Mor’du.
  • Fallen Warriors – A short look at the scenes that were fully animated but cut any way.
  • Dirty, Hairy People – A brief look at making the Scots in the movie look believably grubby for that time period.
  • It Is English…Sort Of – An extra devoted to the Scottish brogue and its indecipherability.
  • Angus  – An extra devoted to Merida’s horse Angus.  It lasts a couple of minutes.
  • The Tapestry – A look at how the integral tapestry was created and how each string of it was animated and how it all came together.
  • Promotions – There’s five fully animated CGI teaser promotional sequences starring characters from the movie, three theatrical trailers (one from the U.S., one from Japan, and the last one is from the United Kingdom).
  • Interactive Art Galleries  – Hundreds of images are broken into five categories:  “Characters,” “Color Keys,” “Development Art,” “Environments” and “Graphics.”
  • DVD Copy
  • Digital Copy


While I wish the movie had a better story and less of a disjointed feeling, there’s no denying how gorgeous the animation for the movie is or how fantastic it looks and sounds on Blu-ray!  This is a fully loaded Blu-ray and there’s no weak area at all.  Both transfers look spectacular and the 3D transfer may be the best 3D transfer I’ve ever seen. The extras are also plentiful and once again Disney has made another one of their offerings difficult to pass up! This is highly recommended to both Disney/Pixar fans and for those of you that have 3D capable televisions and Blu-ray players!

Order your copy of Brave today!


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