A Brave Attempt to Recreate Scotland

With the Olympics now over and no longer filling our television screens 24/7 and the Edinburgh Tattoo and festival in full swing, there has been no better timing this week for Disney/Pixar to launch their new Scottish set animation, Brave.

Princess Merida - Brave
Princess Merida – Brave

I am a secret Pixar fan, so with the excuse of entertaining my young niece and nephew, I grabbed the kids and trundled down to our local cinema to watch it on the big screen.  As you would expect from Disney, the film was a solid fantasy adventure story with endearing characters and a good splash of humour – the kids were engrossed.  But having lived in Scotland for 3 years, what I was intrigued to see was how the look and feel of Scotland would be captured in their animation?

The remote and rugged landscapes of the Scottish Highlands have provided an ideal back-drop for storytellers throughout the ages but I was concerned that they might lose their appeal when converted in to animation.  I must say however that Brave didn’t disappoint.  It seems that capturing a genuine look and feel of Scotland was a labour of love for the production team and director Mark Andrews, who actually spent his honeymoon vacation in Scotland.  The animators made a number of visits to Scotland whilst working on the film to experience themselves the Scotland that they were to recreate and immerse themselves quite literally in the Scottish landscapes (reportedly rolling in heather and swimming in

Callanais Standing Stones - Isle of Lewis
Callanais Standing Stones – Isle of Lewis

Highland lochs!).  The result is some enchanting images and sequences which truly capture the colour, texture and atmosphere of the Scottish Highlands.

The film features a number of Scottish traditions and icons including Highland Games, tartan clad clan leaders, ancient castles and mysterious standing stones.  Whilst, it seems, none of the settings and backdrops are based on specific locations in Scotland you can see that the producers drew inspiration from some key landmarks they visited such as Dunottar Castle, Eilean Donan Castle and the Callanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis in the remote Scottish Islands.

The film impressed and the kids were entertained however it must be said that whilst the stunning animation of Disney is a good taster, there is really no substitute for coming and experiencing the enchanting landscapes of Scotland first-hand.

Olympics Fever!

As a rather self-deprecating nation, the Great British public had been looking forward to London 2012 with some cynicism and quite frequent grumbles regarding the cost of hosting the games in tough economic times.  It is quite safe to say however that all of that has now been forgotten as Great Britain have come down with an incurable case of Olympic Fever.

Whilst I have had mixed feedback from my friends and colleagues overseas regarding the opening ceremony, at home we were generally impressed with Danny Boyle’s vision of Britain through the ages taking viewers from the quaint Cotswolds countryside through the industrial revolution to the swinging sixties and popular culture of today.  And indeed, the Queen of England’s cameo role

Olympic Stadium during spectacular Opening Ceremony
Olympic Stadium during Opening Ceremony

(which she apparently nailed in one take) as parachuting bond-girl went down a treat both at home and abroad.

Since then however Britain has been glued to its television screens watching as the wealth of stories unravel and medals roll in for team GB.  Yesterday, or “super Saturday” as it has now been coined, saw a mini-climax with our best Olympic day since 1908, as the home nation won no fewer than 6 gold medals in one day!

I was lucky enough to have received tickets for a couple of events and got to visit the Olympic Park this week.  The park itself was stunning and the atmosphere was absolutely electric and the party atmosphere was apparent throughout the city which made the metropolis of London feel somewhat like an English Cotswolds village where everyone knows everyone.  The day was made all the more enjoyable by the volunteers or “games makers” who were always on hand to welcome visitors, assist and generally keep the crowd going.

Party Atmosphere at Beach Volleyball Even in Horseguards Parade
Party Atmosphere at Beach Volleyball Event in Horseguards Parade

The Princes William and Harry have been present at the Olympics all week, watching a range of events and leading the support for local competitors.  In an informal interview with BBC presenter Sue Barker they demonstrate their ease in the public eye with some good British banter and revealing that they were unaware of their grandmother, the Queen’s, role in the Games’ opening sequence.  If you can find the interview on youtube it is definitely worth a watch if only for William’s embarrassment about potentially being caught on the “kiss cam” with his wife and Harry quipping of the Queen that “Both of us were slightly surprised with our grandmother’s secret hobby of parachuting”.

As Britain looks forward to another week of breath-taking Olympic events and a potentially unprecedented haul of medals, we are unlikely to shake this case of Olympic Fever any time soon.