LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pixar has brought to life cars, fish, rats and monsters, but "Brave" is the animated studio's first film built around a feisty female.
"Brave", opening in U.S. theaters on Friday, is the tale of a young, red-headed Scottish archer called Merida who decides to defy her mother, break with tradition and do her own thing.
When a witch grants Merida an ill-fated wish and turns her mother into a bear, the girl must gather all her resources to bring her family back together.
Merida, voiced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald, is no Disney-style princess looking for a prince charming, but a teen "stuck between adolescence and adulthood", co-director Mark Andrews said.
"One of the themes of 'Brave' is following our fate," Andrews told reporters. "Do we have control over our destinies? We can have control over our own destiny if we're brave enough to look inside ourselves and find out what that really is."
During its 17-year history making films, Pixar, a unit of Walt Disney Co, has become Hollywood's most reliable studio. Starting with "Toy Story" in 1995, its 12 films have generated more than $7.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales, according to Hollywood.com.
With Merida figurines, watches and other merchandise already on sale, industry tracking suggests "Brave" will open with a healthy $55 million to $60 million in domestic ticket sales, despite a scarier feel than usual and a PG rating.
Producer Katherine Sarafian said the creative team was inspired by Grimms' fairy tales "where life's not easy. There's hard stuff that's going to happen."
"It is a little bit more dark and intense. But we didn't want to shy away from that. We wanted to show real consequences to (Merida's) actions," Sarafian said.
"Brave" also is the first time that the movie studio has gone back in time, presenting new challenges for computer-generated animation.
"We were going to an ancient time period. Pixar has never done that before," Sarafian said.
"Teeth were crooked, there's something growing on everything, castles are run down - there are no clean, sharp surfaces and the computer likes clean, sharp, surfaces. So this was completely as difficult as you can make things for our technology teams," she said.
Eight years in the making, "Brave" involved two research trips to Scotland where Sarafian said the creative team studied Celtic mythology, "touched everything, we stole heather, we smelled the smells, looked at the skies, talked to locals and heard the rhythm of the language".
Pixar also made sure to get the accents right. The cast includes Scottish actor Billy Connolly, talk show host Craig Ferguson and "Harry Potter" star Robbie Coltrane. Britons Emma Thompson and Julie Walters round out the cast as Merida's mother and the witch, respectively.
(Additional reporting by Ron Grover; Editing by Jill Serjeant and Dale Hudson)