|First appearance||Brave (2012)|
|Created by||Brenda Chapman|
|Title||Princess of DunBroch|
|Family||King Fergus (father)|
Queen Elinor (mother)
Princes Harris, Hubert and Hamish (younger brothers)
Princess Merida of DunBroch (Scottish Gaelic: Mèrida) is the main protagonist of the 2012 Disney/Pixar film Brave (2012). Merida was added to the Disney Princess line-up as the 11th princess, on May 11, 2013, becoming the first Disney Princess to be created by Pixar. Merida is also the only Scottish member of the Disney Princess line-up and the first to be single.
The brainchild of original director, Brenda Chapman, Merida is Pixar's first female lead. Overall Merida has received good reports from critics, some saying she is "a breath of fresh air among the princesses, and from a culture Disney has not yet explored. She is a good role model for girls who want to get out there and do it. Merida is certainly no damsel in distress and isn't haughty; she is torn between doing what's expected of her and following her heart. The people of Scotland have to accept Merida."
Origins and concept
Princess Merida is aged 16 daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor, who rule their Scottish kingdom. Queen Elinor's traditional expectations that Merida takes a husband and become a proper royal lady come into conflict with the single-minded and impetuous Merida's insistence that she controls her own destiny. Merida has greatly perfected her skill in archery and is one of the most skilled archers in the kingdom. She is also incredibly skilled in spears, sword-fighting and racing across the countryside on Angus, her Clydesdale horse. Despite her outgoing, forceful personality, Merida does have a softness of heart, particularly when it comes to her younger triplet brothers, Harris, Hubert and Hamish. She is pampered but in no way spoiled, and even though she frequently argues with her mother, Merida does love her parents.
The Kingdom of DunBroch
The DunBroch, MacGuffin, Macintosh, and Dingwall clans were once enemies locked in constant war. When Roman soldiers and Northern invaders threatened them from the seas, the four clans joined together under the sword of Fergus to defend their lands. The clans succeeded in protecting their lands from the invaders and formed the Kingdom of DunBroch. The clan leaders of Macintosh, MacGuffin and Dingwall became their feudal lordships of the kingdom; Fergus has crowned their king and Elinor their queen.
Merida is voiced by actress Kelly Macdonald. Macdonald was hired to replace Reese Witherspoon, the actress originally cast in the role. Two of the songs in the movie, "Touch the Sky" and "Into The Open Air", were sung by Julie Fowlis, as Merida's off-screen musical thoughts.
Design and characterization
Merida has long, wild, curly, red hair, blue eyes, pale skin and a slender body. Her main outfit is a dark teal-emerald green traditional gown, made of wool, with stylish slits for movement during archery. When the Lords arrive for the games, she is dressed in a Medieval-style turquoise silk gown with long arms, gold trimmings, and gold beading, teamed with a white wimple and crown to hold in her hair. She also appears in scenes wearing a navy/black cape with a gold buckle. Merida's bow is slung onto her back, over her shoulder, with arrows in a brown leather quiver around her waist. In the final scene, Merida is seen wearing a dark blue gown with light green patterns.
This section's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (February 2013)
In Brave, Merida lives in the mystical Scottish kingdom of DunBroch with her mother, Queen Elinor, her father, King Fergus, and her mischievous triplet brothers, Hamish, Hubert, and Harris. Elinor attempts to convince Merida to be a perfect princess. However, Merida enjoys riding through the Highlands on her horse, Angus, and practising archery and swordplay; she inherited those skills from her father.
One evening, Merida discovers that the king's allied clan lords are presenting their sons as suitors for her hand in marriage. The lords arrive with their sons, who are not her type. Merida chooses archery to win her freedom. After she wins the competition herself, Elinor forewarns Merida that feuding set right, but Merida leaves and encounters a will-o-the-wisp. A trail of them soon leads her to a witch's cottage. Merida asks the witch for a spell to change her fate. The witch gives Merida a spell cake and she gives it to Elinor, but it transforms her into a black bear. Merida gets Elinor out of the castle, as her father is a bear hunter.
Merida and Elinor, who still retains most of her human senses, arrive at the witch's cottage, where the witch leaves a message in her cauldron, saying that the spell will be permanent by the second sunrise unless she "mends the bond torn by pride."
The next day, Merida and her mother bond together as they help each other look for food. After they do so, Merida gets attacked by a bear that looks identical to her mother but discovers that the bear is her mother herself. A trail of wisps appear and they lead them to the ruins of an ancient castle, where Merida discovers that the prince in her mother's story was the same one who received a similar spell from the witch. The wicked prince had become the dreaded demon bear Mor'du. Suddenly Mor'du attacks Merida but Elinor saves her and they escape. Merida convinces her mother that if they don't break the spell, she'll become a wild bear forever like Mor'du. Merida realizes that "mend the bond torn by pride" would mean fixing the family tapestry, which she had damaged during their arguments.
The two of them rush back to the castle, where they discover Fergus and the lords brawling over Merida, who steps into the great hall and stops the fighting. Merida makes a moving speech, convincing the clans that she must restore their bond and that the lords' sons should marry whomever they choose. The lords reluctantly agree and as they celebrate, Merida and Elinor climb up into the tapestry room to fix the torn tapestry. Fergus enters Elinor's room to tell her about what happened but finds the room in ruins instead. In horror and despair, he enters the tapestry room to find Merida pulling the tapestry off the wall and discovers Elinor in her bear-self. Fergus attacks Elinor, thinking she is Mor'du, but Merida blocks his path and Elinor escapes. Fergus detains Merida and follows Elinor with the other clans. With help from her brothers, who also have transformed into bears by inadvertently eating the spell cake, Merida gets out of her room and rides after her father into the forest while fixing the tapestry on horseback. Merida saves her mother just before Mor'du appears and overpowers the clans. Elinor defeats Mor'du by smashing him against a tall menhir, which topples over and crushes him, releasing the prince's spirit. Realizing what the witch's riddle meant, Merida places the fixed tapestry over Elinor and reconciles with her mother. Elinor is suddenly transformed back into a human along with the triplets and the family is happily reunited.
Merida appeared as the main character in the "endless running" video game, Temple Run: Brave, a spinoff of the game Temple Run. The game was released on June 14, 2012, a week before the movie was released. Merida & her father King Fergus are the only playable characters in the game. The developers of the game, Keith Shepherd and Natalia Luckyanova noted, "We definitely had some surreal moments while working with them. They're Pixar! They do such a fantastic job of appealing to young audiences as well as adults. Their movies always span the whole range of emotions, from happiness to sadness, to everything in-between. Working with them, I think there was a couple of times where we just had to pinch ourselves and, you know, ask is this really happening?" The game received positive reviews from critics.
Merida is a very common character to meet and greet at the various Disney parks and can usually be found in Fantasyland. At Disneyland Park, she meets guests near the It's a Small World attraction near a gate used as a parade terminus. She is also seen sometimes at the World Showcase in Epcot.
Once Upon a Time
In episode 6 "The Bear and the Bow", Merida rescues her brothers with the help of Belle. In episode 9, "The Bear King", Merida is revealed to have been tutored in the finer points of combat by Mulan and later teamed up with Mulan and Ruby against King Arthur and Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West on the eve of her coronation as DunBroch's queen, Fergus having been killed by Arthur a few years earlier.
Sofia the First
Merida appears in the third-season episode "The Secret Library" called to aid Sofia via the amulet of Avalor.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Merida appeared in the film Ralph Breaks the Internet alongside other Disney princesses, as was announced at the 2017 D23 Expo, with Kelly Macdonald reprising her role. The other princesses did not understand her as “she was from another studio”.
Reception and impact
The character of Merida has been well received by critics, as well as Macdonald's performance. The decision of Pixar to introduce a lead female heroine was praised by The Guardian. Empire described Merida as "feisty" and as "a modern girl in an ancient world." Merida was included on CNN's list of "Top Female Animated Heroines". She has been described as "a fairy-tale feminist", and has been praised for not needing to be rescued by a male love interest. She has been noted and applauded by feminists and critics for not needing a love interest. Entertainment Weekly called Merida, "A spunky Scottish princess with wild red hair, and clearly a lass built to entertain the audience for Twilight and The Hunger Games." Critics have also noted Merida's hair and how it is symbolic of her wild and independent spirit. Entertainment Weekly also referred to Merida as a "headstrong heroine".
Ophelia's Place, a charity dedicated to helping young girls, celebrated Merida for being a body image role model. The organization noted that, "Merida exemplifies strength in women because she is brave and independent. She isn’t the typical Disney princess or damsel-in-distress as portrayed by many female characters throughout children’s films." Time, however, criticized the movie and Merida for not fully embracing the concept of female empowerment. Author of the piece, Mary Pols also harshly criticized Pixar for firing Chapman, their first female director, halfway through production and for making Merida a traditional princess.
In May 2013, Disney released a traditional animation-style redesign of Merida in preparation for her coronation as Disney's 11th princess. The redesign of the character featured a slimmer waist, more revealing neckline, larger eyes and a sparkly dress. Feminist groups criticized the makeover for allegedly disempowering Merida, sparking outrage from mothers and feminist groups who saw the new Merida as "an overly sexualized pin-up version of her former self." Critics were also very critical of the makeover, saying it turned Merida into "just another princess". Creator and co-director Brenda Chapman fiercely criticized the change, calling it 'atrocious' and added that "Merida was created to break that mould." A Change.org petition was created to protest the Merida redesign, with female empowerment website A Mighty Girl arguing that "by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original... version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value... they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty." The petition received over 20,000 signatures in seven days.
Shortly after the petition appeared, Disney removed the redesigned image from their official website, in favor of Merida's original film appearance. Disney later clarified the situation, assuring that Merida would remain in her original form. Disney also released the statement, "The artwork used on Merida’s official social media sites has always been the imagery from the movie – there have been no changes. We routinely use different art styles with our characters and this rendition of Merida in her party dress was a special one-time effort to commemorate her coronation. Merida exemplifies what it means to be a Disney Princess through being brave, passionate and confident and she remains the same strong and determined Merida from the movie whose inner qualities have inspired moms and daughters around the world."
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