Calanais Standing Stones, Lewis


Disney•Pixar's Brave

When it comes to enchanting stories woven amongst magnificent landscapes Scotland is one of the richest treasure troves on the planet, and Disney•Pixar's animators certainly delved into this rich source when they were creating their Oscar-winning animated adventure Brave.

Though Brave is set in a fictional medieval Scotland, Pixar's animators were deeply affected by the real country's raw beauty and rich heritage, visiting Scotland both in the summer of 2006 and late 2007. The unique natural sights they witnessed during their tours dramatically influenced Brave's startlingly beautiful animated landscapes.

Where did Brave's animators visit on their Scottish tours?

Taking in a breadth of Scottish events, from the iconic Highland games of the Braemar Gathering (that informed much of heroine's Merida's impressive archery skills) to eating haggis on the Royal Mile, Brave's animators fully steeped themselves in the local culture. This helped them capture the spirit of Scotland on film in a fashion that had never been attempted in cinema before.

Brave producer Katherine Sarafian admits the team kept journals while staying in Scotland, which proved tremendously useful when they returned to California to begin work on the project.

"We took photographs and video, sketched and wrote stories," says Sarafian. "We brought everything back and spread it all out, loaded it into our computers. We worked really hard to bring the magic, beauty and ruggedness of Scotland to life in the film through our production design, sets and environments."

Visiting Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle path coast

Some of Scotland's landmarks proved so mesmerising for Pixar's Brave team, they actually ended up altering ideas they originally had for the movie to incorporate what they'd seen on their memorable trip.

Initially, Merida's DunBroch family castle was going to be set against a loch in the Highlands. Yet after visiting Dunnottar Castle, a stunning structure set on jutting cliff-side rocks just south of Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire, the team decided to imitate its staggering surrounds by making DunBroch an outpost by the sea.

Discovering the Calanais Standing Stones

Calanais Standing Stones colourful sky

Sarafian also admits the Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis had a big impact on Pixar. "It felt like the perfect setting for something important to happen in the story. The stones are in a circle on a big, exposed cliff with the sky as their backdrop - it's very striking. On both trips it was really hard to get any of the artists back on the bus!"

The trip to Glen Affric

Glen Affric

Merida spends much of her time in Brave travelling through landscapes heavily indebted to the Highlands on her horse Angus. Much of these fantastical, fictional climes were inspired by the filmmakers' trip to Glen Affric.

With one of the largest Caledonian pinewoods, combined with impressive mountains, moorlands, heather-strewn hills and moss-covered land, the stunning glen, only 15 miles from Loch Ness, proved the perfect site to experience a slice of authentic Scottish wilderness.

Bear necessities

The visit to Scotland also influenced the creation of the film's formidable demon bear Mor'du. Story Supervisor Brian Larsen says Scotland's love of stories was a big help while planning Brave. "Scotland is a storytelling culture-wherever we went, the locals erupted into stories of their everyday lives and the people they knew. The story of Mor'du was inspired by the stories we heard while we were there."