5 Parenting Lessons From Disney Pixar’s Brave

This companion piece to my initial spoiler-free Brave review will contain some references to plot points or ideas within the film which may spoil it for those wishing to be surprised. If you’d like to be prepared for bringing your children to the movie, or are looking for some discussion topics either before or after seeing Brave, I wanted to put this list together. If you do not want any elements of Brave spoiled, do not continue reading below, and head over to my review, which contains no spoilers. Thanks!

 

 

 

1. It is rated PG.

When I think of PG-rated Disney animated films, I instantly think of The Black Cauldron. I’m not sure Brave is quite at that level, but I did jump out of my seat one time and the bear scenes are pretty suspenseful and loud. Certainly the under-7 set may be shaken. In addition, there is a scene where the clans are being rousted by Merida’s dad, Fergus, as he tells tales of finding and killing Mor’du, the bear that took his leg so many years ago. In the midst of his story-telling, he and others throw their weapons at an already stuffed bear standing within the castle hall. It’s was pretty disturbing to me to see a once-living bear getting an axe stuck in its head as it stared blankly ahead. That said, I don’t feel the violence in any way exceeds other Disney animated features. The battle with Maleficent is pretty scary, as are most of the villain battles throughout the years.

There are also few ‘risque’ scenes – one where the clansmen must parade kilt-less back into the castle and you see quite a few derrieres, in the dark. The housemaid, Maudie, also has quite a bit of cleavage showing, which is a running gag as the triplet brothers are constantly hanging above her trying to steal cookies or retrieve keys, etc. Definitely not on the level of the Judge Frollo/Esmeralda scenes in Hunchback of Notre Dame, but a departure from the norm, I suppose.

2. The setting is REAL! Unlike most Disney animated films, either from Walt Disney Animation or Pixar, the world of the story is a surreal or non-existent place. Even when we know Ratatouille or Little Mermaid take place in France, in Brave, the setting itself is one of the stars of the film. The sweeping mountains, the sparkling lakes, the foreboding forests and ancient stone formations – really exist. With those facts, Brave is a wonderful stepping off point for exploring other lands, cultures and history. As with most ancient cultures, there are elements of mythology and a suspension of reality {in Brave’s case, in the form of the “Wisps” which guide Merida and the witch}, but the history is there to share with your children.

3. The Importance of family. As mentioned in my Brave review, we are treated to a strong family relationship here. Two solid, loving parents, and family members who put each other above all else. Sure, not every family is like that, and that’s okay, but it’s a refreshing change to see family love rather than plotting and evil. Merida may briefly forget these bonds and their importance, but therein lies one of the lessons of the film. When Merida’s mother is helpless and at her mercy, Merida also realizes she needs her mother and appreciates all she had done for her up to that point.

"BRAVE"   (Pictured) MERIDA. ©2012 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

 

4. Children can be independent. So often parents are guilty of hovering, sheltering our children from every possible misstep or danger. As with The Little Mermaid or Jasmine in Aladdin, the parents in Brave start out demanding that their child act a certain way or live out a pre-determined future. With Merida’s spell, she is given no option but to act on her own, make her own choices and learn a great deal in the process. In the end, her parents support her making a wise decision rather than dismissing her because she is only a child. Merida doesn’t end up happily ever after with a prince charming. She ends up happy, with her own life. That was something I loved in the film. It would’ve been so easy for the creators to have Merida fall in love with one of her suitors at the last minute for a nicely tied-up ending. Instead, the story showcases Merida’s strength of character as well as that of her parents for letting her choose her own happiness.

5. Honor. The above points regarding family all lead to the important lesson of honor found throughout the film. Merida wanted to change her fate but ended up changing more than just hers. When her mother was turned into a bear, it became a way to bond as mother and daughter. Merida had grown up favoring her father’s archery and battle lessons vs. her mother’s etiquette and princess training. Seeing how important Merida’s skills were in her time of need was an eye-opener for Merida’s mother, Elinor, as it was for Merida to realize how much she needed her mom. It’s not just Merida who must honor her parents, but Elinor and Fergus who must honor their daughter and her future fate. The lesson is honor, among every family member.

To recap, Brave offers some wonderful parenting moments to share with your child and the storyline certainly helps to appreciate the bonds we have with our children. Though the violence and action are there, the rest of the movie more than overshadows any brief scare little ones may experience. The characters are strong, especially Merida and Elinor, and their strengths are not diminished for a typical happy ending.

Brave opens everywhere June 22 and I cannot wait until I can see it again, I know it will become a classic in our family.

Disclaimer: I was provided free passes to see a screening of Brave with my family but as with all reviews, my opinions were my own and not affected.





About Suzannah Mitchell

Boston girl living and blogging in Walt Disney World's backyard. Mom of 3, coffee addict, oh and Princess of course!