An animated film may seem like odd inspiration for a vacation, but the folks behind Pixar’s latest, Brave, put such painstaking work into digitally recreating Scotland that you won’t be able to help but want to go visit. After all, the filmmakers can’t have all the fun.
Teams from Pixar headed to Scotland twice during preparation for the film, first to find inspiration and again to take samples to get the natural beauty just right — which turned out to be more difficult than expected.
“The reason Brave is so incredibly challenging is because the computer likes to make things perfect, geometric,” says Pixar head John Lasseter.
“When you’re dealing with ancient Scotland, every single item — every stone, every tree, every structure — has a tremendous sense of history to it with layers of moss and dirt and wear from the weather. There’s a certain level of detail that you need to have in order to make this kind of environment believable.”
Co-director Steve Purcell admits that while they were in Scotland on business, it never really felt like work.
“It’s definitely fun. We did a lot sketching and drawing, and we’d meet the local people in whatever town and ask them what kind of folklore and stories they had,” Purcell says.
“(Ardanaiseig Hotel) was one of our favourites, just because it was so colourful. The owner’s son gave me a wooden cross to take to my room that night. He said, ‘I hope you’re very strong because you have a strong ghost.’”
That sense of folklore and mystery permeates Scotland, explains Brave director Mark Andrews, who was already a fan of the country after spending his honeymoon there.
“Nothing didn’t have a story. Every creek and branch and thing,” he says.
“We got back and (while) developing the film, we wanted that aspect in there that every character is telling a story or knows a story, or there’s a story about everything that’s happening in Brave, so you get story upon story upon story upon story upon story, interwoven in the actual movie.”
While clearly a big fan of Scotland, Andrews has trouble narrowing down the best places to visit.
“Well, there’s Loch Maree up in the Torridons, which is phenomenal. There’s a little town called Ullapool, which I know is werewolf-infested,” he says.
“On the Isle of Skye, we saw the Queen of the Faeries mound. There are these strange dolomite things in this valley, and nobody lives on that side of the valley because they think it’s faery-haunted.”
So, we tried to do the job for him, picking the best Brave-inspired locations for your itinerary.
1. Dunnottar Castle
A ruined medieval fortress on the northeast coast of Scotland dating back to the 15th or 16th century, this imposing outpost was the starting point for designing the DunBroch castle.
2. Glen Affric
The quintessential mysterious Scottish forest, this nature reserve in the Highlands is possibly the best example of a glen, with moss and heather covering the ground. With the River Affric running through, there’s ample opportunities for hiking, rafting and swimming.
3. Isle of Skye
The largest island of the Inner Hebrides, the Isle of Skye is rife with both folklore and sweeping Highland landscapes. Highlights include the enchanting Faerie Glen, the odd-shaped rock formations of the Quiraing and the 200-foot cliff Kilt Rock.