When I saw the trailer for Pixar’s Brave, I knew I had to see it. With a tough-girl female protagonist, it felt like a Princess Bride for kids…only, more Scottish, and with red hair instead of blonde.
My next step was convincing my daughter to see it with me.
She’s four, and has an unrelenting fear of witches. Brave has a witch, and spells, and bears, and pushed her comfort zone a little.
But thanks to the peer pressure of preschool, soon we were on our way to the movies: my husband, me, Zoe, and Zoe’s stuffed rabbit, Funny Bunny.
The movie was fabulous. Brilliant animation, and straight-up fantasy, with will-of-the-wisps and people turning into bears. It had some great kid-laughs (animated naked bottoms will never cease to be funny). Zoe was glued to her chair.
At least…until the end.
The story is about a young Scottish Princess, Merida. Her mother’s spent the past many years grooming Merida for her eventual royal duties: A princess should do this…a princess should never do that…
But Merida’s a free spirit: an archer, a horsewoman. She doesn’t want to be bogged down with tradition.
It’s a classic story, but it’s handled really well. We see a rift open between Merida and her mother, juxtaposed with images of them playing and snuggling during happier times. When Merida runs away to change her fate, it almost makes sense.
We then see Merida dealing with the consequences of her actions. “It’s not my fault,” she says, more than once. And really, who hasn’t felt that way before? Even when clearly, it is your fault?
By the end, it seems impossible for Merida and her mother to go back to the way things were. There’s a battle scene, and it looks like the end for all of them.
That’s when I found Zoe nestled into my lap, holding on for dear life. It seemed she was afraid to lose me, like Merida was losing her mother.
I held her tight and kissed her head. She won’t lose me that easily.
The movie ended, and we headed out to the car. Halfway where, I realized: we’d forgotten Funny Bunny, who spent most of the movie jammed in between Zoe’s seat and mine. He’s a dark blue bunny, not so easy to see in a darkened theater.
I whispered to my husband. Zoe overheard. “We have to get Funny Bunny!” she cried.
She and I headed back inside.
In the lobby, she started to sniffle. Tears filled her eyes. I couldn’t help it: I pointed to a Brave poster on the wall. “Be brave, like Merida,” I said. She sniffed more dramatically.
In the theater, we walked up and down the aisles, unsure of our exact seats. I heard her whispering, “Funny Bunny, come out! Where are you, Funny Bunny?” The tears started to fall.
There was a family already seated in the theater, waiting for the next show, watching us. It didn’t matter.
“Come on, Funny Bunny.” I said, my voice louder than a whisper. “We want to find you and take you home.”
Because, hey. I was in Zoe’s world right then. And in that world, Funny Bunny can answer.
A minute later, I swear he answered. I found him, right where we left him.
Zoe grinned, and hugged him tight. Hand-in-hand, we left the theater again. No tears this time. Just a mother and daughter and a stuffed bunny. Together.
I think Merida and her mother would have been proud.