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‘The Secret of Kells’ & ‘Brave’

I’ve always had a longing for the U.K. region of the world; British culture and history (not just cinematic) have fascinated me for years and my ancestral roots UK Irelandtrace back to Ireland.  I’ve also taken two trips to the U.K. to visit relatives and I’m very eager to return.  With this in mind, I’ve decided to focus this week’s Animation Corner NOT on two animated films whose connection is the director, but rather on two animated films whose stories are set in this region of the world: the Oscar-nominated 2009 film The Secret of Kells (set in Ireland) and the recent Oscar-winning 2012 film Brave (set in Scotland).

Directed by Tomm Moore, 2009’s The Secret of Kells offers a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells in eighth century Ireland, in which a 12 year-old boy, who is interested in the art of illumination, tries to help a Scottish monk complete the Book of Iona while his uncle constructs a wall around the Abbey of Kells to hold off invading Viking raiders.  Featuring the voices of Brendan Gleeson, Evan McGuire, Christen Mooney, Mick Lally, and Michael McGrath, this critically acclaimed film was based on the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript Gospel book that contained the four Gospels of the New Testament of the Bible (the film also drew upon Celtic mythology; an example being the inclusion of Crom Cruach, an Irish pagan deity).  It received an extremely limited release on Oscar weekend in the U.S. in February 2010, and went on to gross $667,441 domestically.  Tom Moore began development on the film in 1999 after he and several of his friends were inspired by 1993’s The Thief and the Cobbler and 1998’s Mulan, two animated films that based their visual style on their respective traditional art.  The film won several film festival awards, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (but lost to Up).

Co-directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman, 2012’s Brave centers on a Scottish princess who defies an age-old custom, consults a witch for help, accidentally curses her family, and is forced to undo the spell herself before it is too late.  Featuring the voices of Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson, this critically acclaimed film grossed $237 million domestically on a $185 million budget (it grossed $298 million internationally for a $535 million worldwide total).  It is Pixar’s first fairy tale, inspired by the tradition of Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm.  Brave also marks the first time a Pixar film has had a female director (even though she was replaced in mid-production due to creative differences, she still received a directorial credit).  Patrick Doyle, whose score should’ve received an Oscar nod, made a vocal cameo as a guard, as did Pixar regular John Ratzenberger.  The film was nominated for several Best Animated Feature awards, winning significantly the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award in that category.

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