In just one day, Disney will celebrate Merida’s inner qualities of strength, bravery, determination, passion and confidence as she is officially welcomed into the Disney Princess royal court. Merida’s Royal Celebration will be hosted at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World on May 11 during Mother’s Day Weekend, a perfect time to recognize and celebrate Merida’s relationship with her own mother.
We know many of our fans are excited to celebrate Merida and are inspired by her story and the spirited optimism she embodies. I sat down with Katherine Sarafian, producer of Disney·Pixar’s Brave, to talk about Merida’s defining qualities and the special relationship she shares with her mother, Queen Elinor.
Nidia: It is pretty special that we are celebrating Merida’s entry into the Disney Princess royal court on Mother’s Day Weekend, given that she has such a strong relationship with her mom, Queen Elinor. What do you think is so special about their relationship?
Katherine: Merida and Elinor have a relationship characterized by a healthy amount of give-and-take. Each of them has come to understand the other better, and that means they are more open to listening, compromise and empathy than they’ve ever been. Those are ingredients for a strong parent/child relationship, and that’s a relationship we celebrate on Mother’s Day. Merida and her mother have each learned something valuable, and their adventures together have strengthened their bond.
N: When working on the movie Brave, did you draw inspiration from your own life when developing Merida’s character and her relationship with her mom?
K: Our Directors and creative team drew on their own life experiences when developing Merida and her relationship with her mom. We had all experienced obstacles during the teen years – discovering who we were, finding our place in the world and communicating with our parents. Many of us are parents now, and we are seeing our own kids go through those transitional years. We knew that Merida’s character had to have all the depth, complexity and even contradiction of a teenager. And she couldn’t be perfect – she had to make mistakes. Teens are not one-note; they have depth and we wanted to create a character that had the spirit, humor, intellect and emotional core of a real teen.
N: What are some of Merida’s inner qualities that you admire most? That you think fans (especially moms and daughters) relate to the most?
K: I admire Merida’s drive – she is single-minded about her goals, and she does not let obstacles stop her from moving forward. Merida speaks her truth, even when her point of view is unpopular. She doesn’t back down from a challenge. I also appreciate Merida’s discipline and dedication. You don’t get to be a skilled archer like Merida without a LOT of practice, and Merida is willing to do that hard work.
N: All of the Disney Princess characters have their own, special inner qualities. What qualities does Merida bring to the Disney Princess royal court?
K: Merida is an adventurer and a warrior. She fights her battles, advocates for what she believes in and asserts her point of view. She adores her family, her horse Angus and her sport, archery. Merida refuses to let others tell her who she is. These are such relatable qualities for girls today. I love that there is room for all kinds of girls in the royal court, all of which are inspiring role models. Merida is unlike any of the other Disney princesses we’ve seen.
N: Yes, and not only is Merida unique, she is a modern-day princess who embodies qualities that resonate with moms and daughters today. What do you think it takes to be a princess and why do you think Merida is so relatable?
K: I know a lot of moms and daughters today who share more open communication and still have different points of view. Not every child wants the same future that her parents want for her, much like Merida. How many of us have chosen a different path in life, but still retained our parents’ love and respect? I know I have. Merida shows us that it’s OK to tell the world who we are. That’s a quality that I feel many girls can relate to today.