We knew Princess Merida could hold her own at target practice, but now we also know she can hold her own at the box office as "Brave" debuted at No. 1 this weekend, taking in $66.7 million.
Pixar's first film with a female lead protagonist also marks a first for Disney: Merida is first to enter the famed Disney princess ecosystem who doesn't seek romantic love to complete her story and find true happiness.
"She can save herself. She's not on a quest for 'happily ever after,'" the film's director Mark Andrews tells Yahoo! Movies. "She's on a quest to find out who she is. And that's very different," he adds of the archer and sword-wielding red-headed heroine who revels in adventuring through the forest atop her enormous Clydesdale, Angus.
"There's a grand tradition of Disney princesses," says "Brave" producer Katherine Sarafian, adding, "[Merida] is a Pixar hero. It's completely different from a Disney princess."
Indeed, Merida's story is markedly different than those of, for example, Ariel ("The Little Mermaid"), Cinderella and even Disney's first African American princess Tiana ("The Princess and the Frog") -- who all needed to seal their future happiness with a kiss by a current or soon-to-be prince. Quite the opposite, Merida, voiced by Kelly Macdonald, revolts against kissing princes.
While Sarafian sets Merida apart from the rest of the pack, the fact remains Merida is now in the club. Disney theme parks have been featuring a live-in-person Merida character since about May. Accompanied by the animatronic bear cubs depicted in the film, Merida speaks with a Scottish accent and wears a huge, curly red wig. Merchandise for the animated character also appears in the princess room at World of Disney gift shop adjacent to Disneyland.
[Slideshow: Five Film Facts: 'Brave']
Merida is definitely breaking the mold, but one writer at Entertainment Weekly thinks she could be doing even more than that and has questioned her sexual orientation, leading many commenters to bristle at the thought.
Merida does not seem to be trapped in the closet by any means, but she does exemplify a recent trend in big box office heroines launched by that other archer Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) in "The Hunger Games" as well as Kristen Stewart's warrior spin on the classic fairytale character in "Snow White and the Huntsman" and even the upcoming "The Amazing Spider-Man," which is said to have more focus on Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) and her relationship with Spidey.
It is clear that Merida has not only changed her own fate, but the fate of Disney's princess system altogether.
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