Considering the run the studio have been on recently ("Ratatouille," "Wall-E" and "Up" all in quick succession), it's a little sad that we're facing such a gap of original material from Pixar -- "Toy Story 3" came last year, and, much worse, "Cars 2" this year. But we're now heading toward the light at the end of the tunnel: 2012 will see "Brave," formerly known as "The Bear & The Bow," and shows the company once more moving into new territory -- with its first fairy tale, and its first female lead (the delay in the arrival of the latter being something that they've faced criticism for recently).
We're still a year away from the film, but a first glimpse has arrived, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly, in the form of some concept art, and it suggests a somewhat moodier, more lyrical film than the gaudy "Cars 2" (but then, concept art always does). We'll have to wait to see it in more accurate form before we get a better sense of the film's tone (we imagine some kind of teaser trailer will hit with "Cars 2"), but you can check out more images below. Meanwhile, EW's story also reveals a few new additions to the film's voice cast -- most notably, a switcheroo in the film's lead role.
The story, set in the Scottish highlands in years gone by, focuses on Princess Merida, the daughter of the rulers of the kingdom, who one day "defies a sacred custom of the land, and inadvertantly brings turmoil to the kingdom." In order to fix things, she goes to a Wise Woman, and is granted a wish; one that is described as 'ill-fated.' Reese Witherspoon was previously announced as voicing the lead role, but due to good old "scheduling issues," she's been replaced by Kelly Macdonald, the Scottish actress best known for "Trainspotting," "No Country For Old Men" and "Boardwalk Empire."
Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters and Kevin McKidd were all previously announced as being part of the cast -- EW reveals that they'll play, respectively, Merida's father and mother, King Fergus and Queen Elinor, the Wise Woman, and the excellently named Lord MacGuffin. The latter, it is revealed, is one of three comic reliefs that work into the tale -- the other two, Lord Macintosh and Lord Dingwall, will now be voiced by Craig Ferguson (a veteran of another Scottish-accented animation, "How To Train Your Dragon"), and Robbie Coltrane.
It's a typically strong cast, and once more shows that Pixar don't need to rely on big names. EW also suggests that, despite the controversial replacement of "The Prince of Egypt" director Brenda Chapman with Pixar stalwart Mark Andrews (the short "One Man Band"), both are likely to be credited as director -- just as Jan Pinkava, who was replaced on "Ratatouille," also received credit. We'll see what they have planned when "Brave" opens on June 22, 2012.