Two additional software programs were specially developed for this film by Pixar in the period of three years. One of them allows simulation of Merida's 1500 strands of hair curls to move together with her movements.
The film has faced several "controversies" upon its release, the first being that despite not wanting to get married to a prince, Merida was still made an official Disney princess which many people considered something of a hypocritical contradiction to the film's moral. It was also criticized for being a fairy tale film made by Pixar, not by the in-house Disney animation, and many long time Pixar fans saw this as further evidence that after being bought by Disney that Pixar had "sold out" and was now just Disney's tool for marketing and merchandising productions.
The name Lord MacIntosh (or McIntosh) is a common Scottish surname, also the name of a well-known variety of apple. It is a reference to the Apple computer. Steve Jobs was a co-founder of Apple and played a big role in Pixar. The movie is dedicated to Jobs with this quote at the end credits: "Dedicated to the memory of Steve Jobs, our partner, mentor and friend". It is also a reference to the repeated image of Merida being interrupted while trying to eat an apple by biting into it, which her mother considers unladylike.
The reference to a long lost kingdom from days past where there was a king and he had 4 sons is a reference to the early French ruler Clovis, who had 4 sons and upon his death split the region of Gaul (modern day France) into 4 parts, one for each son to rule.
In the witch's hut, when the broom flies across the room after attempting to sweep the bird, Sulley from Monsters, Inc. (2001) can be seen, teasing its prequel Monsters University (2013). He is carved into a piece of wood.
HIDDEN MICKEY: The belt that Queen Elinor wears in the first half of the movie forms a hidden Mickey when viewed from the front. You can see the distinct Mickey head and the two ears as connecting circles around her waist.
Lord MacGuffin and his son are appropriately named. A MacGuffin (or McGuffin) is a film industry slang term that is loosely defined as an otherwise unimportant plot item/event that nevertheless drives the plot forward. In this case, the three suitors are only a means by which to escalate the tension between the princess and the queen.
It took six years to make this film. Mark Andrews was initially the consultant, providing the Scottish themes for Brenda Chapman. However, by October 2010, Chapman left after four years of work with Andrews subsequently taking over but still keeping the intended story that Chapman wrote. Originally 80% of the film took place in snow, but when Chapman left the project so did much of the white stuff.
Dingwall is a town in Scotland which once contained the largest castle north of Stirling and was believed to be the site of a legendary battle between the Clan Mackay and the Clan Donald in 1411. The English name Dingwall means "meeting place of the local assembly." The town's Gaelic name Inbhir Pheofharain means "the mouth of the Peffery" but it is also known as Baile Chail ("cabbage town"), appropriate for Lord Dingwall's son.
One 14-person team of animators assigned to deal with duplicating the musculature in horses and Princess Merida's curly hair included six graduates of Brigham Young University's highly vaunted computer-animation program.
The flashback scene of Elinor and Young Merida singing a lullaby was almost cut because of how difficult it was to animate Merida as a toddler. They basically scaled down the animation of teenage Merida and made her features more youthful.
During production, Mark Andrews and Katherine Sarafian would take turns pretending to be each other's audience in order to prepare for big meetings. This became the inspiration for the scene where Elinor practices her lecture as Fergus pretends to be Merida.
Due to Gordon the Guard having a Scottish accent, it has been one of John Ratzenberger's least recognizable role out of all Pixar characters voiced by him. Ratzenberger's also one of the few actors not from the UK to be in the film.
Merida's horse is named Angus, a common Scottish name, but also a possible allusion to a P.G. Wodehouse character named Angus McAllistor, a Glaswegian of described as "all the ingredients of a first-class mule simply thrown away."
The Legend of Mor'du (2012) is short film attached to the Blu-ray and DVD release which gives in-depth background about the film's villain Mor'du. The witch made a small cauldron for him, which he could use to gain the strength of ten men as he wanted, or he could instead use it to heal the rift he caused within his family. He chose the former, slaughtered his brothers, and then his own men either turned on him, or fled in fear because they only saw a beast, not their leader.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The height difference between Merida and Bear-Elinor sometimes required the animators to shrink Elinor in order for both characters to fit in the same shot. Merida is 5'4" and Bear-Elinor is nine feet tall when standing.
The three bear sculptures the witch tries to sell Merida all foreshadow the following major events of the story. The sculpture of two bears playing with a box that the witch describes by saying, "Add a touch of whimsy to any dark chamber" represents the comedic "whimsy" of Elinor moving through the castle immediately after she turns into a bear. The second sculpture of a bear catching fish represents the scene in which Merida teaches Elinor to fish. The third sculpture of bears recreating the creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel represents Mor'du and Elinor both reaching their paws toward Merida as she tries to escape the ruins.
Elinor's transformation into a bear was going to be shown on-screen, but the shot was scrapped because upon seeing Elinor sprouting hair, the filmmakers felt the audience would think she was turning into Fergus.
For the first half of the film, Elinor wears her hair up in braids, symbolizing her uptight personality. After she's turned into a bear, she gradually learns to loosen up and listen to others. When she returns to her human form, Elinor wears her hair down, showing that she finally sees eye-to-eye with Merida.
In the family tapestry (woven by Elinor), the image of Merida has braided hair, just like her mother. This confirms Merida's statement that Elinor wants Merida to be exactly like her, rather than let her daughter be her own person. At the end of the film, Merida and Elinor are weaving a new tapestry together, where the Merida picture wears her hair down. This is to show Elinor's acceptance of her daughter's real personality.