With its vivid coloring and spirited pacing, Brave illustrates that true bravery lies in transformation, forgiveness and reconciliation that comes from the heart. Recently, I spoke with Producer Katherine Sarafian (The Incredibles) about these strong themes and asked her more about the making of Brave, why it needed to be rated PG and how seeing complicated conflict resolution can be good fodder for discussion for movie-going families.

How was working on Brave different than working on some of the other Pixar and Disney-Pixar films you’ve been a part of?

Well, Brave had some differences, but they were all really long hauls. They all take at least four years to make. And some of them even take six years.Brave took the longest of any of the films I’ve worked on, trying to build a sense of community and keep the team m otivated over a long period of time. That was one difference. Another thing that was different is in terms of the creative on this movie. We had never visited an ancient time period and had never set a film really in this extremely organic setting. Not since A Bug’s Life had we really done that much vegetation and foliage. And a naturalistic setting and human animation and trying to set it in an ancient time period was a new design look for us and a new technology focus for us. So that presented its challenges as well.

What are your thoughts on the voice talent in Brave? Everyone seems so perfectly suited for their roles. I can’t imagine it would be hard to find actors who want to be a part of a Disney-Pixar production.

You know, surprisingly, it is really hard to find the right people, and you can’t always get your first choice. We were really, really, really blessed that we were able to get our first choices in most cases—particularly with King Fergus—and it was our dream cast. We wanted Emma Thompson and Billy Connolly based on what the characterization required. They have that warmth and family oriented-ness, and they’re also great comic actors. And they have the importance of royalty. They were able to bring all of that. But there have been, in the history of Pixar, people who have turned us down before. First of all, there is scheduling and time commitments. And then there are other things. Once we had somebody turn down the role because it was the villain. And the man’s kids didn’t want him to play the bad guy in a movie. It’s like, “Oh I’d love to be in a Pixar film! Can I be the good guy?” And it’s like, “No, we don’t see you that way. Sorry. Maybe a future project.” But in this film we were very fortunate to get the cast that we got.

This film is PG and only one of two (The Incredibles) Pixar films that has had that rating. Why did it need to be PG and not G?

It’s definitely got some action in it and some intensity that’s very much a PG movie. Really we felt that the story required it, and as with The Incredibles we never want to be gratuitous and have stuff that’s not necessary. It’s got to be from the story. And from the beginning when the story was conceived by Brenda Chapman [screenwriter] she wanted to go into a bit of a darker territory and show real consequences for actions and really not gloss over how bad things can get. And I think the idea was thinking that you’ll be on this journey with Merida. If we can make Merida appealing and likeable enough and her mother [Queen Elinor] and you’re rooting for them, you’ll join them on this journey no matter how intense it may get. But things cannot be easy for Merida, and she has to face real consequences. And you know the bear had to be really intense and scary to pose a real threat to the kingdom. King Fergus needs to really want to hunt this bear. The stakes had to be real, and we believe that it had to be intense to get there. And, of course, because it’s a Pixar movie we want our audiences to know that they’re in good hands, so we balance that with humor and heart and lots of other things. But yeah, we really felt we wanted to tell a story that went into a darker territory and was more reminiscent of the cautionary tales we grew up with—you know, like the Grimm’s [fairy] tales where there was some intense stuff but you learned your lessons.