Who Is Princess Merida: A Disney Princess Profile

by | Apr 14, 2022 | Disney Movies, Disney+, Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, WDW Blog, WDW News

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The brave Scottish lass and Disney princess Merida, deserves the spotlight as WDW Magazine releases our Pixar issue in May 2022!

“We can’t understand her”, Moana whispered in Ralph Breaks the Internet. “She’s from the other studio”, Anna chimed in.

Did you know that in the entire official Disney Princess lineup, there’s only one princess from “the other studio”? If you guessed Merida, you are correct!

Not only is she Pixar’s first official Disney Princess, but Merida is also the first official princess who does not have a love interest in her story. 

Join us in our latest Princess Profile deep-dive profile, as we uncover more about this strong-willed, red-headed heroine.

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The History of Merida and Brave

Tapestry of Merida and Elinor from Pixar's Brave

Screenshot: Disney

Unlike her Disney Princess predecessors, Merida’s story is not based on or adapted from an old fairy tale. Brave was a true original.

The plot for Brave was conceived by writer Brenda Chapman, who penned the story taking inspiration from her relationship with her own daughter.

Originally titled The Bear and the Bow, Chapman’s vision was to compose a fairy tale featuring a more modern princess. Coincidentally, Chapman herself worked as a story artist on both The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, so we have her to thank for contributing to the creation of some of our most beloved heroines in the Disney family who paved the way for princesses like Merida.

After writing Brave, Chapman was brought on as Pixar’s first-ever female director to spearhead the tale she’d lovingly created. However, in October 2010, she was removed from the project by John Lasseter (head of Pixar at the time), citing “creative differences”.

She was then replaced by male director Mark Andrews. 

Fun fact: the only other Pixar feature film directed by a woman (from start to finish) recently happened with this year’s Turning Red, with Oscar-winner Domee Shi at the helm.

Brave had its cinematic debut on June 22nd, 2012, and had a fairly positive reception by critics and audiences alike. Chapman said her vision still came through in the end and that she was proud of the film.

Chapman was credited as a director and went on to win the Academy Award (alongside Andrews) in 2013 when Brave took home the coveted statue for Best Animated Feature, making her the first woman in history to receive the award in that category.

Merida: Disney Princess Strengths

Princess Merida readies her bow in Pixar's Brave

Screenshot: Disney

Merida is by far one of the most headstrong princesses we have in the Disney Princess canon. I love that the film is set in Scotland, because I feel like the rugged terrain of the highlands is mirrored in Merida’s exterior—and yet, like the rough terrain, she is beautiful in her own way.

She staunchly rejects societal beliefs that it’s her lot in life to be a well-mannered, perfect lady. And she most definitely does not have marriage on the brain (we love a happily single gal!).

Merida takes the wisdom from her mother’s lessons, while still maintaining her fiery spirit and her own ideals. She is able to step into her own as a stalwart ruler.

She addresses the clans, challenging them to accept new ways of thinking, and motioning to allow herself (and the visiting suitors) to choose their own partners, find love in their own time, and create their own destinies.

Up until this point in the film, we had mostly seen Merida talking about what she wanted, how to change her fate, her story. We see her fighting for not just herself here, but for the rights of others in her generation, and for the generations to come. She breaks down archaic stereotypes that she knows will not serve her or her kingdom in the future.

Merida is extremely cunning, resourceful, and self-reliant. She uses that sharp-witted cunning to find a loophole in the tournament, where she herself is promised as a bridal prize to the most well-performing suitor. 

Merida uses this information to control her narrative. She cleverly chooses archery to determine the champion, competes in the tournament herself (“I’ll be shootin’ for my own hand” she defiantly proclaims), and wins, taking all her potential suitors to the cleaners. 

Merida: Disney Princess Motivations

Princess Merida from Pixar's Brave

Screenshot: Disney

Merida seems to be at her happiest when she’s by herself (or at the very least with her Clydesdale horse and proverbial Disney Princess sidekick, Angus), climbing The Crone’s Tooth, drinking from the Fire Falls, riding through the glen, and mastering her flawless archery to her heart’s delight.

Merida is motivated by her yearning for independence, which is in short supply in her own life, especially as she grows through her adolescence. 

Merida is also motivated by a desire for equality. She gets her adventurous and brash disposition from her father, King Fergus, and she grows up seeing him acting boisterous and carefree – whenever and however he pleases.

Once she realizes that as a woman, she is expected to behave differently, she is indignant at the unfairness of her situation (she comments in the film that her three triplet brothers seem to be able to get away with murder, and she can never get away with anything), and refuses to accept that she does not have autonomy of her own life.

Princess Merida with her mother, Queen Elinor, from Pixar's Brave

Screenshot: Disney

I would also argue that Merida is motivated by familial love. Sure, she inadvertently turns her mum into a bear. And if we’re being honest, she isn’t the best at taking responsibility for her part in it at the onset of the spell.

However, once she and Queen Elinor (in her newfound mama bear form) are able to learn from and respect one another, Merida fiercely protects her mother at all costs. 

After all, the focal point of Brave is a mother and daughter relationship, and how to “mend the bond torn by pride”.

Princess Merida from Pixar's Brave

Screenshot: Disney

We also see that Merida loves to laugh heartily with her father, and share in each other’s stories of adventure. And, we see Merida steal a plate piled high with freshly baked cakes from the castle kitchen, which she sneaks to her little brothers. What a sweet sis.

Where to Find Merida in the Disney World

Merida at the Festival of Fantasy at Disney's Magic Kingdom

Photo by Esther Vallins

As fantastic as this brave lass is, there currently aren’t too many places you can see her in the Disney Parks at the moment.

Prior to the pandemic, Merida had her own adorable, outdoor-themed meeting spot at Fairytale Garden in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World (WDW), complete with tapestries, Merida’s family tartan, and a big target where lads and lassies could practice their archery. This meet and greet spot still has yet to reopen.

Many may remember Merida’s beautiful float from Disney’s Festival of Fantasy parade, featuring Merida herself, and her three wee cub brothers. Sadly, neither Merida or her float are featured in the newly returned Festival of Fantasy parade. 

If you’re in the mood for an adventure, be sure to catch the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade happening in Magic Kingdom at WDW, where you can catch a glimpse of Merida (along with a host of other great, adventurous characters).

You also may spot Merida at the entrance to Magic Kingdom, where she waves and chats with guests from the Walt Disney World Railroad at Main Street U.S.A.

Merida at Disneyland Resort

In Disneyland, Merida has been sighted roaming and meeting outside the area near It’s a Small World. 

If you’re lucky and happen to be passing by at the right time, you may be able to wave hello to her.

Merida on Disney Cruise Line

At sea, Merida has been known to greet guests on cruises that have ports of call in Scotland once they get off the ships; however, we are not currently seeing many Disney Cruise Line itineraries docking in Scotland. 

Merida at International Disney Parks

Princess Merida from Pixar's Brave

Screenshot: Disney

In Shanghai Disneyland, you can see Merida sparkle along with other Disney Princess pals in Golden Fairytale Fanfare, the park’s castle stage show. However, at present, Shanghai Disneyland remains closed due to the pandemic.

In Hong Kong Disneyland, Merida can be seen in the stage production of Mickey and the Wondrous Book.

And in Tokyo DisneySea, Merida has been known to roam around the park. Perhaps we’ll see more of her when the new Fantasy Springs is set to open at the park in 2023.

8 Bonny Facts About Merida

Princess Merida from Pixar's Brave

Screenshot: Disney

1. Merida is the only Disney Princess who we do not see bursting into song (except in a flashback scene, where we see Merida singing a Gaelic lullaby with her mother).

2. The run time of Brave is 93 minutes and includes songs such as “Touch the Sky” and “Into the Open Air”, which are not sung by any of the film’s characters.

3. Did you know that Reese Witherspoon was originally cast as the voice of Merida?

  • According to the film’s replacement director, Mark Andrews, she was on the project for some time, but due to conflicts with Witherspoon’s other projects, and her trouble with mastering a Scottish accent (the latter fact confirmed by Witherspoon herself in an interview in 2017), she was replaced by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald as the film’s heroine.

4. Merida has a hair raising total of 111,710 hairs on her head, and it was apparently at the insistence of the film’s creator, Brenda Chapman, that Merida’s signature fiery red locks be curly.

5. The name Merida in Gaelic means ‘honorable’.

6. Merida’s animation was given a 2D “makeover” in 2013 just before she joined the official Disney Princess lineup. The bow-wielding, signature spitfire princess was given a slimmer figure, makeup, a more sparkly dress, and her iconic hair’s frizziness had been toned way down.

  • This sparked a massive outrage amongst Disney fans, with a petition signed by nearly 260,000 fans expressing their anger at the unnecessary change in Merida’s appearance. Even the film’s creator, Brenda Chapman, heavily criticized this change and signed the petition herself.
  • Disney responded to the backlash, assuring everyone that Merida’s animation would be changed, and eventually redesigned her again to appear closer to how she looked in her movie, Brave.

7. Along with Kelly Macdonald, the film boasts many impressive voice talents, including Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, Billy Connolly, and Julie Walters.

8. Merida was Pixar’s first female main character.

What Do You Love About Merida?

Princess Merida readies her bow in Pixar's Brave

Screenshot: Disney

Is Merida a favorite amongst your family? Did she inspire you to take up archery? Tell us in the comments on our Facebook page, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter, so you can be sure to catch the next Princess Profile! 

Also in the Disney Princess Profile series:

Written by Esther Vallins

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Esther Vallins is a pretzel adoring childless millennial who loves ALL things Disney food, Disney fashion, and Disney Princesses! She is a Disney cosplayer who never misses a D23 Expo, a DVC member, and aspires to hold the world record for most Dole Whips ever eaten (with tajín!) by a single human. Chat with Esther on Instagram!
Esther Vallins

Written by Esther Vallins

Esther Vallins is a pretzel adoring childless millennial who loves ALL things Disney food, Disney fashion, and Disney Princesses! She is a Disney cosplayer who never misses a D23 Expo, a DVC member, and aspires to hold the world record for most Dole Whips ever eaten (with tajín!) by a single human. Chat with Esther on Instagram!