Behind the Scenes at Pixar | Chatting with Brave Producer Katherine Sarafian #DisneyPixarEvent

During our Press Day at Pixar at the beginning of April, we got to experience so many incredible things, including chatting with the people who are responsible for bringing all of the magic to the big screen. It’s fascinating talking to anyone who works in the movie industry, but I especially love talking to women like Katherine Sarafian, who was the producer on Brave. Not only does she have an exciting career, she’s also a mother herself to a 3-year-old and (at the time) 6-week-old! Her children are also on the grounds nearby at Pixar’s daycare.

Katherine’s Career at Pixar

Katherine is stunning and has a very youthful appearance, but she has actually been working at Pixar since 1994! “I started entry level, at the bottom, and moved up,” she said of how she got her start. Katherine’s first role on a Pixar film was as a production coordinator, and when she became a first-time manager on A Bug’s Life, she realized that she really enjoyed managing other people. She has also participated in the marketing of films, and really loves growing into a new role for every film. Katherine plans on taking some time off after Brave to spend with her family, and doesn’t know what she will be working on next. Whatever it will be, it’s bound to be a new Pixar great!

Katherine’s Response to a Commenter’s Thoughts on the Brave Trailer

One of my fellow bloggers shared with Katherine a comment he received on one of his Brave articles pertaining to a humorous mooning scene that takes place in the trailer. To sum it up, the commentator felt that it was very crass of Pixar to include the scene in the film because it would encourage their young child to do the same thing at home. The character in question here is Dingwall, whom Katherine described as a “curmudgeon…who has to get his point across any way he can. It was so true to his character to do that, and he’s the only guy who would do that in the entire film.” Katherine also stated that since Dingwall is a curmudgeon, it’s pretty unlikely that kids will relate to him and want to repeat his actions. This very short scene was Pixar’s moment to poke fun at the oft asked question, “what’s under the kilt?”

How Brave Was Pitched to Director John Lasseter

Brave is an original story idea that Brenda Chapman pitched to the studio. “When it’s their turn to pitch an idea…they write what they know.” At the time Chapman’s turn came up to share her idea with John Lasseter, her daughter was six years old and they were butting heads, making Brenda wonder what she would be like as a teenager. Lasseter was hooked, and the project moved forward.

The Mother/Daughter Relationship in Brave

Another blogger voiced some concern about how Merida treated her mother in the 30 minutes of the film that we saw. She wondered if Merida’s actions would have dire consequences so that she could use it as a teaching moment with her own daughter. “We wanted to make sure that we are not putting out the message ‘be like her’…” Katherine responded. “There are tremendous consequences…we’ve offered up a character who is willful and strong and very sure of herself but also a member of a family, a royal family with, you know, huge ripple effects of any decision she makes and any reckless choice she makes.” Katherine confidently assured the blogger that she will be able to have fruitful conversations with her daughter. Though my own daughter is only 4, she is also very willful and independent. Without saying too much about the first 30 minutes of the movie, I related more to Merida than I did to Queen Elinor. I could understand why Merida would do what she does, and this is a great conversation starter with daughters about how mothers and daughters need to open the lines of communication and really listen to each other and their feelings before damage can occur.

Pixar’s First Female Lead Character

There is a lot of excitement in that Brave will debut their first female lead character with Merida. Brave has been in development for the last 7 years, and Katherine said, “It wasn’t so much about it being like okay, it’s time for the girl movie. It was Brenda’s pitch in that moment for her slated development.” Most people may be unaware of just how much time goes into creating a movie like Brave since Pixar releases a new movie every year. “When we started that wasn’t a motivation or a thought…it’s becoming very clear… there’s a thirst…in the movie-going public’s minds to see some girl role models.”

Katherine Talks About Her Pixar Co-Workers

When Katherine first started lending a hand on Brave, she had no idea it would result in her being offered the opportunity to produce the film. She went on the Scotland research trip with Brenda Chapman and director Mark Andrews. “I thought they just kind of wanted me to help out and get everybody on and off the bus and everything…over the course of the trip it became clear that this was a matchmaking trip to see if the director and I were right for each other.” Now that the movie-making process is wrapping up and it will soon be showing in theatres, Katherine is pretty emotional about it coming to an end. “I’m gonna miss them, actually. I’ve been very weepy, lately…It’s like the cast party after your high school musical or whatever.”

*Disney/Pixar provided me with an all expenses paid trip to San Francisco to attend the Brave Press Day at Pixar Animation Studios. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are entirely my own.*


Jen currently lives in Utah with her family, and enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. She is active on popular book websites including paperbackswap.com, Goodreads.com, and luxuryreading.com.

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