Jessica Chastain As Brave Merida Disney Portrait Looks Unconvincing

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For two days, Disney got us all wondering how their new Dream Portrait looks like! With Jessica Chastain as the Brave Scottish redhead Princess, it was all really promising!

This very morning, Annie Leibovitz’s vision of Jessica Chastain as Merida from Disney/Pixar’s 2012 movie, Brave, was released on the Internet for the world wide audience to love and buzz about! And it really took me by surprise because although I like and admire Jessica, I wasn’t too pleased with her in her new Disney role!

Jessica Chastain Merida Disney portrait by Annie Leibovitz

I will hereby cite the 3 reasons I can think of that make Jessica Chastain unfit for her portray of Merida the Brave. I will then launch in a story telling debate of Disney/Pixar’s movie and the controversies surrounding it for years!

Merida Brave Disney Pixar movie

1. Jessica Chastain as Merida in Disney’s Dream portraits looks way taller, older and different than Merida did in the original Brave movie. While Jessica Chastain is 5’4” (1.63m) as an adult (Jessica will be 36 this year), Merida was a 16-year old teenager at the time of her portrayal in Brave. Merida was distinctively created with a round face while Jessica’s face is oval-shaped, with a strong characteristic jawline and chin.

See also: Jessica Chastain recreating classic artworks in Vogue!

2. Jessica Chastain looks more like a classic renaissance painting than a wild Scottish Princess with fire hot blood pushing her to wildly ride her horse, Angus, and randomly shoot targets out in the woods.

Merida Brave bow poster

redhead model Lily Cole

redhead model Lily Cole inspired Merida’s look for the Brave movie

Brave Merida Princess looks like model Lily Cole

model Lily Cole was the best person for the Merida Dream Portrait!

3. Jessica Chastain looks more fit to portray Queen Elinor with her natural grace and poise while British model Lily Cole or even Katniss Everdeen (in Jennifer Lawrence’s interpretation) would’ve been perfect for the storming Brave Princess.

Jessica Chastain looks like Queen Elinor from Brave

Merida’s mother, Queen Elinor (L) as graceful and as mysterious as Jessica Chastain in Disney’s portrait (R)

Katniss Everdeen with her bow

Katniss Everdeen was one of the inspiration sources in shaping Merida’s character (here, Katniss in Jennifer Lawrence’s interpretation)

redhead Merida Disney princess

What do you think? No, honestly! Have you seen Brave? No, really, have you actually Seen Brave?

I have a serious weakness for animation movies. Have had it long before I had my first kid and it still grows stronger each year, even after I had my fourth kid! And I’ve been blessed with an equally passionate Adored Husband whose immense heart has an evergrowing space to store the love for new and more animation characters and stories! As such, when we’re watching an animation with the kids, we’re also filtering it through our adult, savvy eyes.

Brave has been the talk of the animation passionate fans ever since it was just a project. A project written and infused with personal experience by Brenda Chapman, its original writer/director. She was later on replaced with Mark Andrews (who co-wrote and directed one of Pixar’s famous short animation: One Man Band from 2005). Brenda was upset after her replacement and feared her vision won’t shine through. It did, though and she was actually rewarded with an Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, 2013. (she shared the award with Mark Andrews).

writer director Brenda Chapman at Brave premiere

Brenda Chapman, the author and director of Brave at the movie’s premiere

After this initial conflict surrounding Brave (the first animation movie released after Disney aquired Pixar), then came the actual characters controversy! Costumes as Merida’s – Brave’s main character – were sold that year. However, they were clearly an affront to the story and what it stood for: Disney’s first Princess who behave and looked so unlike all the others 10 before her, that she was to become a milestone in the animation studios history and in our kids upbringing references.

See: Merida’s costume-dress raised more eyebrows than sales profits.

Disney Pixar Brave Merida Princess

Merida is unique. In her stubborn, courageous, untamed ways, she’s more contemporary than all the other princesses, thus making her easier to relate to. Her character was inspired by Brenda Chapman’s own experience and relationship with her daughter, Emma Chapman. References and likeness to Lily Cole and Katniss Everdeen were also cited. Merida was the popular Princess. The one we all particularly liked, who embodied so many years of relational and psychological evolution family and social-wise.

Brave Merida Queen Elinor relationship inspiration

the relationship between Merida and her Queen mother (L) was inspired by Brenda Chapman’s relationship with her daughter, Emma (R)

On May 11 2013, Merida has been officially unveiled as Disney’s 11th Princess. As such, Merida has undergone a serious transformation. Her features became more ‘princess-y’, her waist significantly thinner, her decollete more relevant and her bow and arrows were swiftly substituted by a wide belt. Her wild, frizzy, curly red hair became unrealistically styled, her coarse-looking curls looked more like fluffy clouds while her eyes suddenly lost their beautiful round shape to an almond-y appearance generously enhanced by eyeliner and mascara. Oh, and did I mention lipstick?

Brave Merida before and after Disney makeover

in May 2013, Merida was officially unveiled as a Disney Princess and looked sensitively different

Once more, Merida lost her Brave-ness to a summum of unrealistic Princess-y standards Disney is keen to maintain and cultivate. A move strongly criticized by Merida’s ‘mother’, writer and director Brenda Chapman.

See more: Disney Dream Portraits!

I keep Merida close to my heart, hoping, like all mothers, only the best for my kids. As we were blessed three active, wild and nosy boys but also with a smart, kind, stubborn, beautiful girl, I can’t help but see the many similarities with the story of Princess Merida and Queen Elinor, her Mother. It feels really disheartening that Disney keeps on pushing back the boundaries of sociological and psychological change, back in 1937 when the first Disney Princess, Snow White was born. Times are sensitively different now and the need to keep beauty standards even, uniform saddens me evermore.

Disney Princess 11 Princesses

Merida joined her 10 other Princess sisters in the Disney Franchise

But? Where am I to complain when two more Princesses were added to the Disney franchise this year: Anna and Elsa (from Frozen), aaaaand, guess what? They’re both fair-skinned with brown and blond hair respectively! And to think that among the – now 13 – Disney Princesses there isn’t a single Princess of Latin descent, I complain about the fate of a single fairskinned redhead Princess after only a little over one year since she was first introduced to the world….


#1 Ellington on 01.13.14 at 3:49 pm

I can see your points of contention regarding the choice of Jessica Chastain as Merida Kpriss, but I like her in this photo, for me it is Merida grown up and still living her life the way she wants!
Lily Cole would have yes been a spot on young Merida but she is not well known for a Disney ad, and not many would have know who Queen Elinior was if Jessica had be photographed as her.
It was a fair choice to use Jessica I think.
Oh and I LOATH that Disney tried to ‘se*y up” Merida and I am very glad people said something about this stupid change! I myself signed a petition regarding this.

#2 kpriss on 01.18.14 at 4:19 am

I think I took this too personal (just think that I chose to write about this story instead of covering the People’s Choice Awards lolz. Too much heat for my little heart). And of course you’re right, Jessica Chastain was the only logical choice as far as Hollywood/Disney is concerned. Who’s Lily to them anyway? Just a model and an activist. And a British. pfff.

I find it appalling that people are letting themselves fooled with makeovers such as Disney’s or any other’s beauty giant. We should have our standards set for ‘real’ not fairy-tale. And in my opinion that’s not the same as lowering the standards but as keeping it all honest and real.

#3 Angelina on 11.16.14 at 6:39 pm

I agree completely! I think that Lily Cole is totally Merida! She should have been used in that photo! The photo is beautiful but to me also inaccurate lol
I also agree with the dress change being inconsistent with the character…
and on that note, I still prefer Aurora’s dress as Blue!

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