Home Disney Entertainment Why the Brave Disney Movie is Better For Older Kids

Why the Brave Disney Movie is Better For Older Kids

by Andrea Updyke

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The Brave Disney Movie opened to high acclaim and cheers from critics. But not this one. Brave was not the movie for me. Proceed with caution if your children are under 8 years-old. UPDATED 9/18/2019

It’s no secret that I love Disney. I was born and raised in Florida, just under two hours from the parks and I love the toys, the TV channel and the movies. I’m a huge fan.

That said, sometimes even a huge fan has to make some hard choices for the sake of her children. So when I knew I had to be brave to write my Brave movie review, I took a deep breath and went for it.

What I am about to say is not popular opinion. And I almost hesitate to share it. But as a mother with young children (boys at that), I want to share my honest opinion about Brave. And the truth is, I did not love the latest Disney/Pixar movie.

Why the Brave Disney movie isn't for young kids

I am about to share some major spoilers for this animated feature so if you don’t want to be spoiled, please feel free to click away from this post and read about all the things I DO love about Disney here and here or here

For the rest of us, let’s get down to it.

Brave Disney Movie Review

Here is the official BRAVE synopsis:

“Brave” follows the heroic journey of Merida, a skilled archer and headstrong daughter of King Fergus (voice of Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (voice of Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the unruly and uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (voice of Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (voice of Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (voice of Robbie Coltrane).


Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric Witch (voice of Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to harness all of her skills and resources – including her clever and mischievous triplet brothers – to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late, discovering the meaning of true bravery.

First of all, this movie is rated PG. It never even occurred to me to check the rating because with the exception of The Incredibles and UP, every Pixar film made since 1995 has been G rated.

Thankfully, because our screening was at night, my husband and I decided to leave our (3.5 year old and almost 1 year old) boys at home to check out the latest animated film from the house of Walt Disney.

So I will start with the obvious. Because of its well-deserved PG rating, I do not recommend this movie for children under age 8.

It is my opinion that the story was significantly more mature than prior Pixar movies (such as Toy Story) and there were several intensely frightening scenes including vicious fights between man and beast (ie. a giant blood-thirsty bear).

Mature Fight Scenes in Brave

There were a few moments in the fight scenes that really stood out to me. One fight in particular is between two bears. In the climax of their battle, several seconds are spent in close up of one bear slamming the other into a large rock repeatedly, violently, graphically.

It was not a flash in the pan arrow to the leg, or even a flying bullet. It was up-close, physical violence. I don’t care that there was a good reason for the fight. It disturbed me.

There is no doubt that Princess Merida and her mother both had lessons to learn. And while I appreciated the relational struggle between mother and daughter, it seemed more appropriate for the tween crowd rather than the typical Pixar audience which tends to be of the elementary set, if not younger.

I can definitely see how this movie could prompt some really thought provoking conversations between moms and daughters, but for the young ones I don’t think it would even make sense.

We love that Merida is different from the other Disney princesses, but there were so many unnecessary distractions, it was hard to focus on that one positive note.

Gender Stereotyping is not so Brave

I am glad there was a two-parent home featured in this movie. However, I was greatly disturbed at the depiction of Merida’s bumbling, goofball father whose only purpose seemed to be comic relief or brute force – a male stereotype that has been increasingly present in mainstream media in the past couple of decades.

Believe me when I say that I truly loved the empowering female lead characters in both Merida and Queen Elinor. But why did they have to come at the expense of the male characters?

As the mother of two boys, I want to encourage them to be leaders, to be companions of the women in their lives. But from the idiot-fathers to the dimwitted princes (none of whom were even remotely desirable), to the trouble-making triplets, there is not a single male character in this movie that I would want my sons to emulate.

Not a single one.

And I think that is why my overall opinion of this movie is just not good. I was viewing it through the eyes of my boys. My sons who will one day grow to be men.

And just like we need more movies to inspire our women, we should not just allow the pendulum to swing the other way. We are setting the bar for the future of both our sons and our daughters. Why are we aiming so low?

I wish I could base my opinion on the design because Brave was a spectacular visual feast. The animation was positively breathtaking and even thrilling at times.

I am sad to say that it will not be a family classic in this house.

For more opinions of the Brave Disney movie from both sides, please check out the following links:

Scott Mendelson – Brave (2012) Is Pixar’s Most Impersonal and Least Consequential Film and a More Troubling Failure Than Cars 2

Rage Against the Minivan – BRAVE: A Parent’s Guide to Disney/Pixar’s new Movie

Musings from Me – A Lady Does-ny Stuff Her Gob! #Brave

FREE Printable Activity sheets for the Brave Disney movie fans

I received free passes to attend an advanced screening of Brave. All thoughts are my own.

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KeAnne June 26, 2012 - 7:24 am

Thanks for the review! My son is 3, and I’m very conscious of wanting him watch movies with strong male characters. It’s too bad in 2012 that a movie for children can’t have both strong male and female characters.

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:51 pm

I agree. I would love to get to a point where we don’t have to put one down to lift another up.

Amy Crouch June 26, 2012 - 7:38 am

We haven’t seen the movie, but I will agree in saying that I want my son to be able to grow up and see strong men as an example and not just the bumbling idiot, the tyrant (the Little Mermaid), or the absent one. But I also want my daughter to grow up and see the same thing. We want her to be strong, passionate, able and persistent but we also want her to know what kind of husband she is looking for and to be able to biblically submit to him. IT’s frustrating to feel that there is little that isn’t just a powerplay between men and women in our media and we are always thrilled when we find something that is solid and shows more than just the extremes.

Becca Bernstein June 26, 2012 - 8:34 am

Wow. Very interesting. I would never check a Pixar movie for a rating, which illustrates my trust for this brand. Thank you for sharing how you honestly feel. I’m gonna remove this from our “Summer Must See” list as my children are too young to sort stereotypes from reality.

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:54 pm

I really never even considered looking for the rating! I will definitely be doing that every time from now on.

Disney’s Brave: My Thoughts June 26, 2012 - 8:46 am

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Jen @Worthington Lower June 26, 2012 - 9:02 am

This is interesting. Thank you for telling us about the downfalls of this movie. I was excited to see a strong female lead b/c my daughter is obsessed with the Disney Princesses. I also have to say that the main character’s hair is exactly like mine….and I like that. We may still see the movie, but I will be watching it first to just to be sure. Again, thank you!

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:42 pm

I think watching it first would be a smart move. I too, love her hair! The animation really is spectacular.

Stacey June 26, 2012 - 9:13 am

I agree with every word of this, and will just add: the story wasn’t even that good. The script was weak, the message muddled, and it kept feeling like Pixar gave us one movie in the trailers and a totally different one in the theaters. While I felt like it was entertaining enough (I’ve seen worse), I was hugely disappointed in this movie.

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:42 pm

I agree that some of the previews didn’t really give much away. I honestly didn’t even know there was a bear in it!

Amy @ GrinningCheektoCheek June 26, 2012 - 9:59 am

I could not have written this review any better myself. This is spot on with my thoughts of the movie.

I saw the movie with my 5 year old niece, who – thankfully – has seen several scary movies, and wasn’t bothered by the scary scenes in the movie.

But I definitely feel like they missed the point on sharing with their potential audience that this MIGHT be a scary movie! Even going back to watch the previews, there is very little hint of over half of the movie being so intense and loud, and very frightening.

In the screening I attended, several parents left with crying children – and the parent next to me was holding tight to her 4(ish) year old daughter on her lap while she chanted that it was TOO scary!

I know my own son would not have appreciated the movie, and we would have been the family that had to leave. My son is scared of intense scenes in Care Bears!! haha!

suzanne @ pretty swell June 26, 2012 - 12:04 pm

Thank you so much for writing this! I had no idea of the rating or the violence. Had been considering taking Lily (age 4), but will hold off on this one. Sounds like way too much for her.

suzanne @ pretty swell June 26, 2012 - 12:05 pm

p.s. I ADORE your new haircut!!!

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:42 pm

Thank you so much! It’s super fun.

Melissa {momcomm} June 26, 2012 - 2:01 pm

Thanks for not being afraid to share your honest opinion! As a mom to boys too, your concerns would be mine as well.

Leigh Powell Hines @Hinessightblog June 26, 2012 - 2:20 pm

I’ve not seen the movie, and I appreciate your honest feedback. Thanks, Andrea.

Connie June 26, 2012 - 2:23 pm

Having successfully raised two well-adjusted and caring men please allow me my 2 cents. First, I loved the film – its pure entertainment and second, it’s just that, entertainment. It opens up a world of discussions about families, gender roles, etc. that you can have with your child. It’s not a documentary. It’s not stating men are one way or another.

Again, just my 2 cents. I didn’t keep my sons from much but you can be sure we watched it with them and we discussed it. It’s a great learning tool.

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:44 pm

I agree that there can be a lot of valuable conversation based on this movie. For older children. OR I should say, for the age that you think your kids can handle it. I still think 8 is a reasonable age, but every child is different.

Catalina June 26, 2012 - 2:28 pm

I haven’t seen the movie yet, and I wasn’t planning on it since I have teens. From what I’ve been reading from others is similar to what I read here — it’s too violent for little kids. It sounds like they missed their target this time around. Now I want to see it. 😉

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:45 pm

My main concern is for young children. the animation is truly beautiful.

Virginia from That Bald Chick June 26, 2012 - 2:33 pm

Thanks, so much, for your honest review.

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:50 pm

No problem!

marybeth @ www.babysavers.com June 26, 2012 - 3:37 pm

I have to say, that, while I don’t agree with everything you wrote, I really do appreciate your frank review.
It was no secret to me that the movie was rated PG–even the overall color scheme and movie logo clued me into the idea that Brave would have some dark tones. As a parent, I’m all too familiar with “children’s” DVD surprising me with that PG rating , so maybe I’m overly mindful of making sure any movie I expose my kids to is rated G.

With that being said, I agree that the movie is violent and scary, and my 2 and 3 year-old children won’t be watching it anytime soon. Then again, they won’t be watching ANY PG movies for several years, so I think we’re safe in that regard 🙂

I do however, find it offensive that you dismiss any mainly comedic character as an idiot who doesn’t add any value to the movie. It seems that you’re equating humor with stupidity, which is unfair and shortsighted. It’s unfortunate that you think the father in this movie is nothing more than a bumbling goofball. While he does provide a lot of comic relief (almost all the characters do in various ways), he really is so much more than that. He’s supportive, he’s the one who raised his daughter to be tough and independent and he actually proves to be a good example of a husband who isn’t domineering, who lets his wife take the reins and who helps the girl find her own path. There’s a scene in the movie where he encourages the queen to work through her issues with their daughter. Although it’s fraught with silliness in the way he imitates the daughter to get his wife to role-play, the underlying message is that he’s using humor to get his wife to open up, and he’s doing it all to help mend their relationship.

I also think there’s are tons of great examples of supportive sibling relationships between the those triplets and the princess. Yes the triplets are mischievous and up to no good, but their antics are mostly showcased when they’re helping their sister out.

I can live with the dearth of male role models in the movie–I think the female characters provide more than enough inspiration for both girls and boys. I’m ok with my son admiring a strong female lead and appreciating her talents, her convictions and her strengths, especially when she doesn’t have an adversary that’s the opposite or negative of all of her positive qualities.

IMO, Merida is a role model for any child.

Whew! That was a lot to write, and I know I got carried away. I just adore the movie. It’s been several days since I’ve seen it and I’m still thinking about the characters and the nuances in the plot. At the same time, I know that everyone’s different, and I also know that we’re going to have to agree to disagree on our takeaways from Brave.

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:48 pm

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! I just want to clarify, that it isn’t the comedy that I take issue with when discussing the males. It’s the fact that for most of the time (save for the very touching scene between Elinor and Fergus), the males, adult or otherwise, are simply portrayed as out of control, mischievous and/or unfit for Merida’s attention. I just think it could have been done differently and still work with the story.

Allison June 26, 2012 - 3:38 pm

Thanks so much for an honest assessment and review! I don’t get why so many “kids” movies these days are in for PG ratings. PG is usually for a reason. I mean, cripes, even Marmaduke was PG. What can a mama take her 3 yo to these days!? Glad to get the real skinny. FYI much of what you say is right in line with Common Sense Media reviews, too ( http://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/brave)

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:49 pm

Thank you for the link. I am heading over to check it out!

Holly June 26, 2012 - 3:50 pm

The only part I agree with is that it may be too much for some children. My son is significantly more sensitive than his sister who is two years younger than him. At 6 he watched Brave but did hide his eyes through parts of the bear scenes. BUT it is rated PG.

As for King Fergus being a bumbling idiot, I wonder if you somehow missed the parts of the movie where he encourages Merida to be herself. For myself I see my dad as a King Fergus. He did so much for us as kids, made sure we were ourselves, that we had fun but was protective to the end. The silly singing and story telling is totally something my dad did as we were growing up and still does with my kids.

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 3:59 pm

I suppose my comments about the King are directed more toward the part of the movie where he and all the other Kings are in the main hall fighting and arguing with no regard or respect for each other. Yes, he loved his daughter, but he also encouraged her prideful actions by not taking a stand when he should have. Yes, the mother needed to lighten up and that was part of the story, but aside from the private conversation between husband and wife, he seemed to be just another one of the kids.

Dan June 26, 2012 - 3:54 pm

I think King Fergus is a great parent and role model. He seemed like a loving husband and father and taught his daughter to do what she loved and be herself.

Andrea June 26, 2012 - 5:18 pm

While I don’t agree w/all of your comments you know I respect you as a blogger and friend enough to say how glad I am that you shared them.

I do agree that there should have been more indication that the story had scary parts. My kiddo is not afraid of that kind of stuff, and it didn’t phase her in the least.

I wrote some of this in a comment elsewhere, and wanted to share my take on the family:
“I loved it. I love her mom. Her goofy dad, too. And those crazy brothers. The whole thing was fantastic…” so I get what you’re saying about the dad, but I kind of liked him. I thought he was more supportive of her. And I also found myself tearing up at her relationship w/her mom. And the mischievous brothers were just little kids to me. But again – I hear you.

I guess now I think it’s going to stir up discussion for sure! Whereas after seeing it yesterday the only thing I was thinking about was how I liked the character and the music. 🙂

Amy June 26, 2012 - 6:58 pm

I think the main issue here is the rating. It’s PG, so there will be violence. This HAS to be taken in consideration before making any judgement calls. All Disney movies (including Pixar) have a level of violence – Nemo almost getting eaten by a shark, Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear trying to kill Woody and Buzz in an incinerator, etc. I think it is up to each parent to decide what level of violence is appropriate for our children. My 4 year-old was not frightened by BRAVE and in fact, loved it. Saying that, some 4 year-olds may find it too scary.

As far as Fergus goes, I didn’t see him as comic relief only, but rather a supportive father figure that understood Merida more than anyone else, while still loving his wife the same. I found it refreshing that Merida was a strong, independent female character that didn’t follow a traditional princess life. I respect Disney/Pixar for taking that leap.

Although I disagree with your review, I am glad to hear your thoughts. You know that I love you regardless! Having had the opportunity to interview the director, producer and cast members of BRAVE, I feel as if I have an understanding of why they made the choices they did in the movie and I would be happy to help answer any questions regarding that. 🙂

Craig Stephans June 27, 2012 - 9:56 pm

Thanks for the review. The last thing I want to watch with my son and daughter is another movie with a failing father. My one complaint about UP and Toy Story is the absentee father, too.

Shell June 28, 2012 - 12:31 pm

I’m so glad I read this! My boys are 7, 6, and 4 and I should probably wait to have them watch it!

erika June 30, 2012 - 6:49 pm

Agreed. When I saw the preview my first thought was, really? Another girl-power-boys-are-idiots movie? Not impressed. I am all for my daughter being strong and intelligent, following her dreams, but where are the strong male characters? Lost in video games or stuck living in their parents basements?

brian July 1, 2012 - 6:21 pm

I don’t think there’s any questioning the fact that men were portrayed as bumbling idiots in this movie. Take for example how the characters were drawn. Both Merida and her mother were drawn to scale with their heads and bodies in proportion to each other. On the other hand, King Fergus was drawn with a massive body and a disproportionately small head. In other words, King Fergus is all brawn and no brains. From beginning to end we saw male characters drawn in all sorts of unflattering ways. The prospective male suitors for Merida were all drawn to look like complete stooges. One young prince was drawn to resemble a cross-eyed dimwit with nary the ability to tie his shoes. Other men were drawn as simpletons with all sorts of weird angles and unflattering proportions. There is one scene where all the men are walking back into the castle without their pants on. I mean, seriously? Was it not possible to draw any of the men in this movie in a flattering way could’ve portrayed them in a more realistic light?

As for the scenarios that were drawn to show how men interact with each other, not a one of them displayed men in a positive light. King Fergus walks away from the dinner table but his peg leg get’s in the way and flips the table over, his wife shaking her head at what an idiot her husband is. Her Husband tries to give a simple speech but is so terribly inarticulate that he can’t even form a single sentence. His wife again shaking her head in disgust as she has to interrupt him and speak the words that her oafish husband cannot. I mean, is there even one scene where a man says anything remotely intelligent? Are any of them capable of anything remotely resembling abstract thought? No. The only times King Fergus says anything remotely interesting is when it relates to his daughter. Other than that, he’s portrayed as an idiot.

What is this film? A blatant man-hating movie written by a radical feminist with little to any appreciation for the wide spectrum of ways in which men and boys can be different from one another. No dispute is ever settled with words, only fisticuffs. Men do little more than drink, act stupid, and behave like animals. No man is drawn to correct proportion in this movie, not a one!!
All are drawn with small heads with the implication being that men don’t have brains, only appetites, testosterone and swords.

I’m sorry, but I thought this movie was flat-out awful and completely socially irresponsible. Pixar should be ashamed of themselves for taking a good premise (empowering young girls to make their choices) and adulterating it with stereotypical, man-hating, radical feminism ideology.

MaryBeth July 6, 2012 - 11:03 pm

My girls are older an we all really enjoyed the film. I do agree that the bumbling idiot thing was a little over the top for the male characters but it did give comic relief and allowed the movie to focus on what it was really about – girl empowerment. That is a rarity in the traditional princess fairy tale.

What I really loved was that this movie was not about the girl finding her prince and marrying him and living happily ever after blah blah blah. This was about the girl who did not want to marry the prince, who wanted to live on her terms and who wanted to make her own happiness. No one is being rescued by a prince here – everyone is accountable for their own actions, good and bad. My girls and I actually talked about this after the movie and why it is important to be able to count on yourself, make your own decisions, learn from your mistakes and try to make these right.

Rachel July 11, 2012 - 9:37 am

Agree completely! I also feel that besides the huge “scare factor”, the movie was just unnecessarily violent. I was so disappointed in PIXAR with this one 🙁

Outraged October 3, 2013 - 12:24 pm

Right on. The violence is why me and my bf walked out.

Raven March 16, 2014 - 5:57 pm

Really? You must be two big kiddies then. The day you watch some real violence, then you’ll know what you’re talking about. Brave is a great movie and the violence is pretty light.

Susie July 19, 2014 - 12:58 am

Oh Raven please, you could be a little more understanding and sensitive rather than be an arrogant jerk. I too found the movie rather violent and for you to talk smack about other people makes you ONE big kiddie! Now, how do you like that, missy???
If you don’t like being treated like the way I did, then please learn to tolerate all types of people rather than tolerate your self-centered ego.

Anonymous July 31, 2014 - 9:48 am

I find your comment pretty tasteless and cruel. Not everyone can stomach violence like your do and I think your behavior is quite crass. You’re the big kiddie that needs to grow up and be respectful of other people’s opinions. Just as you’re entitled to yours, you should be respectful of other peoples’. If you can’t, you don’t belong posting on this site.
On to the movie, there was too much violence and even though Disney movies have had some violence, the violence level in this movie was excessive and the effects were just too scary for some people to witness. One size does not fit all………….

Rasha February 1, 2013 - 5:21 am

Thanks Andrea for the review. I was screening through itunes trying to download interesting movies for my 3 year old to watch on a 17 hour journey. I don’t have the luxury of watching it before I let my son do, as I am very tight on time and I also have a 1 year to manage.
I kept sifting through reviews that said how amazing the movie is but none of them addressed my concerns as a parent carefully screening media for my 3 year old for developing role models and trying to exclude violence.
Without watching the movie you have targeted every single one of my concerns and so sadly I will not purchase it for my son, but that doesn’t mean I can’t watch it for own pleasure in the future when I have time 🙂

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Andrea February 1, 2013 - 1:44 pm

I’m so glad you stopped by! Yes, for the older kids I don’t think it will be an issue. And the animation really is great so definitely check it out for yourself at some point!

Michelle July 3, 2013 - 9:58 pm

If you knew anything about the heritage portrayed in this movie you would realize how ignorant you sound.

Film industry phasing out G-rated movies | My Family Blog July 17, 2013 - 10:33 am

[…] he didn’t like the mean lady. I didn’t even try to take the kids to see Brave before I screened it and I am glad because I know it would have been too much for them. What do these films have in […]

Outraged Girl At Heart October 3, 2013 - 12:22 pm

Me and my boyfriend saw the movie (last year) and to my surprise, the movie scared the socks off of me due to the excessive amounts of violence (especially the bear). Disney has had some bits of violence in other movies, which I could tolerate (violence in the other films wasn’t excessive); however, Brave went way too far with the amounts of violence and even the excessive bits of nudity from the boys constantly showing their bare butts. This movie was seriously misrated and should have gone to a PG-13. Even the younger children (up to 10 yrs. old) in the theater were crying, sitting on their parents’ laps, and even wanting to go outside for a few minutes.
After the scenes got too intense, me and my bf decided to walk out of the movie. That was the biggest and most disappointing afternoon at the movies I have ever had. I might be an adult; however, I do want to watch a family-oriented movie without excessive amounts of violence and nudity sometimes. I will not watch it again nor will I rent it. I hope Disney/Pixar has some better ideas for children’s movies without the excessive violence and nudilty.

Free Brave printable activity sheets! - Just is a Four Letter Word June 18, 2015 - 11:23 pm

[…] Unfortunately, I don’t recommend the movie Brave any more. […]

Bruce February 27, 2016 - 12:09 pm

My sentiments as well! As a parent of 3 children, 2 girls and 1 boy, I want my children to have positive views of both sexes. This movie showed how courageous and resilient women can be but as you mentioned did not have a single decent make role model – rather quite the opposite. It bothered me greatly to say the least.
It also seems to be indicative of the trend in almost all sitcoms and cartoons – try to find a string, ethical make role model, and you’ll be searching very hard with very little success. What an indictment on today’s “popular” views of society. –Happy to generalize and then blame the idiocity of [all] men and happy to keep it that way [without providing them actual role models]. It looks and smells like an agenda.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Andrea Updyke March 24, 2016 - 9:18 am

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. It’s pretty incredible to see how strongly people feel about the film (in either direction). On the other hand, we LOVED Inside Out so it’s nice to see there is something for everyone.

Sarah March 19, 2017 - 1:31 pm

I’m going to assume then that you don’t watch the Lion King either. The straight up murder of Mufasa and the end battle between Simba & Scar are far more traumatizing then the bear fights in Brave.


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