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Meet Katherine Sarafian, Producer of Brave

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On my recent visit to Pixar Studios I had the great pleasure of interviewing Katherine Sarafian, the producer of the highly anticipated film Brave. She shared some nuggets (seems like there should be a McNuggets joke in there somewhere) about working at Pixar and the story behind Brave, which, in case I haven’t made it clear, looks awesome.

On her career with Pixar:

Well, it has been a long road, but I think that Pixar is one of those places where you can work on lots of different films and have a different career on each film, so I try. On each film I grew into a new role. I started sort of entry level, at the bottom, and moved up. By the time I was on “A Bug’s Life” I was a first-time manager, and once I learned that I could manage people, and really enjoyed doing that, then there was a progression into marketing for a while.

… Pixar is very much about how you recover from your errors. Because I, you know, we, learned on the job. A lot of us did here.

On the inspiration for Brave:

It is not based on an existing fairytale. It’s an original story, and it was conceived by Brenda Chapman and based on the relationship… with her own daughter. I’d say we’re all big fans of traditional, classic, dark old fairy tales, but there’s not one that it’s based on at all. No, it’s an original Pixar creation.

… as a filmmaker-driven studio, our directors and our filmmakers are pitching the ideas from the beginning and when it’s their turn to pitch an idea they could pitch one — but they write what they know, and at this particular time when Brenda Chapman pitched this idea, it was very dear to her heart, having a six-year-old daughter at the time. They were really, really butting heads and she said, what will this kid be like as a teenager?

On Merida being Pixar’s first female lead:

From that initial pitch, John Lasseter was hooked, like “Yes, we want to develop this story!” So it wasn’t so much about it being, “Okay, it’s time for the girl movie.” It was Brenda’s pitch in that moment for her slated development, and then she went into development. You know, we don’t rush the development process, so that took some time, and that’s why these films take so long. I think in a way that that’s evidence that we don’t say, “Oh, now it’s time for this.”

We let it be what it needed to be.

She also told us that Pixar isn’t messing with tradition and as such John Ratzenberger voices a character and the Pizza Planet truck is indeed in the film, but not in the way we would expect. Considering the setting of Brave, I’m not sure what I would expect, but I am mighty curious.

Sarafian, who recently had a baby, also said that she is looking forward to taking her maternity leave after the film opens, so congratulations to her on all kinds of fun stuff.

Brave opens on June 22.

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I was a guest of Disney/Pixar. Opinions are my own.
Photos courtesy of Pixar