IT IS billed as a potential lifeline for the Scottish tourism industry in the face of the global economic downturn – with the promise of being “bigger than Braveheart”.
Now it has emerged £7 million is to be spent to try to ensure the nation capitalises on the release of Brave, an eagerly awaited 3D animated film set in ancient Scotland.
VisitScotland and the Scottish Government are joining forces with Disney for the biggest ever campaign to lure visitors to the country on the back of a feature film which is hoped will eclipse the impact of the likes of Local Hero, Braveheart, Rob Roy and The Da Vinci Code.
The first fairytale from Pixar – the maker of Toy Story, Up and Finding Nemo – is set entirely in the Scottish Highlands. It is said to tap into “Scotland’s rich history of epic battles and mystical legends”.
A new trailer for Brave was released last week, with the film due to be unveiled in the summer.
Co-producer Disney is teaming up with VisitScotland to plan a series of marketing campaigns, that are expected to start rolling out within weeks. It will be the first time Disney has worked on such a scale with a country’s tourism organisation around the launch of one of its films.
Major cinema and TV advertising campaigns are being planned worldwide as part of the drive, which tourism leaders claim could lead to a £150m boost for the economy.
Funding is to be set aside to help stage special screenings around the world, while it is hoped the stars will be out in force at a major premiere in Scotland. Among the big-name actors lending their voices to the film are Billy Connolly, Robbie Coltrane, Julie Walters, Kevin McKidd, Emma Thompson and Craig Ferguson. Organisations such as Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, the National Trust for Scotland and the Forestry Commission are expected to be involved in various campaigns. Businesses and tourism organisations, such as hotels and visitor attractions, will be encouraged to develop their own themed campaigns.
Mike Cantlay, VisitScotland’s chairman, said: “I really do think Brave will be much bigger than Braveheart. The whole thing is going to be huge, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for the industry.
“We are expecting a return of about 20 to 1 on the investment we’re putting in with the government. This film will be shown in more than 70 countries across the world and will give us the opportunity to convert cinema-goers into visitors in the biggest campaign VisitScotland has ever launched.
“There are very few tourism destinations that get to work so closely with the world’s largest entertainment companies – and this gives us an unprecedented opportunity.”
Brave charts the adventures of a flame-haired heroine – the first female main character in a Pixar film. Princess Merida, who is played by Trainspotting and Boardwalk Empire star Kelly Macdonald, accidentally triggers chaos in her kingdom by flaunting ancient traditions.
One trailer has already had more than 4.4 million hits on YouTube, while a teaser advert, featuring the voice of Scottish singer Julie Fowlis, was shown in ad breaks during Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.
The film-makers, who have worked on the likes of Ratatouille, The Incredibles and The Lion King, have spent almost six years working on Brave, and are now in the final production stages. Hopes are high the film will receive a gala screening at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, which coincides with the movie’s US release.
Mr Cantlay said: “I am very much hoping that there will be a big premiere in Scotland and we’ve been making it clear that such an event would obviously be very welcome here.”
Mark Andrews, the film’s director, said: “Brave is an amazing, magical adventure with larger than life characters – including Scotland itself. During our research, we learned that everything in Scotland tells a story - every stone, tree, mountain – which is why we are so proud that this beautiful country is the backdrop of our film.”