Scots dialects help big screen Brave ring true

IT WAS made in California, but it is laced with Oor Wullie and Doric. Scottish screen stars Kelly Macdonald and Kevin McKidd spoke yesterday about how they got authentic Scots dialect and slang into Hollywood’s animated epic set in a fantasy Scotland.

Manky, numpty and hurdies – the Scots word for buttocks, dating back to Burns but a favourite of comedian Billy Connolly, who also appears in the film – were all suggested for the script of Brave, after its Scottish cast began helping make the film “authentic and true” to its setting.

“Jings, crivens, help ma boab,” the feisty Princess Merida, voiced by MacDonald, bursts out at a calamitous moment during the film.

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A series of Scottish phrases, along with a Doric accent from McKidd so strong it was barely comprehensible, brought pleas from Disney executives for “words everybody could understand”.

They were turned down, the Pixar studio’s legendary chief, John Lasseter, said yesterday. “We loved that because we don’t understand it, but we know that they are honest and true.”

Mr Lasseter added: “We wanted the families and all the people going to see the movie in Scotland to look up and go, ‘Wow, they’ve captured Scotland’. I think this was really important.”

Brave, the 3D animated film from the makers of Toy Story and the Incredibles, gets its European premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival next month.

The Scottish Government is convinced the film’s world-wide screenings will mean a marketing bonanza for Scottish tourism.

The VisitScotland agency was helping the Disney-owned Pixar host scores of visiting journalists this week for cast interviews and a taste of Scotland ranging from the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh to train tours.

Their itinerary also included dinner at Edinburgh’s lavish Prestonfield House Hotel last night, complete with archery and falconry displays. Set in a mythical medieval Scotland, inspired by famed castles, Scots pine forests and sights like the Ring of Brodgar at Stenness on Orkney, the film tells of a flame-haired “anti-princess” Merida, a fiercely independent teen heroine fighting off bears and her parents.

With seven years of research, behind them, the film’s makers spoke yesterday of aiming to “touch the rocks and the heather and the lichen, breathing the air and the weather changes” of Scotland.

“It was great fun playing these characters, and I rarely get asked to be Scottish any more. I’m usually doing American accents,” said McKidd, who came to prominence in Trainspotting and who is currently in his fourth season in the US television show, Grey’s Anatomy.

Voicing Lord MacGuffin and his son, the Elgin-born McKidd called on his native Doric.

Asked to deliver a “very thick incomprehensible Scottish accent”, he opted for his “crazy local dialect”, he said.

When Glaswegian Connolly began firing off Scots words, Pixar staff had to check meanings because “some were not appropriate”, added director Mark Andrews.