Fairy tales about princesses that yearn for a more fulfilling existence are an old hat for Walt Disney Pictures, but Pixar has not yet released an entry in that genre. That will change next year with Brave, the computer-animation company’s first ancient world fable – and unlike the slew of upcoming “re-imagined” fairy tale movies, this one is an original story.

Conceptual artwork for Brave (formerly The Bear and the Bow) has been unveiled, offering a look at the sort of period European landscapes and mystical settings that are quite unlike anything glimpsed in a Pixar film before (and no, the portrayal of Paris in Ratatouille doesn’t count).

Brenda Chapman (co-director of The Prince of Egypt) conceived the project, and was initially set to become the first woman to direct a Pixar animated feature. Creative heads of the company were less than enthused about the direction of Chapman’s The Bear and the Bow, which led to Mark Andrews ( Pixar’s Oscar-nominated short “One Man Band”) taking over directorial duties on the movie – which was renamed Brave – and Chapman leaving the studio.

Here’s is how EW describes the plot of Brave, followed by conceptual artwork for the computer-generated feature:

‘Brave’ is set in the mystical Scottish Highlands, where Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is the princess of a kingdom ruled by King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). An unruly daughter and an accomplished archer, Merida one day defies a sacred custom of the land and inadvertently brings turmoil to the kingdom.

In an attempt to set things right, Merida seeks out an eccentric old Wise Woman (Julie Walters) and is granted an ill-fated wish. Also figuring into Merida’s quest — and serving as comic relief — are the kingdom’s three lords: the enormous Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), the surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson), and the disagreeable Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane).

This conceptual artwork for Brave is reminiscent of that for Tangled, and the Pixar title should also follow in the footstep’s of Disney’s most recent princess movie by presenting its female protagonist as a more capable and active player in her fate. Brave will surely feature Pixar’s now customary brand of truly gorgeous and detailed animation, but it could potentially break from the studio’s tried-and-true formulaic approach to storytelling as well. That’s not at all a knock of their previous films, mind you – it would just be cool to see Pixar continue to stretch its artistic wings even more than it has already.

On an amusing sidenote: now that Macdonald is providing the voice of Merida instead of Reese Witherspoon (who officially withdrew from the film due to a scheduling conflict), that means Brave will feature the vocal talents of no less than four actors – Macdonald, Thompson, Walters, and Coltrane – who have worked on the Harry Potter movie franchise. Small world, eh?

Brave is slated for theatrical release on June 22nd, 2012 – the same day as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Despite the potential of the latter film to be good summer popcorn entertainment, the Pixar movie is arguably the one better poised to be an overall well-made film.

Source: EW