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The Brave team based Castle DunBroch on real-life castles in Scotland. (Courtesy Disney/Pixar)

Being “Brave” in Scotland

Unlike the days of my youth, it seems like children today can watch almost any movie of their choice anytime of day or night. Perhaps a bit overused, but parents simply throw on a DVD if they need to keep their little ones occupied for an hour or two.

Long car rides? No problem. Most minivans now come equipped with video players.

Having just watched a sneak preview of the upcoming Pixar release Brave (which premieres tomorrow), I wondered if any movies are secretly inspiring kids to want to travel or see the places they see on the screen. Did The Lion King spur tourism to Africa? How about family tours to China — are they more popular after Kung Fu Panda?

Brave, which follows the heroic journey of Princess Merida, is set in the rugged and mysterious Highlands of Scotland. Stories of epic battles and mystical legends associated with this part of the world have been passed down since ancient times. Now that Disney has thrown its hat in the ring, perhaps a new tale will join the lore – but will it motivate families to travel to Scotland?

Having visited Scotland with my own family when my sons were 9 and 12, I can tell you that my kids found the country fascinating. We took them to look for Nessie and toured numerous castles, which never seemed to get old (pun intended). Even our trip to St. Andrews was worthwhile despite the fact that I was the only one to play the legendary course (fortunately, there’s mini golf and a beach that’s perfect for exploring nearby).

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Angus and Princess Merida. (Courtesy Disney/Pixar)

I’m not the only one who thinks Scotland makes for a great family vacation. Starting next spring, Adventures by Disney will offer a Brave-centric nine-day tour that takes families to some of the landmarks that inspired the film and features archery lessons, canoeing, and horseback riding.

So if you take your children to see Brave this summer, or better yet, to Scotland itself, here’s a behind-the-scenes look at what you’ll be seeing:

  • In Scotland, the swamp and bog gases that seep up through the earth can be blue like the flame of a pilot light. Scottish lore says that some people would follow these lights, thinking they were fairies. The production team took this myth and created the “will o’ the wisps” in Brave.
  • To help the film transport its audience to Scotland, director Mark Andrews and his team visited landmark locations in Edinburgh, walking the Royal Mile and feasting on homemade haggis — a pudding made with sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs.

Follow Rainer on Twitter at @JenssTravel

All photographs: Rainer Jenss