In these Pixar shorts reviews I have only looked at original shorts and none of the spin-offs of movies except for Mike’s New Car and that was only because I thought the audio-commentary was the cutest thing I’d ever heard. Well, I am making another exception for The Legend of Mor’du. I wanted to review this short because I think it is a good example of the potential of Brave and the type of story it could have told. In this brief short we get a true legend. The kind of story you would tell your children and they would learn a great lesson. That just isn’t the case with Brave. I don’t think Brave is a terrible movie but I do think it fails in a lot of ways (will save most of my Brave thoughts for the review!)
The Legend of Mor’du tells the story of a man with 4 sons and each has a gift- compassion, wisdom, justice and the eldest has strength. The father decides on his deathbed to give the kingdom to all sons instead of bequeathing it to the oldest. This enrages the oldest who is not only strong but extremely prideful. He feels his inheritance has been stolen away. He demands his claim and when they refuse the brothers turn against each other bringing the kingdom into war.
The witch telling the story meets up with the Prince and offers him a chance to change his fate much like Merida is given in Brave. And as in Brave the Prince must chose family over his own pride in order to change his fate. Like most Pixar stories family is always the most important element of life and a person’s journey (probably more so than even Disney). But the Prince drinks the potion seeking to overthrow his brothers and he turns into a great bear named Mor’du.
All he needs to do is restore the bonds with his brothers but his pride causes him to embrace the bear, defeat his brothers and fight the soldiers who of course see him as the vicious bear.
The bear Mor’du slays many warriors and the armies flee the kingdom leaving it desolate and fractured. Mor’du is left alone to wander without family to support him or people to rule over the rest of his days. The lust for power and his wounded pride forever changed his fate and the fate of the entire kingdom.
Then the witch asks her audience ‘will you tempt fate?’.
Now that is a story! It is clear, concise, with a lesson where the character is tested and in this case fails. There is a clear good vs evil and an epic feeling to the journey, which is necessary in this type of story. If you think of something like Lord of the Rings Frodo is given a job to do. He must return the ring to Mordor or the Dark Lord will find it and “cover all the lands of a second darkness”. There is this clear battle between good and evil. And the weaknesses of Frodo and his entire team including Gandalf and Aragorn are tested and pushed to their limit. This makes the journey exciting and gives it an emotional heft.
Such stakes are a must for such a story. The Legend of King Arthur is another example of this kind of epic storytelling. Arthur wants to lead with all goodness, courage and peace. But he falls for the lady Guinevere leaving him and his high ideals vulnerable to being wounded and hurt. Lancelot comes and he and Guinevere fall in love despite their attempts not too. This leads to conflict and the challenge to Arthur’s vision of Camelot.
You see how such a legend needs to be a tight story with clear consequences of good vs evil? The characters individual weakness always comes into play and often leads to tragedy (even in Lord of the Rings many are asked to pay the price for the end goal including Gollum).
The Legend of Mor’du has all of these elements and it works as the legend it is trying to be. It is a cautionary tale about the dangers of pride and that loyalty to family is always key to our fate.
Brave attempts such a tale far less successfully and you will find out why in my next Pixar review… (quite the lead in right!).
Overall Grade- B