Brave, Pixar's first film with a female protagonist, co-directed by a woman for the first time, promised much for Disney fans who are not the princess type. But did the Highlands romp deliver?
For Merida, teenage first-born of the clan DunBroch, life just isn't fair. Her indulgent father - 'Bear King' Fergus, leader of four Highland clans - encourages her by giving her bows and arrows, while her dignified mother, Queen Elinor, attempts to ram a square peg into a round hole by teaching her the manners that befit her royal position.
Things come to a head when the remaining clans are invited to compete for Merida's hand, and what follows is as much a story of the mother-daughter relationship as it is an individual journey of discovery for both. With bear fights thrown in.
Actually, that's one of the first things I should mention. Brave is darkly atmospheric, and occasionally violent or scary, which earned it a PG rating in the UK; very young or sensitive children will either need some forewarning, or to wait for the DVD with the lights on. But it's also very, very funny, relying on the classic Pixar mix of sly asides and bum jokes to prompt laughs from a broad audience. Cheeky (literally), surprising, and one of the most extraordinarily complex and beautiful pieces of animation ever seen, it ticks boxes left, right and centre as a charming, witty and moving film.
As a Disney fan, one might argue that I'm easily pleased, but if it helps restore the balance somewhat, I'll admit to having a long-standing and persistent antipathy towards their most successful film ever, The Lion King.
In Disney terms, what Brave actually most reminded me of was the wonderful Aladdin; despite dropping the songs and moving the setting from arid desert to lush forest, the classic tale of achieving maturity and defying expectations in the process is very similar and works just as well.
It's that similarity to the scrappy street rat that makes me feel that yes, Merida has delivered as a feminist princess. Although her complaints about arranged marriage are more in Jasmine's line, her character arc is so much more similar to that of male protagonists of the past. She's reckless and dramatic, though in a way that's sympathetic and realistic, rather than purely bratty.
Kelly MacDonald turns in a pitch-perfect performance, complemented beautifully by Emma Thompson's Queen Elinor. A raft of other familiar Scottish voices, including Billy Connolly and Robbie Coltrane, lend an air of authenticity; while there's no way I could tell you whether the slavish attention to detail Pixar paid actually rendered an accurate portrayal of medieval Scottish culture, it certainly convinced this viewer.
And oh, the wonder of having a heroine who climbs towers, brandishes a sword, is a highly accomplished archer and flouts authority. Who - literally - breaks the constraints of her restrictive clothing, and demands freedom; who admits that love and marriage are not on the cards for her at that moment and might never be. That's right: a Disney Princess with no love interest. Think about that for a moment.
Even better, while Elinor and Merida are elegant and attractive, they are not seductively so. Merida has a slim teen's figure, and Elinor is respected for her dignity, intelligence and power rather than merely her looks. Despite Elinor's emphasis on ladylike behaviour, it's actually when Merida is at her most determined and revolutionary that her father comments that she's 'just like her mother'.
Brave has been criticised by some parents for making the male characters unattractive buffoons in order to increase the status of the women. I find this zero-sum argument unconvincing. For a start, everyone is a bit ridiculous. While the female characters are physically less of a parade of grotesques, they certainly have their own comic foibles, and one maid exists only to scream hysterically and have an ample bosom.
In the context of those parts of the film - heavily reliant on visual gags and slapstick surrounding Merida's extraordinarily cheeky and clever triplet brothers - that made sense. And of course there's Julie Walters' bungling witch, a stereotype of a sort, and certainly not an attractive one. It seems there's no female accomplishment that can't prompt cries that men are being hard done by...
Ultimately, humour, horror, politics and sentimentality are drawn together in what is unmistakably Pixar's most beautiful film to date. From every wayward spiral of Merida's uncontrollable red hair to the dark and foggy thicket in which the mysterious stone circle stands, the astonishing clarity and delicacy is overwhelming.
Upon leaving, all I could think of to say was that I marvelled, laughed and wept. That's a success in my book.
Alexandra Roumbas Goldstein is a mum of one, digital marketer, cat fan, Disney obsessive and feminist, in any order you like. You can follow her on Twitter @mokuska.