The National Archives of Scotland maintains the official register of plaid patterns known as “tartan” and their associated clans or groups in The Scottish Register of Tartans. Their mission is both to preserve history as well as to register newly designed tartans. This registry was formed as the official one in 2008, merging two unofficial registries, the Scottish Tartans World Register and the Scottish Tartans Authority. There are many tartans that are designated not for a clan, as commonly thought, but also for organizations, areas of land, and even companies. In that last category are an assortment of tartans that have been registered for fictional characters. Click on the character’s name in bold to see the picture of the fabric at The Scottish Register of Tartans.
Brave‘s DunBroch clan. For this year’s animated film Brave, Disney/Pixar registered the royal family’s tartan, which uses “the ocean blue of the North Sea” and “deep scarlet [that] represents the family’s reverence for its own history and the blood shed during battles between the clans. Deep green shows a love for Scotland’s majestic highlands.” The navy blue represents the forging of the clans, and the grey “imbues a sense of respect for the inner soul of the strong Scottish people.”
I gave up on trying to take notes in the dark fairly early on as I watched Brave, but one of the few I did manage was, “a princess donea stuff her gob.” Why was that noteworthy? Because they left it in.
It would have been all too tempting to let executives step in and market position the Scottish right out of Brave. Instead, Pixar encouraged the voice actors to make dialect suggestions. There are a lot of vocabulary words that would be totally unfamiliar to the average American child, and there’s even a character that speaks in an incomprehensibly thick Doric accent. Rather than translate him – or anyone – the characters react and move on. That is as it should be. Do you really need a translation to understand the emotional context of this real world squabble?
The cowardly answer would have been to have the characters speak with a mildly Scottish accent and throw in a few “wee lads and lasses” and leave it at that. Yes, I’m looking at you, Shrek. Or have a few thick-accented characters who are translated for viewers, “He meant ‘Yes, that’s fair.'” Instead, we have a mother who warns her child that she’ll get gobblywobbles if she eats a whole pile of treats. We have characters referring to galoots and numpties, and even an exclamation of “Jings crivins, help ma boab!”
Granted, many of the voice actors have spent a long time in America and have accents that, while thick to American ears, have less of a burr than they once did. Pixar could have gone too far and them play it up for a movie only viewable with subtitles, but they seem to have struck a good balance here. Everything is clear enough in context, and really it makes a fairy tale in a mythical setting seem genuine and grounded. Removing all the slang would have been the wrong choice.
My 10-year-old did not leave asking for a translation. She asked me to tell her about will-o’- the wisps. She asked if she could learn archery. She asked what they were eating. She asked if we could go to Scotland someday, but she never needed to ask what a numpty was.