In “Brave,” Princess Merida puts a bow, her favorite birthday gift, to work as her parents, Queen Elinor and King Fergus, at right, watch. (PIXAR)

Movie princesses usually wear puffy dresses, have perfect hair and wait around for Prince Charming to save them from an evil witch. And then there’s Merida. She’s wild. Her hair is a mess. And she has no need for a prince.

The star of the new animated movie “Brave” isn’t a Disney princess. She’s Pixar’s first heroine (a female hero), and the movie’s creators wanted her to be different. (Pixar is the studio that created other movies including “Toy Story,” “Cars” and “The Incredibles.”)

“She’s much more relatable,” said producer Katherine Sarafian, who talked by phone to KidsPost about the movie, which opens Friday. “There’s not someone else who’s going to rescue her and fix it all for her.”

Merida’s independent spirit is obvious from the moment we meet her as a tiny girl living centuries ago in the Scottish Highlands. It’s her birthday, and the gift that delights Merida is not a doll or a toy, but a bow. She and her dad happily shoot arrows into the forest. Her mother, however, is not too pleased.

As the story jumps ahead, we find out that Mom — Queen Elinor — and the teenage Merida often disagree about how a princess should act, dress and even talk. The battle really heats up when Merida is told she must marry a young man she has never met.

“She’s being told who to be, and she doesn’t know who she is yet,” said co-director Mark Andrews.

Merida thinks her mother is being unfair. Kids in the audience can probably relate.

“I think there are so many teenagers who believe that they have all the answers. ‘I know what’s best for me. Everyone’s trying to ruin my life,’ ” Sarafian said.

So Merida tries to change her life by using magic. But things don’t go according to plan, and she creates trouble for her entire kingdom.

“She fiercely defends who she is, and that’s dangerous to do,” Andrews said. “There are consequences to her actions.”

In dealing with the consequences, Merida proves that she can fight in the tradition of male heroes. (That bow comes in handy.) She also discovers that bravery means admitting that other people aren’t always the problem. As Andrews said, “Sometimes you are your own worst enemy.”

— Christina Barron