Having almost completely stalled their creative engines with Cars 2, Disney Pixar heads for the ancient Scottish highlands in this computer-animated fable of female empowerment.

Brave signals a return to form for John Lasseter’s team of digital wizards, striking a perfect balance between laughter and tears.

The central plot of a daughter’s fractious relationship with her mother might be slight, but directors Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell conjure excitement and heart-warming sentiment out of the ether.

They cannily appeal to lads by making the heroine a bow-wielding, adventure-seeking tomboy, and provide plentiful giggles for very young audiences with the introduction of mischievous red-haired triplets.

King Fergus of Clan DunBroch (voiced by Billy Connolly) and his wife Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) plan to marry off their daughter Merida (Kelly Macdonald) to the first-born son of one of the other clans.

However, Merida disrupts the Highland Games, which are designed to test the suitors, then flees into the forest where she encounters a witch (Julie Walters).

“I want a spell to change my mum. That’ll change my fate,” the princess says.

So the witch gives Merida an enchanted cake and when Queen Elinor takes a bite, she turns into a bear: the same animal which cleaved off King Fergus’s left leg.

The princess is consumed with regret and fears her father will kill Queen Elinor in her fearsome new form.

So mother and daughter head into the wilderness to break the spell.