Tuesday, 12 August 2014 10:15

Meet the Cavalia rider who inspired Brave’s Princess Merida

What do Princess Merida and stunt rider Fairland Ferguson have in common? The same flaming red curly locks, fabulous horsemanship and some more

Text: Joanna Goh, reporting from Brussels
Photos: Joanna Goh & Base Entertainment
Video: Foong Min Shi, reporting from Brussels


Fairland Ferguson and Princess Merida from Brave

For those of you watching Cavalia tonight or in the next few weeks to come, be sure to keep a lookout for a redhead stunt rider with big bouncy tight curls that go beyond her shoulders. That’s Fairland Ferguson, a trick and roman rider who has been touring and performing with this equestrian theatre circus for six years and counting.

What’s so special about her?

Do you spot a slight semblance between Fairland and the Scottish Princess and protagonist in 2012 Disney Pixar-animated film Brave? Well, if you do – your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you.

During our Brussels press trip in May this year, we were told that this 30-year-old South Carolina native is the inspiration, or as what fashion moguls call -- the muse, behind the creation of Princess Merida of DunBroch in Brave. And the whole process happened spontaneously – without any prior notice or agreement – after Pixar’s executives swung by Cavalia to watch the show in San Jose and did a stables tour with Fairland at the end of the show, a couple of years ago.

Both Merida and Fairland are like carbon copies of each other: they share the same wild untamable ‘do in the same shade of striking red, and are both equally adroit in horse-riding. Another Brave fun-fact: Merida’s father is known as King Fergus and Fairland’s surname is a not-so-coincidental Ferguson.

In terms of personality, Merida, the 11th Disney Princess, is a sassy and spunky Scottish royal, just like her real-life inspiration, Fairland.

Disney PIXAR’s Brave animators visit CAVALIA

(L-R) Brave Story Artist Valerie LaPointe, Brave Animators Kevin O’Hara and Jessica Torres, and Brave Story Artist Louis Gonzales, get a backstage visit with CAVALIA stars Fairland Fergusson and Miracle in San Jose.  Many of the Pixar crew had visited the equine spectacular for inspiration during its last San Francisco engagement, back when they were creating the animated film.

In an interview with local and foreign press in Brussels, Fairland, who was raised in a farm and grew up riding horses, said she “majored in Biology” - something “totally different” and not related to what she’s doing at Cavalia right now.

She explained that her full-time stint with horses began when she joined a country western show as a horseback rider many years ago. “I was hired as a basic rider [who had to carry flags and ride along] and once I was there I learned how to stunt ride,” she said.

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