|Directed by||Aaron Blaise
|Produced by||Chuck Williams|
|Written by||Tab Murphy
Ron J. Friedman
|Narrated by||Harold Gould|
|Music by||Phil Collins
|Edited by||Tim Mertens|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$250.4 million|
Brother Bear is a 2003 American animated adventure comedy-drama film produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It is the 44th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. In the film, an Inuit boy named Kenai pursues a bear in revenge for a battle that he provoked in which his oldest brother Sitka is killed. He tracks down the bear and kills it, but the Spirits, angered by this needless death, change Kenai into a bear himself as punishment. In order to be human again, Kenai must learn to see through another's eyes, feel through another's heart, and discover the meaning of brotherhood. It was the third and final Disney animated feature produced primarily by the Feature Animation studio at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, Florida; the studio was shut down in March 2004, not long after the release of this film in favor of computer animated features. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Pixar's Finding Nemo. A direct-to-video sequel, Brother Bear 2, was released on August 29, 2006.
The film is set in a post-ice age North America, where the local tribesmen believe all creatures are created through the Spirits, who are said to appear in the form of an aurora. Three brothers: Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix)- the youngest brother, Denahi (voiced by Jason Raize)- the middle brother -and Sitka (voiced by D.B. Sweeney)- the eldest brother, return to their tribe in order for Kenai to receive his sacred totem, a necklace in the shape of an animal. The particular animal it represents symbolizes what he must achieve to call himself a man. Unlike Sitka, who gained the eagle of guidance, and Denahi, who gained the wolf of wisdom, Kenai receives the bear of love, to which he objects, stating that bears are thieves. He believes his point is made a fact when a bear takes some salmon. Kenai and his brothers pursue the bear, but a fight follows on a glacier, during which Sitka gives his life to save his brothers, although the bear survives. Vengeful, Kenai heads out to avenge Sitka. He chases the bear up onto a mountain and kills it. The Spirits, represented by Sitka's spirit in the form of a bald eagle, transform Kenai into a bear after the dead bear's body disappears. Denahi arrives, mistaking Kenai is dead, and believing the bear is responsible, vows to avenge Kenai by hunting it down.
Kenai falls down some river rapids, survives, and is healed by Tanana (voiced by Joan Copeland), the shaman of Kenai's tribe. She does not speak the bear language, but advises him to return to the mountain -"where the lights touch the Earth"- to find Sitka and be turned back to normal, but only when he corrects what he had done; she disappears without an explanation. Kenai quickly discovers the wildlife can talk, meeting two brother moose, Rutt and Tuke (voiced by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, in a send-up of their famous characters Bob and Doug McKenzie). He gets caught in a trap, but is freed by a chatty bear cub named Koda (voiced by Jeremy Suarez). The two bears make a deal: Kenai will go with Koda to a nearby salmon run and then the cub will lead Kenai to the mountain. As the two eventually form a sibling-like bond, Koda reveals that his mother is missing. The two are hunted by Denahi who, still unaware that the bear he's pursuing is his brother, is determined to hunt down Kenai. Rutt and Tuke run into the bears multiple times, the group hitching a ride on a herd of mammoths to quicken the pace to the salmon run, but the moose are left behind when the bears move on. Kenai and Koda escape Denahi again and reach the salmon run, where a large number of bears live as a family, including the leader Tug (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), a grizzly bear. Kenai becomes very much at home and content with the other bears. During a discussion among the bears, Koda tells a story about his mother fighting human hunters, making Kenai realize that the bear he killed was Koda's mother.
Guilty and horrified, Kenai runs away, but Koda soon finds him. Kenai reveals the truth to Koda, who runs away, grief-stricken. An apologetic Kenai leaves to reach the mountain. Rutt and Tuke, having fallen out, reform their brotherhood in front of Koda, prompting him to go after Kenai. Denahi confronts Kenai on the mountain, but their fight is interrupted by Koda, who steals Denahi's hunting pike. Kenai goes to Koda's aid out of love, prompting Sitka to appear and turn him back into a human, much to Denahi and Koda's surprise. However, Kenai asks Sitka to transform him back into a bear so he can stay with Koda. Sitka complies, and Koda is reunited briefly with the spirit of his mother, before she and Sitka return to the Spirits. In the end, Kenai lives with the rest of the bears and gains his title as a man, through being a bear.
- Joaquin Phoenix as Kenai, the younger brother of Sitka and Denahi. After killing a bear, Kenai is turned into one himself to teach him to see another's eyes, feel through another's heart, and discover the meaning of brotherhood. John E. Hurst and Byron Howard served as the supervising animators for Kenai in human and bear form respectively.
- Jeremy Suarez as Koda, a wisecracking grizzly bear cub who helps Kenai on his journey to where the Lights Touch the Earth. Alex Kupershmidt served as the supervising animator for Koda.
- Rick Moranis as Rutt, a comic Canadian moose.
- Dave Thomas as Tuke, another comic Canadian moose.
- Jason Raize as Denahi, the middle brother. Ruben A. Aquino served as the supervising animator for Denahi.
- D.B. Sweeney as Sitka, the oldest brother.
- Joan Copeland as Tanana, the shaman-woman of Kenai's tribe.
- Michael Clarke Duncan as Tug, a wise old grizzly bear.
- Greg Proops as Male Lover Bear
- Pauley Perrette as Female Lover Bear
- Estelle Harris as Old Lady Bear
- Bumper Robinson as Chipmunks
- Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley as Inuit Narrator
In 2002, Digital Media Effects reported the title of the film as Bears. An article in IGN in 2001 also mentioned an upcoming Disney release with the title Bears as did Jim Hill of Ain't It Cool News.
Design and animation
The film is traditionally animated but includes some CG elements such as "a salmon run and a caribou stampede". Layout artist Armand Serrano, speaking about the drawing process on the film, said that "we had to do a life drawing session with live bear cubs and also outdoor drawing and painting sessions at Fort Wilderness in Florida three times a week for two months [...]".. In 2001 Background supervisor Barry Kooser and his team traveled to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and studied with Western landscape painter Scott Christensen, where they learned to: "simplify objects by getting the spatial dimensions to work first and working in the detail later."
According to Ruben Aquino, supervising animator for the character of Denahi, Denahi was originally meant to be Kenai's father; later this was changed to Kenai's brother. Byron Howard, supervising animator for Kenai in bear form, said that earlier in production a bear named Grizz (who resembles Tug in the film and is even voiced by the same person) was supposed to have the role of Kenai's mentor. Art Director Robh Ruppel stated that the ending of the film originally showed how Kenai and Denahi get together once a year to play when the northern lights are in the sky.
Rotten Tomatoes reported that 38% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 125 reviews. The site's consensus is "Brother Bear is gentle and pleasant if unremarkable Disney fare, with so-so animation and generic plotting." Some reviews on the site criticized the movie as a retread of older Disney films like The Lion King and the 20th Century Fox film Ice Age (although Brother Bear began production before Ice Age did), while others defended the film as a legitimate variation of the theme.
The popular American movie critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper both gave the film positive reviews, with Ebert saying that it "doesn't have the zowie factor of The Lion King or Finding Nemo, but is sweet rather than exciting. Children and their parents are likely to relate on completely different levels, the adults connecting with the transfer of souls from man to beast, while the kids are excited by the adventure stuff."
Of note to many critics and viewers was the use of the film's aspect ratio as a storytelling device. The film begins at a standard widescreen aspect ratio of 1.75:1 (similar to the 1.85:1 ratio common in U.S. cinema or the 1.78:1 ratio of HDTV), while Kenai is a human; in addition, the film's art direction and color scheme are grounded in realism. After Kenai transforms into a bear twenty-four minutes into the picture, the film itself transforms as well: to an anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and towards brighter, more fanciful colors and slightly more caricatured art direction. Brother Bear was the first feature since The Horse Whisperer to do a widescreen shift. It was the only animated feature to do this trick, until The Simpsons Movie and Enchanted in 2007.
The film made $85,336,277 during its domestic theatrical run and then went on to earn $164,700,000 outside the U.S., bringing its worldwide total to $250,383,219, which is successful.
Awards and nominations
The song "Welcome" written by Phil Collins was later used as the theme song for Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams during the Happiest Homecoming on Earth, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Disneyland. For the parade, the song had slightly changed lyrics and was performed by an ensemble.
Disney's Brother Bear was released in November 2003 for the Game Boy Advance, Mobile phone and Microsoft Windows. The story starts as the two moose are telling the story of "The bear who said he wasn't a bear". The story follows the film where Kenai transformed into a bear by his brother Sitka and is being hunted by his brother Denahi.
- "Brother Bear". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-01-05.
- Lenburg, Jeff (2009). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons Third Edition. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 0-8160-6599-3.
- Tracy, Joe. "A Look at Animated Movies Coming Out in 2003". Digital Media FX. Retrieved August 7, 2009.
- Linder, Brian (July 6, 2001). "A Sneak Peek at Disney's Future Films". IGN. Retrieved June 3, 2009.
- Hill, Jim (October 11, 2001). "New Pics!!! Jim Hill Schools Us About All Things Nightmare Before Christmas & Long Term Changes At DisneyLand!!!". Ain't It Cool News. Harry Knowles. Retrieved August 15, 2009.
- Wloszczyna, Susan (October 29, 2003). "Looks like a bear market for 2-D animation". USA Today. Retrieved January 1, 2009.
- "Das Interview mit Ruben Aquino, Supervising-Animator (English transcript)". OutNow.CH. February 5, 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2009.
- Brother Bear: Bonus Features: Art Review (DVD). Buena Vista Home Entertainment. 2004.
- "Brother Bear". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- "Brother Bear (2003)". RogerEbert.com. Retrieved May 30, 2014.
- Chaney, Jen (January 23, 2005). "The Year on DVD and Tape". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved April 27, 2010.
- "Brother Bear (2003) - News". IMDb. Retrieved July 16, 2010.
- "Brother Bear / Brother Bear 2 (3-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray / DVD] (2013)". Amazon.com. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
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- Brother Bear Online Archive