View Full Version : Brother Bear: Let's discuss some details

Peter Pirate
11-06-2003, 09:16 AM
With all of the conversation surrounding Brother Bear I thought it might be helpful to discuss the intracacies and finer points since there have been such a wide variety of opinions discussed.

First, I'll reiterate by saying I think it was a fine movie. I'd give it a solid "B" with perhaps a "B+" leaning.

I think BB started out slow, but that seems to me to be quite common in setting up a story. It was here that some so called duplicity could be seen, but I challenge anyone to tell me how a story involving Native Americans CANNOT have a somewhat similar feel as Pochahontas, for example. The same with talking animals, or any other group, there are bound to be similarities, I think. The animators are drawing fictitious characters with typical stereotypical features or actions...Koda as a young orphaned bear cub almost can't help but resembling Simba at the same stage of their life because cute, cuddly & likeable is the obvious goal.

I think the biggest flaw to the movie (for me) was the bear reunion/salmon river scenes. It seemed like a long way to go to get to only a couple necessary moments. I think they were probably aiming for beauty and serenity but to me it just dragged.

Of the music, the best and I think soon to be classic song was "I'm On My Way"...The way they had Koda start out singing as it related to him, then taken over by Phil Collins for the journey was great, IMO. I had no problems with Tina Turner's song nor any of the others but I doubt they'll reach the lofty status that "I'm On My Way" might, but I was very pleased to have original music again be a part of their animated movie.

A big difference in this film from most of Disney's other animated movies is the tear factor...Not that it was there but at what point of the film it took place. Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but have there been (many) other movies where the big sappy scene came at the end? Where such a frieghtening and monumental moment occured as the movie was concluding? I think this was a powerful ending and an excellent way to leave the "proper choice" message ingrained in the children viewers mind...

OK, thats enough for me. Your turn, what do you guys think?

11-06-2003, 11:37 AM
Originally posted by Peter Pirate

I think BB started out slow, but that seems to me to be quite common in setting up a story. It was here that some so called duplicity could be seen, but I challenge anyone to tell me how a story involving Native Americans CANNOT have a somewhat similar feel as Pochahontas, for example.

I haven't seen either movie, but wasn't Pocahontas set in the Northeast and BB is in the Northwest? Those tribes would have had next to nothing in common - they were living off an entirely different resource base on opposite sides of the country, likely under vastly different forms of social organisation and cultural heritage. If they were accurately portrayed, they would not seem any more alike than say Polish and Canadian people, or Japanese and Chinese people.

Reference: Fagan, B. M. (2000). Ancient North America: The Archaeology of a Continent (3rd Ed).

Peter Pirate
11-06-2003, 11:58 AM
Guide, you're right specifically speaking but not in a generic sense, I don't believe. Certainly there ARE differences between the Native American tribes, but while Pocahontas may have delved deeper into authenticity (at least as much authenticity as you're going to get from an animated film) the Native Americans depicted in Brother Bear seemed rather fictional and, as I said, generic. The story of Pochahontas was based more in reality so the locale or tribe of the portrayed Native American was more important. But in Bear there is not historical background, it's just a made up story...So from this standpoint, basic Native American characatures will seem rather the same...As could Japenese and Chinese or Polish & Canadian if just given a snapshot view, which all we're really receiving in Brother Bear.pirate:

Snow Brite
11-07-2003, 08:10 PM
I have never linked to a newspaper article, and am not sure how long them keep them up on their website, but here goes:


I will also post the text of the story as well:

'Brother Bear' mixes nature, Native culture

Daily News correspondent

(Published: November 1, 2003)

In a cultural sense, "Brother Bear" is nothing if not inclusive.

Take the characters in Walt Disney Pictures' new animated feature. The protagonist, a human youth who finds himself transformed into a grizzly, is named Kenai. The old shaman is Tanana (mispronounced, at least in the usual Alaska sense, as Ta-NA-na). Kenai's big brother is Sitka. And the Narrator is listed as Inuit -- but he speaks in Yup'ik.

So, in a single cast list, "Brother Bear" encompasses Alaska's Athabascan, Tlingit and Yup'ik peoples, plus Eskimos whose range covers a swatch from Siberia to Greenland. And that's not counting characters Denahi (originally Denali) and Koda (originally Kodi, derived from Kodiak).

"It was a group of names we thought sounded really nice together," said Aaron Blaise, who co-directed the film with Bob Walker. "There was no deeper meaning than that."

Blaise and Walker were on the phone from Orlando, where Disney has its Feature Animation Florida studio. Neither man started as a director; Blaise led a crew of animators and Walker a crew of background artists. "Brother Bear" is the directoral debut for both.

As they explained it, Denahi -- the protagonist's older brother -- was almost a giant bear named Denali, after the mountain. Blame GMC for the change: The automaker already had the name on its line of pickups and SUVs. That left Disney without licensing rights -- and "Brother Bear," like other animated Disney features, arrives complete with a long line of action figures and plush toys to lure young collectors and their parents. Thus, a change of one letter -- and presto! Denahi.


The voice of the Yup'ik-speaking "Inuit Narrator" who opens the film is that of Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley, a Bethel-born writer and educator who teaches courses on aspects of Alaska Native philosophy and life at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Kawagley, 68, never saw the whole script, only his small part.

"All they did was send me the dialogue that they had written, which was being told by a Native person," he said on the phone from Fairbanks. "I translated it in written form into Yup'ik and had to fax it back to them."

That was in May. Then Disney had him record his translation at an Anchorage studio while being videotaped. He had no idea whether a face would even be put with his words on the screen. (The answer is yes, the Narrator does make a brief appearance.)


Transformation is the central point of tales from many Native American cultures, and the filmmakers adapted several of them to create "Brother Bear." Set 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age, the film centers on young Kenai (voiced by Joaquin Phoenix), who starts hunting a bear only to be turned into one. Through a series of adventures and misadventures, he must mature into a new view of the world while being a surrogate brother to Koda (Jeremy Suarez), a cub who has been separated from his mother. Along the way, the bears encounter woolly mammoths, caribou, chipmunks and two moose named Rutt (Rick Moranis) and Tuke (Dave Thomas), who are obviously Canadians since their every sentence is punctuated with an "eh?" In fact, you may know the pair as the McKenzie Brothers comedy team.

The film isn't set specifically in Alaska but in an idealized Pacific Northwest that incorporates many Alaska elements. The sharp of eye will recognize pieces of Denali National Park, the Kenai Fjords and Katmai. The film's Valley of Fire sequence was sparked (so to speak) by Katmai's Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.


Blaise was already familiar with Denali Park when he came on-board "Brother Bear." A wildlife artist who frequently combines painting with hiking, he has been to Alaska several times and always includes a visit to the park. "It's one of my favorite places to go," he said.

Research trips in 1999 and 2000 helped Blaise, Walker and producer Chuck Williams, with other members of their team, flesh out the film's visual elements.

Paul Roderick, owner of Talkeetna Air Taxi, loaded them into a Cessna 185 and flew them around Mount McKinley, then to the other side of the Alaska Range. There, "on a perfect day in the fall," he said, they stopped and hiked up to Wonder Lake. "They wanted a feel for the shape of the mountains and the color and contrast, the alpine terrain, what glaciers were like," said Roderick, 37.

For Blaise, though, nothing topped a visit to the McNeil River brown bear sanctuary.

"Out of the whole process of making this movie, that was the highlight," he said. Although they arrived late in the season for McNeil's famous fishing brownies, "I could come out of my tent at any time of day and count at least 10 bears on the flats" nearby.

Among figures familiar with Alaska bears who stopped by the studio to share their observations with the directors was Timothy Treadwell. Treadwell made headlines in October after he and a companion were killed by a brown bear in Katmai National Park and Preserve.


Out of the hodgepodge of locations and cultural references, said Blaise and Walker, they wanted to create a context that suited their story.

They tried to be accurate in such details as clothing styles while still telling their own tale and being respectful to Native cultures.

"We didn't want to offend anybody," Walker said.

Kawagley thinks moviemakers are getting better at depicting Native peoples. Twelve years ago, he had a role in K.D. Lang's Alaska drama "Salmonberries," which he thought showed Natives in a balanced way. "They didn't glamorize us," he said, "but neither did they hang us out to dry." But he still cringes at some other portrayals, such as in Steven Seagal's 1994 "On Deadly Ground," in which Chinese actress Joan Chen was cast as an Eskimo who claimed she could ride a horse because she was a Native American.

"Oh, God, that was awful," he said with a chuckle.

But, he added, "I think they're getting a little more true and closer to the character and the philosophy of the Native people. ... I think they're getting a little more responsive and portray us more as human beings and not just part of nature."


Some of the interesting points for me, were the reasons for the name changes. Recognizing Kenai and Sitka as Alaskan names, I assumed the other two had been modified. Koda from Kodiak and Denahi from Denali, but wondered why. That one just sounded better and the other was a copyright issue clears that right up. LOL!

I did think i recognized parts of Denali National Park and the Kenai Fjords as well as the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, so I was pleased to see I was right.

I was also interested to see that the late Timothy Treadwell had consulted on the movie. For those that might not know, he was killed and eaten by a grizzlie last month in Katmai National Park due almost entirely to his own stupidity. That he was involved in this movie is very ironic. Here's hoping he has become a bear like Kenai in order to come to a better understanding of the beast.

My kids sat in the movie and had no doubt that it took place here. They recognized the trees and the fireweed and the tundra and were thrilled. As my four year old put it "Look! We are in the movie! Thats us! Thats Alaska!", of course at the top of his lungs in the quiet theater.


11-08-2003, 07:57 AM
Thanks for that story, Snow Brite.

For clarification, Pocahontas depicts Virginia. "With all ya' got in ya' boys, dig up Virginia boys..."

Bob O
11-08-2003, 02:19 PM
My daughters saw the movie and liked it in the same manner that they liked L & S. The only negative i have heard(at least for me) is that the Moose's werent in the movie enough. They were advertised alot more than what their time/role in the movie turned out to be(which for me is disappointing as i like moranis/thomas).

11-13-2003, 06:10 PM
It gets on my nerves that they have a 'phobia' about the characters singing the songs. They think that because Pixar doesn't want their characters to sing, and then their movies are so successful, that they should stop the characters from singing.

Well, if you can look back at the last big successful Disney films, you can see what's been missing. --excellent original songs sung by the cast of the movie.

Get back the excellent creative teams, quit bowing to 'market research' and create a masterpiece without worrying about market research. Let artists be artists again.

Peter Pirate
11-13-2003, 06:27 PM
Well, Koda did sing the first verse to "I'm on my Way"...That should count for something.

Thanks Snowbrite for the great and intersting information.

Doesn't anyone else think that generically speaking those of us who are not part of a depicted group may often see similarities from other seemingly related depictions when perhaps they really don't exist (again Japenese vs Chinese; different American Indian tribes, etc.)? I just don't see how animators could bridge this gap. If Disney were to now make a movie about the vanished Anasazzi of Arizona would it not be inevitable for comparisons to Pocahontas & now BB inevitable? What should Disney do? Make no movies with overlapping similarities?

Bob, the Moose were great, but IMO their participation was just about right. Any more would have been overkill & totally gratuitous.

11-13-2003, 06:38 PM
During the entire first couple of lines that Koda was singing, he was being told to stop.

Mr D
11-14-2003, 07:29 AM
So.....is this movie worth me driving 50+ miles to Anchorage to see it on a real nice big screen moviehouse when we just had a noticeable amount of recent snowfall, my studded tires are not on my truck yet, its below zero right now or go ahead and just visit our miniscule local theatre with the heartrburn popcorn and terrible sound system? A screen barely 25' wide?

And whats the deal about $isner cutting the scenes up about the original mountain peak and inserted his grand plan of a park mountain Grizzly Peak or whatever its called in the film so supossedly people will subliminally think Disney's California Adventure or connect images of it to lure visitors? my self when I heard he did that I mentally wrote off the movie as a not worth the time and travel to see, wait for the DVD instead.

Peter Pirate
11-14-2003, 08:23 AM
I know nothing of the Grizzly Peak incident, so it can't be much of an issue. I'd not heard of Eisner intrusion on this one as it was a Florida project...

As for the drive...While I really liked the movie, I'd have to say it's probably not worth it...But then no movie would probably be worth it, not LK, Nemo, none, IMO...Well, maybes Pirates of the Caribbean!

11-14-2003, 09:13 PM
and was pleasantly surprised. I liked it quite a bit. :) Would I drive 50 miles to see it? I don't think so.

11-15-2003, 01:49 AM
you know what threw me about this movie? Yeah yeah it had lion king comparisons, but what did lion king sing to us? The circle of life. It's wrong to overeat animals because we can...but yes we have to eat.

Brother Bear-don't kill bears out of vengence that's wrong! But then the bears go nuts at the salmon run wasting fish left and right pigging out and then using a dead uneaten fish as their talking stick.

As if we are supposed to believe that things are different for salmon, that they weren't familys either and can be eaten and wasted...meer months after seeing finding nemo!

Goot to great movie though

11-15-2003, 12:50 PM
I enjoyed the movie. My only thought on the way home was that after Finding Nemo the kids had a new fondness for fish, now with Brother Bear they get a completely different message about fish.
Just made me wonder if the kids aren't getting mixed messages...



11-15-2003, 05:41 PM
Took DS's 12 and 5 to see the movie today. I agree it did start out a little slow. DS12 and myself both got teary eyed at the end. I felt sorry for all the people that got up and left before the credits finished since they missed all the funny stuff at the end.
It was a good movie, I liked it better then Nemo and we will definately buy it when it comes out.

12-02-2003, 06:12 PM
Sorry I'm late to the party, but just saw the movie over the weekend.

If I had to describe it in one word, it would be "safe".

Its a nice effort, with nice results. No real risks like with Lilo's character in L&S.

I didn't really feel I was watching something patterned after LK or Pocahontas anymore than something patterned after ENG. Yes, there were a few similarities here and there, but that's almost inevitable.

If anything, I found it more like Ice Age... Men viewed by animals as killers, realization while looking at cave paintings, treking with wooly mammoth(s), mother-less child needing help to make a journey, etc.

Not a carbon copy, mind you, but I saw greater similarities than with other films.

While the moose were funny, I actually did find them gratuituos. After all, other than the rather weak attempt at demonstrating brotherhood, what purpose did they serve to the story? (Unlike the comic relief in Ice Age, which came from a character central to the themes and story).

Again, a nice, safe effort from Florida, but not up to the same level of their previous efforts, Mulan and L&S.

For what its worth, my 5-year old said it was a "great movie" upon its completion, but didn't mention it again the rest of the weekend. Unlike other movies he has seen, like Nemo, Monsters, and L&S.

Saw the preview for Home on the Range, and I'm concerned. Didn't "grab" me, but hopefully its just me, or just a weak preview. My wife commented that when she first saw it she thought it was an old movie because of the animation.

12-03-2003, 09:32 AM
Originally posted by raidermatt
If anything, I found it more like Ice Age... Men viewed by animals as killers, realization while looking at cave paintings, treking with wooly mammoth(s), mother-less child needing help to make a journey, etc.I also saw it this past weekend, and another Ice Age similarity (although true of many "buddy" movies) was the initial "I'm on my own journey, don't need you hanging around" relationship evolving into a close relationship.

Although the characters and story weren't breaking new ground, I thought the look of the film was amazing.

Saw the preview for Home on the Range, and I'm concerned....My wife commented that when she first saw it she thought it was an old movie because of the animation. Seemed to me that the "old movie" look was intentional. One thing that caught my eye was the villian in Home on the Range looks very much like the villian Governor in Pocahontas.

12-03-2003, 12:15 PM
I'm sure its intentional, I'm just not sure if it will have appeal. The water colors used in L&S had very valid artistic reasons, and seemed to add to the appeal of the film. While I'm sure the HotR style was for artistic reasons as well, I'm not sure people will see it that way.

It almost looks like Charlotte's Web, or an old Saturday morning cartoon. Nothing wrong with those things, I'm just not sure it will work for a big-time animated feature.

Peter Pirate
12-03-2003, 12:22 PM
It'll work if the story is good.

I also think a great score by Mr. Menken will help...

12-10-2003, 11:45 PM
just wanted to add that I enjoyed the glaciers...it seems to me that it would be hard to get all the colors of blue and green right, but they looked good. The rest of the movie looked like a paint-by-numbers kit, which was kind of appealing.

But I miss the stylization of the earlier movies, like Sleeping Beauty. Since they can do it easier and better with computer animation, why don't they focus more on the artistic side of traditional animation? Home on the Range looks like a cheap cartoon.