Sunday, July 29, 2012

Disney's Brother Bear

Disney loves to tell tales of transformation; a wooden puppet turns into a real boy, a poor little cinder girl becomes a princess, and a beast becomes a man. This tale is all about a man who turns into a bear. An Inuit man to be precise. The main character, Kenai, is transformed by the Spirits after he kills a bear for revenge for killing his older brother, Sitka. Kenai must learn how to walk in others paws and learn how to love properly if he ever wants to become a man again. They may sound unfair, being turned into a bear because you killed the bear that killed your brother. But that's not the point the story is trying to make. Kenai is transformed by the Spirit, who being an eagle is most likely Sitka, because he kills the bear out of hate and revenge, not for food or anything good. Kenai has pure hatred in his heart for bears even before this and bemoans that it is the spirit animal to which he is assigned on his totem. Anyway, while he is a bear he meets a young bear named Koda, who acts as his bear guide. After learning the ropes and meeting new animals friends, including two goofy moose, he comes to the realization that he killed Koda's mother. Denahi, Kenai's brother, who has thought the whole time that the bear form of Kenai killed Sitka has been hunting him the whole film. Denahi finds and corners Kenai, but Koda comes to his rescue and vice-versa as the fight progresses. For his act of love in saving Koda, Sitka, who is represented by the eagle spirit, turns Kenai back into a man, though Kenai asks to be turned back so he can stay with Koda. I'd want to be a bear too. You got fur to keep you warm, awesome claws, and you can go to the bathroom anywhere! This is a win-win situation for Kenai!

This will be a common theme for some of these newer movies, but there isn't much about the production of this movie. I do know however that the movie had the tentative title of Bears for awhile. Not sure which one I like better, but I guess the newer one makes more sense. This was the last film to be produced completely at the MGM studios animation department inside of Disney World in Orlando. The studio completely shut down in 2004 thanks to their short sighted decision to go completely with computer animated films. I've been to that animation studio! It was awesome! I remember they were working on The Emperor's New Groove at the time and they showed us how they animated the whole bridge scene. Thanks a lot computer animation! Something I found very interesting about the movie, which apparently it's the first animated film to do this, is it changed aspect ratio right in the middle of the movie. When Kenai gets turned into a bear, the ratio goes from 1.75:1 to Cinemascope 2.35:1. This was apparently to make the film look more like it was from the perspective of an animal, giving it a wider look. Plus, the colors in the film are brighter and more vibrant. The shift in perspective reminds me of Lady and the Tramp, how they used the lower angle to give it more of a "dog's eye view."

There were a few changes in the film, namely the title. At some point, Disney decided to drive the brother thing home by putting it into the title of the movie. On top of the title change, Disney decided to change a few characters around. Denahi was at first meant to be Kenai's father, not his other older brother. I think they wanted to sho w more of a conflict between brothers in the film, so they scrapped the father idea. Koda wasn't even in the film at first, as they almost went for an older bear guide named Grizz (creative, right?).

The movie has a few big names connected to it, though not as many as some previous ones. Joaquin Pheonix voices Kenai the main character and youngest of the three brothers. Joaquin is probably most recognized for his roles as Commodus in Gladiator, and Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Jeremy Suarez voices Koda ,the young and playful bear that befriends the bewildered Kenai. Suarez has been in plenty of movies, but is most known for his role of Jordan in The Bernie Mac Show. And perhaps the only reason I really enjoy parts of this movie is the casting of these two Canadian gentlemen a s the moose Rutt and Tuke, Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas. Moranis has been in countless comedies, mostly in the 80's, including Ghostbusters, Spaceballs, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Thomas on the other hand, has stayed mostly to TV spots, though what they are most known for by the Canadian crowd is their roles as Bob and Doug McKenzie on SCTV. The two are comedy gold together, and I think that Disney's decision to get them to voice the moose is probably one of best decisions they ever made. Watch some of their old sketches, or at least see the movie Strange Brew. Dear God, I love that movie. Rutt and Tuke are basically just the McKenzie Brothers in moose form. Sadly, this is Rick Moranis' last movie. No, he didn't die, he retired from acting. It's a really sad story. Read it some time.

Brother Bear received mixed reviews when it was released in 2003. Most critics found it to be un-original, and a retread of The Lion King and Ice Age (funny enough, this movie went into production before Ice Age). Others were gentler, and praised the aspect ratio switch and classical animation. The movie went on to gross around $85 million domestically with $167 million coming from overseas. Combined making around $250 million, it was one of the only financially successful movies of the 2000's. It even did extremely well on DVD, selling $5 million copies in the month of April alone. The movie was eventually nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, but lost out to Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo. That's a no brainer. I haven't watched this movie in awhile, so I'll have to wait to pass further judgment on it, but I remember being all sorts of meh about it. Of course, I was in high school at the time and numerous things were all sorts of meh to me. I do remember loving the moose though, so if you take anything away from this post, it should be that.

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