I make it no secret that I am not a fan of animal movies. That’s not to say I don’t love movies with animals or nature in them, rather, I am not a fan of watching the “circle of life” in action. I can barely handle eliminating the errant spider that may enter my abode, much less watch a fierce lion take down a gazelle or a chimpanzee mom abandon her baby (no clue if that’s a plot line of Chimpanzee, I still never saw it!). My tender heart just can’t take that much pulling on its strings. Call me a softy, call me a dreamer that can’t handle reality, but I kind of just like happy bunnies and rainbows in my animal films. So I managed to avoid each Disneynature film thus far, which I know, sounds like a crime as both a Disney and, well, nature fan. I can assure you, I love nature, I love the outdoors, beautiful scenery, the mysterious beauty that is the animal kingdom and all its inhabitants. I just can’t handle them getting eaten or abandoned. I made it through, I think, 2 episodes of Meerkat Manor before I wanted to fly to wherever that was happening and hug them all. I once saw a special on Japanese Snow Monkeys and their babies that pretty much traumatized me for life. Anyway, you get my drift, I don’t want to see animals in peril.
Cut to Disneynature Bears. For some reason, I really wanted to see it. As I watched the previews, the bears kind of spoke to me, even more than chimps, who we are supposed to be so close to genetically, and cats, who I love as a rule. Bears seemed, somehow, like us. Maybe it’s the eyes, or the eyebrows, or maybe I could relate to the volumes they seemed to speak, without saying a word. Plus, baby bears are pretty darn cute.
In addition, this particular film has a portion of the proceeds going to support our National Parks, a cause with which I feel a great kinship. Even before dating a man who is capital O Obsessed with National Parks, I always had a great love for them. Growing up, I had calendars of some of these beautiful locations. I did not grow up close to any National Parks, and in fact, I’ve only visited one, Acadia, briefly. However, I have always felt connected to nature, instantly rejuvenated by it, and consider it, in a way, my church. How better to get close to God than to be in a place inexplicable and ungoverned by man, where things grow and live and thrive and survive – or don’t – whether we are paying attention or not. So, to put my silly avoidance of the reality of animals lives in the wilderness aside, and to support our National Parks, and in turn, the great work that Disneynature does, it seemed like a simple decision. One which I am very glad I made.
Bears is a wonderful film, simply put. Taking place along the mountain ranges and coast of the Alaskan peninsula, the beauty of the surroundings is just breathtaking. Add to that the wonderful insider’s view at just what these bears go through over the course of a year, and it’s a powerful combination. We follow a mother bear, Sky, and her two cubs, Amber and Scout. Of course, giving names to the animals in Disneynature films instantly gives you a connection and a bond with them. You aren’t just watching a bear on a screen, you’re watching Sky, as she struggles to figure out motherhood, solely on her own, amid the countless perils which lurk in the Alaskan wilderness.
I did have a couple of issues with the movie, but more the narration and ‘story’ than anything else. I get that the filmmakers want these films to be accessible to everyone (and in fact, at my screening, there were more than a few small children in attendance). I also get that they want there to be a story and not just random footage of bears. But, I wasn’t a huge fan of the narration trying to turn the bear family into a very human one, with talk of “mother-daughter sushi lunches’ and other silliness like that. That could just be me though. I just thought the story of the bears themselves and certainly their surroundings stood tall on their own, without the need of making it ‘cute’ for us as the audience.
There was an implied story with a raven, which sort of led the bears we were watching to various locations. I’m not sure if this was coincidence, or genuinely how things happened, or contrived by the filmmakers. I actually did enjoy that element, but me wondering if it was ‘real’ or not took away from my appreciation of it. If it was real, though, it’s pretty amazing how animals work together like that. One of my favorite scenes was toward the end, right before the salmon began to spawn. There were at one point 13 bears on the screen, all standing, staring at the water below them. It was visually stunning to see these immense creatures, all seemingly frozen in place, waiting for the culmination of their year-long journey. Quite awe-inspiring to see.
Together, the scenery, the music, and the bears themselves lend to a cinematically beautiful film, which I am very happy to have seen, and recommend. I left knowing more, and wanting to learn more about animals and visit more of our great country.
Bears opens tomorrow, April 18. For every ticket sold in the opening week, Disneynature will make a donation to the National Park Foundation, so please go this week and help keep America’s Greatest Idea well cared for. Here’s more about the movie’s conservation efforts:
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Disclosure: I attended a free media screening of Disneynature Bears but my review and my opinions are my own. Go see it!