Every year on Earth Day, Disney releases a new Disneynature movie. For those of us of a certain age, Disneynature is a modern version of “True Life Adventures”, documentary films produced by Walt Disney Productions between the years 1948 and 1960.
“BEARS”, a follow up to last year’s “Chimpanzee”, showcases a year in the life of a bear family as two impressionable young cubs are taught life’s most important lessons. Set against a majestic Alaskan backdrop teeming with life, their journey begins as winter comes to an end and the bears emerge from hibernation to face the bitter cold. The world outside is exciting-but risky-as the cubs’ playful descent down the mountain carries with it a looming threat of avalanches. As the season changes from spring to summer, the brown bears must work hard to find food-ultimately feasting at a plentiful salmon run-while staying safe from rival male bears and predators, including an ever-present wolf pack. “Bears” captures the fast-moving action and suspense of life in one of the planet’s last great wildernesses-Alaska.
Alastair Fothergill, who also directed Disneynatures’ “Earth,” “African Cats” and “Chimpanzee”, and Keith Scholey (“African Cats”), have woven together an engaging tale that should keep the attention of little ones, but a lack of real facts about bears seems like a missed opportunity to entertain and instruct at the same time, and although narrator John C. Reilly has an appealing voice-over style, the overly folksy script makes the film seem less like a documentary and more like fluff as it goes along.
“Bears” has opened just in time for Earth Day, and Disney will donate to the National Park Foundation through the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund to protect wildlife and wild places for every ticket purchased in the first week of release.
A 100 page Educators Guide with lessons and activities for grades 2 through 6 for “BEARS” is available for download at nature.disney.com/bears.
The Bottom Line: Although “Dineynature’s BEARS” is appealing, it misses an opportunity to inform as it entertains. This one is worth waiting for home video release.
Rated G, 78 minutes running time