MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
John C. Reilly as NARRATOR
Bears as THEMSELVES
Directed by: Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill
BY KEVIN CARR
Several decades ago, the Walt Disney Company made a bit of a name for itself with documentaries and nature videos. These were films that were made during the popularity of the “Wonderful World of Disney” television show, which represented the company at a time before they were reaching for the franchise opportunities.
About ten years ago, Disney packaged a bunch of their nature documentaries into the Walt Disney Treasures collection, and they’re still neat to watch nowadays (though hard to come by as those DVDs are pretty rare).
In the past five years, Disney has jumped back into this pond and started releasing nature documentaries that aren’t meant to break box office records but to connect with their audience in a different way. The Disneynature films – which have included “Earth,” “Oceans,” “African Cats” and “Chimpanzee” in theatrical release – are appropriate sanitized looks at the natural world that the entire family can enjoy. The trend continues in their latest release, “Bears.”
“Bears” follows a mother grizzly bear in Alaska and her two cubs when they wake up in the spring after hibernating all winter. We see the cubs grow up at their mothers’ side as they try to find food throughout the warmer months, preparing for another winter.
Like the previous releases, in particular “African Cats” and “Chimpanzee” which feature the same filmmakers, “Bears” is given a cute narrative with a famous narrator. In this case, it’s John C. Reilly leading us through the motions of the grizzly bear family trying to survive.
There’s a lot of artistic license taken with the chronology of the film and the perceived specific dangers. We saw that in “African Cats” with rogue predators and “Chimpanzee” with heightened peril and timing. Were this a BBC Earth documentary, I’d have an issue with it. However, at its heart, “Bears” is a children’s movie, so the cute narration works, and Reilly never reaches a level of annoyance.
It may not be the most real or unflinching look at the life of the grizzly bear (though the film plays as a bloody horror movie for the salmon involved), but that’s okay to help introduce a younger generation to these magnificent creatures.
“Bears” was a smaller release from Disney, so it’s understandable that the bonus material won’t necessarily knock anyone’s socks off. Being a kids’ movie, the Blu-ray comes packaged with a DVD of the film, which is nice to preserve the better quality disc from sticky fingers. Additionally, the image looks good, as I’ve come to expect from the Disneynature brand. After all, nature videos are what high-definition was made for, and the excellent photography behind the film itself makes things look great in the home theater experience.
The bonus menu mostly includes short behind-the-scenes videos that document the crew’s experience to get the footage needed to put the cute narrative together. These featurettes include “Welcome to Alaska” which highlights the locations, “The Future for Bears” which looks at the conservation efforts around bears, “A Guide to Living with Bears” which examines the things the crew learned in dealing with animals in the wild and “How Did They Film That?” about the more challenging shots in the film.
The bonus features are rounded out with Olivia Holt’s “Carry On” music video, which is also included on the DVD.