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  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English, English - Hearing Impaired
  • 3 Deleted scenes
  • Audio commentary
  • 2 Featurette
  • Photo gallery
  • Animated menus
  • 3 Music video
  • Outtakes
  • 2 Interactive game

Brother Bear

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 82 mins . G . PAL


In creating this new animation masterpiece, Disney seems to have forgotten one thing; the storyline needs decent characters.

Taken from Native American folklore, this story has been homogenised right down until there is little left of the grandeur to what is no doubt an important mythological tale. We follow the adventures of Kenai, a Native American Inuit living in the northern reaches of Alaska back toward the end of the last Ice Age when mammoths walked the Earth. After holding a bear responsible for his brother’s death, Kenai casts aside his totem (a bear) and leaves his tribe to hunt that bear. After finding a bear and killing it, his dead brother returns to help him see the error of his ways by transforming him into a bear. With his body changed into a bear, his other brother, thinking Kenai killed by the bear he has now become, gives chase and Kenai learns firsthand what it is to be hunted.

After spending much time soul-searching as a bear and travelling with Koda, a young cub searching for his mother, Kenai heads back to the mountain where the spirits touch the Earth to be changed back into a human.

While this story is by no means a new one, the attempt to sterilise it for animation aimed at the younger generation doesn’t quite work, leaving the film feeling rather empty overall. The usual width and breadth of the characters in a Disney feature just isn’t apparent here and any characters of interest we do get here are gone before we get a chance to know them. The two moose characters the bears meet at sporadic moments of the film seem wholly tacked on and their brainless banter just gets annoying by the end of the film.

Of course the animation is spectacular and the hand-rendered backgrounds really add a minor primitive emotion to the film’s atmosphere. It’s not quite enough to make an ordinary story and film anything more than that though. The limited inclusion of big name voice talent also works against the film, with only Joaquin Phoenix providing any recognisable vox (and even then, it’s a stretch. His is not the most familiar of voices, and certainly nothing stand-outish). Rick Moranis as one of the mooses (meese?) is a dreary pain in the arse, creating most of the annoyance these two bring to the film. They speak with that curious Canadian accent that tucks an ‘eh?’ onto the end of every second sentence and this just ends up sounding insulting rather than funny before the film is done.

Overall, Brother Bear is a bit of a let down, regardless of the exquisite nature of the animation, although it will probably find itself quite popular among the youngsters down your way. But any adult supervisors might find themselves slightly bored or irritated by the film, which is never a good thing.


Well, of course, things perfect. Delivered in a 1.66:1 widescreen format the film looks as good as it possibly could (unless it was wider still). There’s also anamorphic enhancement for you people with the widescreen tellies. Otherwise the picture quality is absolutely faultless, with brilliant colour and animation, deliciously old-school backgrounds and no issues.


Oddly, this film gets delivered in just English, with two choices; Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or DTS 5.1. Both sound equally good here and though I went with the DTS, the Dolby isn't any less worthy. Dialogue is all well spoken, of course, and cleverly lip synched, while the sound effects are super (I’ll come back to them a bit later).

Musically, as we all know, Disney stopped putting songs performed by characters into their films a while back (it started around the time of Tarzan). Phil Collins still sang a couple of tracks in Tarzan as background filler and here he has done the same thing. Unfortunately though, some of the music here sounds remarkably close to that music in Tarzan. This is not one of the better attempts to slot songs in that generate a theme or feeling at a particular moment and is disappointing. Not that the songs are really ever the highlight (except to the Academy for some reason… Disney is always winning 'Best Song', yet far less frequently do they win 'Best Animated Film') but here they are even less so.

At least everything, regardless of quality content, sounds brilliant.


As always a veritable plethora for the kids to get into. Firstly the animated menus are nicely themed and there’s the THX Trailer if anyone cares.

Next up is Koda’s outtakes, which is an animated-for-the-featurette piece running for 2:47. As everyone knows, animation doesn’t have outtakes, so these have been created in the style of other Disney efforts like Toy Story and A Bug’s Life that feature them during their closing credits. A nice bit of fun the kids will enjoy (particularly the fart gags, of course).

An audio commentary from Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas in character as Rutt and Tuke the mooses is a very annoying affair that forced me to switch it off before my teeth wore away to stubs. Maybe the kids will like it, but parents be warned; do not sit around to suffer it yourself.

Two games follow, in the Bone Puzzle which is a shape-recognition game where once you’ve constructed the paw or hoof of an animal, you get a featurettette about it (they’re very short). The Find Your Totem game is much longer to play and has us answering questions so as to best ascertain what our totem would be. I was a wolf, who is patient...

2:58 of Native American Tales: Bear Legends follow and this is some quite short legends regarding bears (of course). These are illustrated like cave paintings and are worth a brief look.

Making Noise: The Art of Foley is one of the highlights of the featurettes here and albeit brief, it is fascinating. We are taken into the sound stage where the very delicate art of sound effects creation is exhibited. This is probably the only studio that is allowed to exist in a constant state of looking like a garbage tip. It features brief interviews with the foley artists hosted by Jeremy Suarez, the voice of Koda.

An Art Review is essentially a guided photo gallery featuring rough work and concept art from pre-production and this is the other highlight by far. Running for 9:59 and hosted by the art directors, who walk us through the context of each, this is fascinating stuff and looks awesome.

Three deleted scenes feature brief introductions, however they're the usual storyboard animatics and fairly uninteresting, while Fishing Song features a Phil Collins intro to a first version of a song that got chopped to pieces and reused differently in the film. There’s another ditty in the Transformation Song that has been translated into Inuit and performed by the Bulgarian Women’s Choir (who perform in what looks like their national dress or something). The English lyrical translations are subtitled for anyone wanting to know what the heck they’re singing about.

And that’s that. Definitely some goodness there, but also some average inclusions.


Whilst the cover proclaims ‘Walt Disney Classics’, I wouldn’t be so sure to include this title among those other noted inclusions. While the animation is superb (as ever) the film is let down by its lack of real story and shallowness of characters. The film is also disjointed, going through obvious stages rather than existing as a free-flowing narrative and this hampers the viewer in following the story the way they should.

Still, it’s a beautifully rendered film and one that has been transferred magnificently (again as ever, by Buena Vista). There’s plenty here for the kids to get into, though the film does lack a certain weight, reminiscent of other flawed narratives like Disney’s Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The kids won’t care though; there’s scads of eye candy on display here and fans of animation will suck it up. Just don’t wish too hard for a deeper storyline; it isn’t here.

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      And I quote...
    "A brilliantly animated folk tale of Native America is handled poorly, giving us a beautiful film that doesn’t deliver much in the way of any real depth."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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