Disneynature has had much success with their annual Earth Day documentaries. “Earth”, “Oceans”, “African Cats”, and “Chimpanzee” each had memorable stories with beautiful photography. Last year the studio took an unexpected hiatus, but is back with one of its better G-rated nature docs, “Bears”.
Narrated by John C. Reilly, who also voiced the title character in Disney’s 2012 animated “Wreck-It Ralph”, “Bears” tells the story of the first year of a mother Alaskan Brown Bear named Sky and her newborn cubs, Scout and Amber. As they journey from the snowy mountains, following hibernation, to the beaches, grasslands, and rivers looking for food, Sky must protect her cubs from deadly predators (including rival bears) and make sure they have enough stored up in their bodies to survive the next winter. Along the way Sky teaches Scout and Amber how to interact in the wild and shows them just how tough a mother she can be.
The Disneynature filmmakers are top-notch when it comes to capturing the authentic footage. The gorgeous scenery and tight shots of the animals and their movements are always impressive, even more so than ever during “Bears.” The end credits once again include a fascinating “Making of” montage. An entire documentary on what it takes to make these films would be a must-see.
“Bears” is under 80 minutes, but it moves along at a nice pace. We quickly become attached to Sky and her cubs, and since none of the animals’ actions are scripted, it’s pretty amazing to witness how this saga plays out.
Reilly has a strong, genuine voice, and he’s able to balance his inflections: reserved in the dramatic moments and playful in the lighter scenes. At times the dialogue is a little goofy but the film has an overall positive tone (with a traditional, upbeat Disney score) that makes it appealing to both kids and adults.
“Bears” is rated G. There is some aninal on animal violence, scenes of peril and a little blood, but it’s suitable for kids 6 and up. This is a solid, engaging nature documentary that celebrates this wonderful, loveable species.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Bears” gets a B.
Next year, Disneynature returns with “Monkey Kingdom”. And based on the teaser trailer shown prior to “Bears”, these primates will be joined by a few other animal friends as well.