November 1, 2003
Disney returns to the traditional animation well one more time for Brother Bear, a movie that returns to the style and themes of The Lion King. Set in the Pacific Northwest as the planet is just beginning to warm up after coming through the Ice Age, three brothers are inexorably connected to the native bear population. The youngest brother, a willful and tenacious teenager named Kenai, has good reason to hate the bears. The troublesome creatures compete with his tribe for both food and land, raid his village, and ruin his coming-of-age ceremony.
Then, Kenai’s brother is killed in a fierce battle with a savage grizzly. He ignores the tenets and lessons of brotherhood that his village follows and sets off on his own to find vengeance against the bear who has brought such tragedy upon his family. However, the Great Spirit finds fit to turn Kenai into a bear, forcing him to explore the world through the eyes of the very sort of creature he sought to destroy. In the process, as he tries to regain his human form, he meets a young bear cub named Koda, who journeys with him across frozen tundra and other treacherous terrain.
Meanwhile, Kenai’s remaining brother Denami has come across Kenai in his bear form. He vows additional revenge because he thinks that this is a bear that has killed Kenai. In the end, the true meaning brotherhood is thoroughly explored as Kenai grows to consider himself both a brother of Koda and Denami, showing him that his metamorphosis into a bear means nothing when compared to the transformation he has experienced in his own values.
The primary role of Kenai will be voiced by past Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix, while his young counterpart will be played by Jeremy Suarez, a regular performer on The Bernie Mac Show. In a totally ingenious move that will appeal to 30-something adults who are parents to the children who will want to see Brother Bear, two goofy Canadian moose will be voiced by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, who made the similarly-offbeat Canadian characters Bob and Doug MacKenzie pop culture icons during their run on the sketch comedy SCTV and in the movie Strange Brew. Other supporting roles will be played by Michael Clarke Duncan and D.B. Sweeney.
Despite the fact that we here at BOP find Phil Collins’ musical score for Tarzan deplorable, unmerited Academy Awards apparently scream bigger box office and he returns as the man behind the music of Brother Bear. To be fair, though, his award-winning hit song from Tarzan, You’ll Be in My Heart, was on the charts for what seemed like ages, so Collins does have undeniable mainstream appeal that adds another element of recognition to a product that will already have strong branding thanks to the Disney name.
Brother Bear looks to be an excellent family option for the later half of 2003. The studio has done an outstanding job with the marketing, particularly in light of the trailer’s prominent placement in front of the blockbuster Finding Nemo. Look for Brother Bear to join Lilo & Stitch as evidence that traditional Disney animation might not be quite dead yet. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
July 16, 2003
Disney has announced that it will move the originally scheduled November 7th release date up a week. However, in order to avoid completing with Friday night's Halloween festivities, the children's movie will open in wide release on Saturday, November 1st instead of Friday, as is traditional. It will have a very limited release the previous Friday, October 24th in New York City and L.A. (Calvin Trager/BOP)
October 31, 2003
It's Halloween Friday, and somehow, this movie is instead opening on...a Saturday?
Actually, it's a marketing move that makes very good sense. Since kids and families are out trick-or-treating and at parties on All Hallow's Eve, it only makes sense that Disney should wisely slot the film in theaters on a Saturday when the whole family can hit the theater en masse.
In the months and weeks leading up to Brother Bear's release, the marketing for the movie has been fast and furious, with particular focus leaning heavily on the comedy value of the Moranis and Thomas-voiced characters (they even have their own commercial at Carmike Theaters!). And while not everyone grooves to the saccharine sounds of Phil Collins, he's actually been used as a strong selling point -- which for the target audience, is a genuine plus. Disney has essentially closed shop in its traditional animation houses, so Brother Bear will be the medium's second-to-last shot at success (Home on the Range is due out in April). This film can either breathe life back into the format or officially sound the final death knells. (Kim Hollis/BOP)
Comparison films for Brother Bear
|Lion King, The
|Lilo & Stitch
|Hunchback of Notre Dame
|Atlantis: The Lost Empire
|Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron