Must List: See Bears by Disneynature
My first exposure to Disneynature movies was two years ago with the release of their moving documentary Chimpanzee. If you didn’t see it, the family documentary centers around Oscar, an orphaned baby chimp who finds himself an unlikely adoptive parent. I loved the movie, but found it to be a bit too violent to recommend to families with very young children. However, Disneynature’s most recent documentary, Bears, is better-suited for younger ones. Like Chimpanzee, the Bears documentary is told via story and narrated by the beloved actor John C. Reilly. The movie centers around the year-long journey of a new mama bear, Sky, as she raises her newly born twin cubs, Amber and Scout. The filmmakers chose this particular brown bear family because mama bear Sky has a naturally calm disposition (allowing the filmmakers close-filming access) and their family dynamics is a fair reflection of other bear families.
Through narrator John C. Reilly, we learn about the different bears that live in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve, their distinct personalities and mostly the challenges a mama bear and her cubs face during their first year of life. Just like many new mothers I know, new mama bear Sky spends most of her time protecting her young and thinking about feeding them (indirectly at least since the cubs are mostly still nursing). I don’t know about you, but many of the memories of my first year of motherhood are about the stress I felt in feeding my newborn son. And, if you look at the questions we get from our readers, many focus on infant feeding. But, if you thought you had it hard as a new mom, imagine you also had to dodge avalanches, preying wolves and larger male bears which eat cubs. Youch. Talk about parental stress.
But, there are lots of beautiful and tender moments between Sky and her cubs and even though the narration can be a bit grating and corny at times, I think the kids won’t notice it one bit and it is more than compensated by the benefit of children learning about bear society. I am a huge believer that we all learn better about everything when it’s told in story. I was fortunate to interview Disneynature ambassador Jane Goodall (yes, THAT Jane Goodall!!) after I screened Bears. Goodall explained that she decided she wanted to live in Africa and work with animals when she was 10 years old. Her involvement with Disneynature stems from a desire to inspire a love of learning about animals.
And teach and inspire they do. Please stay through the movie’s rolling credits at the film’s end to get an unbelievable view of how close the filmmakers were able to get to film the bears, wolves and the bears’ unlikely best friend the ravens. The movie’s director Keith Scholey explained “A lot of people think that we’re crazy to film bears on location in such a remote area. But these animals don’t deserve the reputation they have. They are not out to hurt people. They are big, powerful animals with a remarkably gentle nature. We never felt threatened by the bears.”
Parents should know that there are some scary scenes where the lives of mama bear Sky and her babies cubs are threatened. If you would like to know specific details, I recommend reading the review on my go-to-source, Common Sense Media. However, be aware that the review includes spoilers.
Bears premieres in theaters today and I recommend that you attend during opening week (April 18-24, 2014) because for every ticket sold, Disneynature (through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund) will make a contribution to the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks, to protect wildlife and wild places across America’s national park system.
Pictures source: Disneynature