Disney really wanted Brother Bear to do well–it even created an attraction at Disney California Adventure based on the film. Now, the film wasn’t a flop, but it never received the praise it deserved.
This is a review of the Brother Bear/Brother Bear 2 (3-disc Special Edition) Blu-ray/DVD.
Brother Bear ★★★
Brother Bear tells the story of two Inuit brothers, Kenai and Sitka. When Sitka is tragically killed by a bear, Kenai, overtaken by grief and his desire for revenge, goes out and kills the bear. Things take an unexpected turn, when Kenai is magically transformed into a bear himself and he meets an orphan bear cub named Koda. Kenai must learn to love, forgive and learn to walk in others’ shoes.
The idea for this film came from the thought “wouldn’t it be great if we did an animated film in North America about bears?” But the story feels a big like a mishmash of Pocahontas, Tarzan and The Lion King. Watching the bonus features, I feel bad that I didn’t like the film that much because the directors and creators have so much passion for Brother Bear. It just didn’t translate to the screen.
The music composed and sung by Phil Collins, who provided the incredible track to Tarzan. However, in Brother Bear, the Phil Collins-style soundtrack has run its course and loses its novelty. The tracks are nice (and some even catchy like “On My Way”), but it just feels like we’ve heard them before.
On the positive side, Brother Bear’s design and animation are absolutely beautiful. Computer technology had evolved sufficiently by this time that it really helped to amp up and streamline the 2D animation. Although even at time, the visuals feel a bit flat and uninspired at times.
Brother Bear 2 ★★ 1/2
Brother Bear 2 picks up a few months after Brother Bear with Kenai living as a bear in a cave with Koda. Kenai meets back up with an old friend, a girl named Nita, and the two of them set out on the adventure of a lifetime.
Since I wasn’t captivated by the original Brother Bear, I found myself struggling to finally get around and watch Brother Bear 2 because I expected more of the same. And you know, for a sequel, Brother Bear 2 isn’t that bad. The story is charming, I like the new characters (and old favorites, mainly the moose Rutt and Turke).
The Features ★★★
First off, the menus on this Brother Bear portion of the disc are horrible. It’s very hard to tell whether your are highlighted on the right part of the screen because everything’s brown, black or some shade in between. They seemed to get this right on the Brother Bear 2 menu since everything is legible over there.
As for features, this blu-ray is packed with them! Now, as with Mulan and Hunchback, none of them are new, but rather just carried over from the past DVD releases. Nonetheless, I’m grateful for their inclusion because they are a wealth of information about the making of the Brother Bear. These features include a fantastic making-of documentary, deleted scenes, a deleted song with story boards, animated outtakes, sing-along songs, a music video with Phil Collins, an “art review” (hosted by two animators, who walk us through some concept art), a segment about Native American bear legends, and an audio commentary with Rutt and Turke (I would have preferred a director’s commentary instead of this comedic version, but I’m not going to lie. I was busting up laughing at their comments).
As for Brother Bear 2, the features basically are only a making-of documentary. And…that’s it.
Brother Bear came to us during a time when most audiences had lost faith in Disney animation. As a result, most audiences didn’t give the film a chance. It’s unfortunate because it’s not a bad film. If you haven’t seen it in a while, definitely check this one out again and give is a real chance.
Brother Bear/Brother Bear 2 (3-disc Special Edition) Blu-ray/DVD is available March 12, 2013.
Brother Bear & Brother Bear 2: 3-disc Blu-ray/DVD
All screenshots via blu-ray.com and disneyscreencaps.com.