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Paws to appreciate Disneynature

By Alex Sferrazza
On April 21, 2014

Animal lovers and those in need of quality family friendly entertainment should immediately check out Disney's latest documentary release "Bears."
One of the most under-appreciated efforts of the Walt Disney Studios, initiated under the tenure of current company CEO Bob Iger has been the studio's brand of "Disneynature" documentary feature films. Walt Disney himself was one of the first filmmakers to realize the potential for both comedy and drama that could be found in nature itself and his award winning "True Life Adventures" documentary series set the standard for the craft long before the likes of "The Discovery Channel" and "Animal Planet" even existed.
Since the 2007 release of "Earth," the first film released under the Disneynature label, the studio has brought to theaters subsequent hits including 2010's "Oceans" and 2012's "Chimpanzee." "Bears" successfully continues the label's trend of capturing spectacular views of animals in their natural habitats, presenting them with a light-hearted and entertaining narrative that can be enjoyed by filmgoers young and old.
"Bears" follows the exploits of a female grizzly bear and her two cubs as they struggle to survive in the Alaskan Wilderness. In addition to the hunt for food, she must also protect her cubs from predators including other grizzly bears and an ever present wolf.
"Bears" is directed by Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, marking the duo's second directorial collaboration after 2011's "African Cats." The duo once again provides audiences with spectacular close ups of some of the grandest creatures and desolate locations on the planet.
The film is narrated by John C. Reily, best known to Disney audiences as the voice of the titicular character in 2012's "Wreck-It Ralph." As a comedian, Reily's narration results in a film that is far more light hearted in tone than previous Disneynature releases. For the most part it's fine but I found it to eventually become a bit too much. Additionally, Reily's performance lacks the dramatic depth seen in other releases from the label especially when compared to the narrations provided by the likes of Meryl Streep, James Earl Jones and Samuel L. Jackson in some of the label's past films.
However, films like "Bears" are often able to let the images speak for themselves. Simply watching the animals' on-screen actions provides sufficient comedic relief and dramatic tension all by itself. The footage itself is so crystal clear and impressive that the quality of the narration almost stands as an afterthought.
Spectacular fight scenes are caught on camera as male grizzlies fight over salmon and comically attempt to catch their own. The bear cubs rarely perform any on-screen action that could be described as anything less than adorable. Brilliant large-scale landscape shots offer an unparalleled view of the majestic beauty of the Alaskan frontier.
In short, if you enjoy any of the things I've described or have an appreciation for nature, "Bears" is an easy recommendation. It may fall short of the likes of "Earth" and "Oceans" but all-in-all, the film is another solid release from the Disneynature line.
 


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