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2003s Brother Bear is the 44th film in the Disney Animated Canon, and the second-to-last traditionally animated theatrical film produced by Disney for five years, until 2009's The Princess and the Frog. It was also the last movie produced by their Florida studio, which closed completely. Home on the Range succeeded Brother Bear, which actually DID end their traditional animation department until 2009.
The story tells the tale of Kenai, a young man growing up somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness about 10,000 years before it was actually Alaska. He is busy preparing for his coming-of-age ceremony along with his two brothers, Sitka and Denahi, but when said ceremony actually occurs, he is... less than thrilled that his "spirit animal" turns out to be "The Bear of Love." In an attempt to prove his toughness, he attempts to hunt and kill a bear who has stolen some food during the ceremony. His brothers rush after him to try and bail him out -- Denahi gets out, but Sitka dies saving them. Later, Kenai catches up to the bear and slays it. The spirits of the land - Sitka among them - are none too pleased with his acts, and, in an attempt to teach him a lesson, turn him into a bear.
In order to change back, he needs to find a certain mountain to converse with the spirits. But while on his way there, he picks up a hanger-on in the form of a small, energetic, orphaned cub named Koda. Initially, Kenai is just as annoyed with this as he has been with everything else that's happened to him, but he slowly grows to like the cub, and as the two bond, Kenai grows and begins to see the error his ways. Now, how to explain this to Denahi, who has mistaken him for the bear who is apparently responsible for the death of Kenai and is now going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to avenge him?
The movie was (mostly) critically panned by reviewers, who found issues with it's thin plot and, at times, annoying characters, as well as the story as a whole being an alleged rehash of more succesful Disney movies. Overall, it was felt that the movie stood especially weak if compared to original Disney classics. Despite the critical issues, the movie was a slight commercial success and even spawned it's own Direct to Video sequel, Brother Bear 2. In hindsight, however, it's gained a little bit of popularity, mainly due to the awesome soundtrack provided by Phil Collins.
This film and its sequel provide examples of:
- Accent Adaptation: In the Finnish dub of Brother Bear, the two moose characters speaking with a Canadian accent in the original speak in a South-Western Finnish dialect because that sounds equally funny to Finns as the "hoser speak" did in the original. What's funny about this is that Brother Bear takes place in the north, so a Northern Finnish dialect would have been more appropriate, as that is rather funny, too, to some people.
- Aesop Amnesia: A more Tear Jerking in-universe example. Upon Sitka's death, Denahi attempts to follow his guidance in reverence and tries to be more wise; however, when Kenai doesn't listen to his warnings against revenge and seemingly gets killed as well, Denahi is overcome with guilt and grief and, forgoing all attempts at wisdom, goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge instead becoming the very thing he warned Kenai against being.
- Animal Talk: Lampshaded. "You know I don't speak Bear!"
- Anti-Villain: Type II. Poor Denahi goes nuts after losing both his brothers.
- Art Shift: The film begins with an aspect ratio much closer to Academy than to Cinemascope, the colors are more drab, and the subject matter presented more seriously. Once Kenai becomes a bear, the film goes to full-blown widescreen, grows more colorful, and takes on a more comedic tone.
- Ascended to A Higher Plane of Existence: Since he is now a Spirit, this is one way of interpreting Sitka's death.
- Baleful Polymorph: Considering what happens to Kenai as a mixed cursed/blessing you can see it this way.
- Big Badass Bird of Prey: Sitka's spirit can turn into an eagle.
- Big Brother Instinct: The entire plot is pretty much based around this.
- Bilingual Bonus: The foreign bear who starts ranting in another language is Croatian, and he's basically saying "I almost froze while I was crossing a huge icy passage. It was something I only barely survived. BARELY!" Later, he comments "These (two) are going to make me sick."
- Also, the transformation scene is even more powerful when you know the translation of the Inuit song the Spirits sing.
- Which, thankfully, is provided on the soundtrack.
- Also, the transformation scene is even more powerful when you know the translation of the Inuit song the Spirits sing.
- Bittersweet Ending: At least from some points of view.
- Canada, Eh?: The Moose brothers.
- Considering they're played by Bob and Doug Mc Kenzie, it was kind of a given. Which also brings us to...
- Cast the Expert: Disney went to Angayuqaq Oscar Kawagley for advice on the Inuit language. They liked the way he spoke Inukituk so much, they created a narrator role for him.
- Casting Gag
- Caught in a Snare: Kenai gets caught in one and is rescued by Koda, much to his embarrassment.
- Childhood Friend: Kenai and Nita were this to each other. When they reunite, Nita had become a young beautiful bride-to-be while Kenai had become a bear.
- Children Raise You: Looking after Koda eventually brings out the best in Kenai.
- Coming of Age Story
- Cough Trope Cough: Tuke tries this to call Kenai crazy, but Rutt seriously can't understand him, and Kenai knows exactly what he's saying.
- Could Have Avoided This Plot: If Kenai had just taken the time to go back and hang up Denahi's basket full of salmon instead of blowing it off and rushing to receive his totem, then Kenai wouldn't have chased after the bear, Sitka wouldn't have sacrificed himself to save his brothers, and Kenai wouldn't have killed Koda's mom, meaning not only would he not have pissed off the spirits who decide to punish him by turning him into a bear, but he also wouldn't have orphaned the one character helping him get to the mountain where said spirits gather so he can become human again.
- Deus Ex Machina: Sitka's spirit coming to transform Kenai into a human as Denahi tries to kill him counts, although Kenai did call out for his brother to save him.
- Disney Death
- DVD Commentary: Not by the filmmakers but by Rutt and Tuke, which earns some funny moments during the movie like one of them asking for a pizza. Not only that, but the two moose also share some nonsensical conversations like at one point when Kenai turns back into a human and they start talking about moose turning into lions in The Lion King.
- Not to mention this exchange during Kenai's transformation scene:
Tuke: What's happening?
Rutt: Well, all the little girls decided to form a baseball team, and Walter Matthau is gonna be the coach.
Tuke: What? You're lying; that's a whole other movie!
- Everything's Worse with Bears: Inverted, of course. Here, the bears are the good guys and even represent "love".
- That's actually what the bear totem represents in several Native American belief systems. It may have something to do with why we use the phrase Mama Bear.
- Flashback Cut: Happens to Kenai while Koda tells his story at the salmon run, and he learns that the bear he killed was Koda's mother.
- "Friend or Idol?" Decision: Kenai can either change back into a human or be with Koda. He decides to stick with Koda.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: The direct-to-video sequel actually features blood in it for a brief moment towards the end.
- Held Gaze: In the direct-to-video sequel, Nita and Kenai run into each other and after nearly trying to kill each other, gazing into each other's eyes for a long moment.
- Heroic BSOD
- Heroic Sacrifice: Sitka's dislodging of the glacier to save Kenai and Denahi from the bear.
- Hilarious Outtakes: During the credits. The DVD included a second set of outtakes, as well.
- Implacable Man: Denahi, in revenge mode. At one point, he jumps nearly clear over a ravine to get to Kenai. When he doesn't make it all the way, he tries to climb up a sheer cliff using only a dagger for support. He's a pretty decent tracker, it seems like, because he's always following them.
- Inspector Javert: Denahi, who thinks Kenai is dead and that the bear he's chasing (really Kenai under a spell) killed him.
- Interspecies Romance: In the sequel, Kenai, as a bear, falls for his childhood friend, Nita, who is human. At the end of the movie, she becomes a bear so they can be together.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kenai.
- Karmic Transformation
- Lens Flare: That's right. An ANIMATED Lens Flare during the "Great Spirits" song as the camera pans across the sun. We had cameras to film movies during the Ice Age?
- Mama Bear: Very literally. Kenai messes with her. He wishes he'd lost. At first.
- Meaningful Echo: Not anything spoken but actions. The scene of the bear advancing on Kenai, who raises his spear in self defense at the last second with a sharp turn, is repeated later with Denahi raising his spear to strike bear-Kenai.
- Meaningful Funeral: Sitka's.
- Moose Are Idiots: Rutt and Tuke.
- Morality Pet
- Mr. Fanservice: All three of the brothers (not counting Koda, even if Kenai becomes his foster brother in the end), particularly Sitka and Kenai himself.
- My New Gift Is Lame: Kenai wasn't too happy receiving The Bear of Love at first.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Koda's mother? The bear Kenai killed.
- Sitka dying was basically his brothers' fault, as Denahi insulted Kenai for losing the food, and Kenai responds by running off and getting attacked by Koda's mom.
- Denahi also helps push Kenai into his abovementioned Nice Job Breaking It, Hero situation by denying his own part in causing Sitka's death and solely blames Kenai ("I don't blame the bear, Kenai!") Denahi really regrets this once he thinks that Kenai is dead.
- In the DVD Commentary, Rutt and Tuke comment that if Kenai had bothered to tie up the basket with the fish properly, it's possible that most of the movie would never have happened.
- No Cartoon Fish with a Carnivore Confusion chaser: This movie has a musical number about how bears aren't the monsters they seem to be, which depicts them joyfully killing fish and playing with their corpses. And this was released the same year as Finding Nemo. On top of that, there's a very nasty subversion of both tropes in the post-credits scene. Enjoy the Fridge Logic.
- Not So Different: "Those monsters are really scary. Especially with those sticks."
- Ominous Fog / Censor Steam: The cloud cover used to prevent Denahi from seeing Kenai undergoing his metamorphosis. Given the Aesop being learned, it's probably intentional on the spirits' part.
- Ominous Inuit Language Chanting: "Transformation". Also, completely awesome.
- Our Souls Are Different: Apparently, your spirit takes the form of your totem animal. Awesome if your totem is an eagle. Maybe not so much if it's a salmon...
- Pinky Swear: Koda asks Kenai for this.
- Pop Star Composer: Like Disney's earlier Tarzan film, this one has songs by Phil Collins.
- Brother Bear 2 has Melissa Etheridge in the soundtrack.
- Raised by Humans. A variant. Kenai (after being turned into a bear) becomes something of a surrogate brother to Koda. Ironically Kenai is the very reason why Koda is orphaned since he killed Koda's mother as an act of vengence for killing Kenai's brother.
- Rite of Passage
- Rule of Three
- Running Gag: It is repeated many times in the movie that Kenai has a big head.
Koda: First of all, his name's Bucky, not Binky! Second, it wasn't a pine cone, it was a pine nut. And, it was HUGE, even bigger than your FAT HEAD!
- Sadistic Choice
- Scenery Porn: If you do not want to visit Alaska after seeing this movie, you are a strange person.
- Or Canada, Eh?
- The Scream: When Kenai realizes he's become a bear.
- Also later at the salmon run, when his being surrounded by all the other bears finally sinks in.
- Also happens when Kenai kills the bear.
- Something That Begins With Boring: Rutt and Tuke play "I Spy" while riding the mammoths. The only things around to spy are trees.
- Those Two Guys: Rutt and Tuke, the moose brothers. (Voiced by Rick Moranis & Dave Thomas, who play the ultimate Those Two Guys Bob & Doug Mackenzie).
- Tongue on the Flagpole: Koda relates a story to Kenai wherein some bear licked an iceberg and got his tongue stuck to it. It then floated away, so to save him, "They had to, like, rip his tongue off, so now he hath t'talk like dis alla time..."
- Tragic Keepsake: the bear totem for Denahi
- True Companions: The various bears consider themselves all family. And, well, if you couldn't guess by the title...
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: One has to wonder if it was the Great Spirits' intentions from the start for Kenai and Nita to fall in love (or perhaps fall back in love) during their journey as well as Nita's transformation at the end of the film. They did seem prepared for it. Spirits apparently don't just work in mysterious ways. They work in sneaky ways too.
- Their sneakiness isn't limited to the sequel. One also has to wonder if Sitka intentionally planned so that Denahi would turn into an obsessed, vengeful wreck the way Kenai almost did, to show Kenai what he was from the other side of the fence, and knew that when he saw Kenai change back things would snap back right away. Denahi certainly gets no flak for it by the spirits at the end.
- Verbal Tic: Rutt and Tuke stick "eh" onto the ends of their sentences a lot.
- Victorious Childhood Friend: Kenai and Nita, as the Great Spirits intended.
- The Voiceless: Sitka, after becoming a spirit.
- What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: What our hero thinks of his totem at first.
- Youngest Child Wins: How come nobody realized that the main character of this movie is the youngest brother?
- Your Other Left: Koda yells this to Kenai when he's carrying him through the geyser field while they're trying to escape from Denahi.