This Month's Featured Equipment Reviews
Brother Bear (2-Disc Special Edition)
Written by Mel Odom
Tuesday, 30 March 2004
||Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Jason Raize, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, D. B. Sweeney, Michael Clarke Duncan
When it comes to stories concerning family and nature, Walt Disney
Studios has excelled for years, striding so far forward that generally
the only competition they’ve had has come from their own past
successes. “Brother Bear” is another shining gem from Disney. The
feature delves into the interesting speculation of pre-history and the
presence of generous and gentle magic.
From the very beginning of Chapter 1, “Brother Bear” possesses an
otherworldly feel. The viewer knows instantly that it is a story from a
long time ago. Sparks struck between flint rocks scratches through the
surround sound system, putting us on top of the fire-making process.
Underscored by tribal music, the story quickly pulls us in. The chapter
opens up showing a taleteller who is one of the three brothers in the
story. He tells of the importance of the Northern Lights, and of how
they are the spirits of the tribe’s ancestors.
The thundering hoof beats of stampeding caribou fill the surround sound
system and blast through the subwoofer. The relationship of three
brothers is quickly laid out, and the film’s first musical cut, by Tina
Turner, rips through the system, working its magic and pulling us more
and more tightly into the story. The background and movements of the
creature in the world are amazing. The whale breaches through the left
front speaker, then slaps the water with its tail so the sound rips
into the room with the audience. Later, the drum thumps through the
subwoofer and the roar of the flames crawling up the totem overpowers
all other noise for an instant.
Chapter 3 shows young brother Kenai’s totem to be a bear, a symbol of
love that connects all living things. Kenai is definitely not happy
about his totem. In order to put his handprint on the wall where all
his ancestors have put theirs, he has to live according to his totem.
After that, Kenai is teased unmercifully by his middle brother, while
his oldest brother, Sitka, gives him some good advice.
In Chapter 4, Kenai and his brothers confront the bear that stole their
fish. Kenai gets knocked over the edge of a cliff. His voice pours
through the right front speaker, matching his position on the screen.
During the desperate battle, filled with audio that slams through the
surround sound system, Sitka chooses to split the ice to save his
brothers. The cracking ice shivers through the surround sound system
and the final impact thunders through the subwoofer. The bear survives
the plunge into the river, but Sitka is killed.
Phil Collins’ voice leads the funeral ceremony conducted by the tribe
in Chapter 5. The music is eerie and compelling through the surround
sound system. In Chapter 6, Kenai chooses to go after the bear and kill
it in retribution. His surviving brother fights and argues with him,
but Kenai sets out anyway. The waterfall later in the chapter washes
through the center and left front speakers, making us feel as though we
are only a few feet from the deluge. Kenai tracks the bear down and
manages to kill it, but even as he realizes that killing the animal
didn’t bring his brother back, the Northern Lights reach down in
Chapter 7 and change him into a bear under the guidance of his perished
brother Sitka. Again, the musical score makes the magic compelling and
believable. Still reeling from the change he has been through, Kenai
falls from the mountain into the river and gets carried away. His
remaining brother takes up Kenai’s hunt and goes after the bear, never
knowing that it is Kenai.
The old shaman talks to Kenai in Chapter 8. Kenai freaks out totally.
His growls carry through the wilderness and through the surround sound
system. The shaman tells him that he must journey to where the lights
touch the sky to take the matter up with his brother.
confrontation with the moose is hilarious, and is also typically
Disney. The thumping of the bear trap banging through the surround
sound system is doubly amusing. The visual of Kenai’s problems is
terrific. The intriguing sound sequence is covered in “The Making of
Brother Bear,” showing how foley sound effects were used to accomplish
it. At this point, Kenai also meets Koda, the little orphan bear he
In Chapter 11, Kenai manages to escape his
brother. He spends the night in an ice cave with Koda. As his brother
passes by, the ice cracks all around, echoing through the surround
sound system. The little bear makes a deal with Kenai to take him to
where the Northern Lights touch the Earth.
Chapter 12 shows that the hunt has not been given up. Koda starts
singing in Chapter 13 after Kenai tells him he doesn’t want to hear any
more stories. The song picks up the pace and Phil Collins steps into
the driver’s seat, pushing solid gold through the speakers. Thunder
hammers the subwoofer, then rain buzzes through the speakers. Kenai
goes back to his old ways of riding mammoths, and the imagery is truly
In Chapter 14, Koda talks about the spirits and the Northern Lights.
The moose play a ridiculous game of I Spy in Chapter 15, lightening the
tone after the previous night. The scene in Chapter 16 where Kenai and
Koda come upon the cave where humans had once lived is reminiscent of
past Disney films regarding the savage nature of Man as viewed from the
animal world. The echoes of the shouting rams in Chapter 17 is well
done. The rams yell from the right front speaker and the sound returns
from the left front. The explosions of the lava pots in Chapter 18
reverberate through the subwoofer. Kenai and Koda continue their
journey and eventually reach the bears. There are several nice touches,
and the fish head hand puppets in Chapter 20 have to be seen to be
Outtakes are hilarious, although they’re all made up, and provide a
great few minutes of viewing. The bear myths are well done and
interesting, although superficial at best. The other short features are
equally interesting, providing optional viewing that the whole family
“Brother Bear” is another Disney film in a long line that showcases
everything good about family movies. One the most outstanding things
about this movie are the colors, warm and rich shades of pastels that
truly bring out the rich hues of the land and the recreated prehistory.
The contrast between the tribe of humans and the bear clans is warm and
wonderful, showing the similarities between the two. The disc
definitely needs to be an addition to the Disney collections, and is
well worth an evening’s rental for family night. The movie has a
distinctive look and enough color to offer repeated viewings for
DTS 5.1 Digital Surround; English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround,
THX-Certified, including Optimizer; Spanish Language Track; French
|1.66:1, Enhanced For 16x9 Televisions; Original Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1, Enhanced For 16x9 Televisions
& Tuke’s Commentary” Watch Along With The Hilarious Moose From The
Film; Fully Animated Outtakes Exclusive To The DVD!; Deleted Scenes,
Including A Funny New Character; Two Exciting Games Featuring Your
Favorite Animals From The Film; All-New Song By Phil Collins, “Fishing
Song”; Paths Of Discovery: The Making of “Brother Bear”; “Look Through
My Eyes” Music Video Featuring Phil Collins; English Closed-Captioning
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