Brother Bear (2003)

7.0 Overall Score
Story: 6/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Like the folktale aspect of the story, weird ending

Story can't decide how serious it wants to be

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Brother Bear

Studio:  Walt Disney Feature Animation

Genre(s):  Animated/Drama/Musical/Family

Release Date(s):  November 1, 2003

MPAA Rating:  G


Really like this animation here

Kenai, Denahi, and Sitka fight for survival with their tribe.  Kenai seeks to find his own direction in life and finds the gift of love isn’t what he desires.  When Kenai angers a bear, Kenai’s brother Sitka is killed, and Kenai sets out to avenge Sitka despite Denahi’s warnings that the bear isn’t at fault.  Kenai manages to slay the bear but is transformed into a bear himself and find himself hunted by Denahi who thinks the bear killed Kenai.  Now, Kenai finds himself teamed with a cub named Koda and seeking answers to his transformation…as he does, he finds himself uncovering that life in the wild isn’t so cut and dry.

Directed by Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker, Brother Bear was the forty-fourth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classic series and followed 2002’s Treasure Planet.  The film features music by Phil Collins who previously provided music for Disney’s Tarzan and received mixed reviews from critics.  The movie was nominated for Best Animated Feature but lost to Pixar’s Finding Nemo.


Calgon…take me away!!!

Brother Bear falls into Disney’s forgettable period from the ’00s.  With a ton of success in the ’90s Disney plateaued a little and Brother Bear was in that plateau period.  Despite this, Brother Bear feels more like a classic Disney film and that is a good aspect of the film.

Brother Bear got a lot of comparison to films like The Lion King.  The story is a solid story for kids with the concept that actions have consequences and that accepting responsibility is important.  It is pretty obvious to older viewers that the bear killed by Kenai is Koda’s mother but this leads to a kind of bizarre ending.  Kenai decides to remain a bear to take care of Koda and his tribe accepts a bear hanging out with them.


Eh, eh, eh, eh…eh

The cast for the film mostly hinges on Joaquin Phoenix as Kenai the transformed brother and his friendship with Koda voiced by Jeremy Suarez.  D.B. Sweeney plays Sitka and the person behind Simba on Broadway Jason Raize voices Denahi.  Michael Clarke Duncan plays the old bear Tug and Estelle Harris is one of the female bears.  The genius point of casting is Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as Rutt and Tuck…moose who bear a striking resemblance to Moranis and Thomas’ Bob and Doug McKenzie Canadian brothers.

The movie uses classic animation but does a strange thing in the movie.  The film switches from a 1.75:1 aspect to a 2.31:1 aspect ratio when Kenai is transformed.  A transition change is pretty rare and gives the movie a more fanciful feel.  It is a little and barely noticeable change (I didn’t catch it at first), but it is an interesting and subtle choice to change the tone of the film through the dynamics.


“I love all you guys…hey, what’s with the spears?”

Brother Bear isn’t a bad Disney film but unfortunately, it probably won’t be remembered warmly by many for being the Disney they grew up with.  With the change to video and DVD, generations can’t really identify with “a Disney film” as much as pre-video kids can when a Disney release was a big deal.  With access to the entire Disney library and tons of merchandising, any Disney film can be the film a kid latches onto in their imagination…Brother Bear probably won’t be the one for many.  Brother Bear was followed by a straight-to-DVD sequel Brother Bear 2 in 2006.  Disney Animated Classics followed Brother Bear with Home on the Range in 2004.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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