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Brother Bear is a American traditionally animated feature produced by Walt Disney Feature Animation and released by Walt Disney Pictures, the 44th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics. In the film, an Inuit boy pursues a bear in revenge for a battle that he provoked in which his oldest brother is killed. He tracks down the bear and kills it, but the Spirits, angered by this needless death, change the boy into a bear himself as punishment. Originally titled Bears, it was the third and final Disney animated feature produced primarily by the Feature Animation studio at Disney-MGM Studiosmarker in Orlando, Floridamarker; the studio was shut down in March 2004, not long after the release of this film in favor of computer animated features. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature, but lost against Finding Nemo. A sequel, Brother Bear 2 was released on August 29, 2006.


Long ago in a post-ice age North America, there are three Indian brothers named Kenai, Denahi, and Sitka. Denahi is the middle brother, and Sitka, the oldest. Kenai, the youngest, hates bears because they fight for the same food, overtake the land, and ruin his coming-of-age ceremony. Each brother was given his own totem when they came of age: Sitka, the eagle of guidance and Denahi, the wolf of wisdom. At the ceremony, Kenai is presented with the bear of love. Kenai questions the totem he has been given with his brother by saying that "[bears] don't love anyone, they don't think, they don't feel [...]", calling them thieves when he notices the stolen fish basket.

When Sitka is killed in a battle with the bear that stole the basket, Tanana, the tribal shaman, officiates a funeral rite for Sitka. Suddenly Kenai ignores the village teachings of brotherhood with animals and sets out to hunt the bear for revenge and eventually kills it. To punish Kenai, the Great Spirit, represented by the spirit of Sitka, transform him into a bear. Unfortunately his other brother, who was pursuing Kenai to stop him, doesn't realize what has happened. He finds Kenai's torn clothes and believes the bear took his other brother's life. In grief, he vows revenge.

Disoriented and barely escaping Denahi's wrath by falling into the river, Kenai awakens on the shore and in the presence of Tanana, who eases him through his initial shock at his change. Although she cannot understand his bear speech, she advises Kenai to find where the lights touch the mountain so that he can ask Sitka's spirit to change him back, and then she disappears without giving him directions. To Kenai's surprise, he finds he can talk with the other animals - but the only animals who are willing to talk to him are two stupid sibling moose, Rutt and Tuke, who are more interested in cracking jokes at Kenai's claims to be a man than helping him. Along the way, Kenai meets a talkative, pesky bear cub named Koda, who claims to know the way to the salmon run where the bears gather to fish and where the lights seem to hug the mountain.

What follows is a journey in which Kenai, when not dodging Denahi who is now hunting him, grows rather fond of the irrepressible Koda who he learns shares his spiritual beliefs. This in turn puts his hatred of bears in a stark perspective that forces him to reconsider, especially when he learns that Koda sees humans as the same sort of dangerous monsters as he himself once believed bears to be. This culminates when they finally reach the salmon run and Kenai has the awkward experience of being surrounded by bears. Yet, the bears quickly accept him and he in turn learns about the loving community of these animals that makes his hate seem so foolish even as he learns to enjoy himself.

Kenai's contentment is about to be shattered when Koda tells the story of his separation from his mother
This contentment is shattered when Koda tells the story of his separation from his mother. Kenai is aghast as he puts the pieces together and realizes the story is about the fight he and his brothers had with the bear. Kenai realizes to his horror that the bear he killed was Koda's mother. Distraught at the harm he has done to a cub he has grown to love, Kenai flees the gathering. The next morning Koda follows and asks what's wrong. With great shame and remorse, but also with great moral courage, Kenai confesses. At this traumatic revelation, Koda is left grief stricken and runs away in loss and betrayal while ignoring Kenai's apologies and pleas for forgiveness.

With nothing left to keep him with the bears, Kenai scales the mountain to contact the spirit of Sitka. Koda mourns alone, but then has a chance encounter with the squabbling Tuke and Rutt who reconcile because of their brotherhood, which makes Koda realize the importance of his friendship with Kenai. Meanwhile, Denahi finally tracks down Kenai; in the ensuing fight, Koda, having forgiven Kenai, rushes in to help at a critical moment. Kenai struggles to protect Koda and is willing to sacrifice himself to save the cub, much as Koda's mother had done. With this selfless act, Kenai shows that he has profoundly changed for the better and Sitka, who had been watching everything in the form of an eagle, changes Kenai back into a human.

Yet, while Kenai has regained his humanity, he can no longer talk with Koda, a cub who is now orphaned yet again. Rather than abandon Koda, Kenai tells Sitka that Koda needs him. Denahi calls Kenai "little brother" instead of "baby brother" and Sitka transforms Kenai (by his choice) back into a bear. The three brothers then share a hug and say goodbye, while Koda and his mother's spirit do the same. The film ends with Kenai as a bear, accompanied by Koda, being welcomed back by his tribe and pressing his pawprint to the cliff wall, which bears the handprints of countless generations of other tribe members who also fulfilled the calling of their totem animals.



In 2002 Digital Media Effects reported the title of the film as Bears. An article in IGN in 2001 also mentioned an upcoming Disney release with the title Bears as did Jim Hill of Ain’t It Cool News.

The film is traditionally animated but includes some CG elements such as “a salmon run and a caribou stampede”. Layout artist Armand Serrano, speaking about the drawing process on the film, said that “we had to do a life drawing session with live bear cubs and also outdoor drawing and painting sessions at Fort Wildernessmarker in Floridamarker three times a week for two months [...]”.

According to Ruben Aquino, supervising animator for the character of Denahi, Denahi was originally meant to be Kenai's father; later this was changed to Kenai's brother. Byron Howard, supervising animator for Kenai in bear form, said that earlier in production a bear named Grizz (who resembles Tug in the film and is even voiced by the same person) was supposed to have the role of Kenai's mentor. Art Director Robh Ruppel stated that the ending of the film originally showed how Kenai and Denahi get together once a year to play when the northern lights are in the sky.

Wil Wheaton is listed by many sources, previously including the Internet Movie Database as providing "additional voices" for the film. Willie Wheaton, the credited voice actor, is a different person.


The reaction from film reviewers was mixed with many panning the film as a retread of older Disney films like The Lion King and the 20th Century Fox film Ice Age (although Brother Bear began production before Ice Age did), while others defended the film as a legitimate variation of the theme. The popular American movie critics Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper have given positive reviews of the film.

The American reaction to the film revealed a sharp difference of opinion between Christian fundamentalists and the rest of society. The fundamentalist reviewers attacked the film as immoral for presenting a story world of divine spirits and promoting the idea of the fundamental spiritual equality of humanity and animals which was at odds with the Bible. On the other hand, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the film as extolling a philosophy similar to St. Francis of Assisi. In addition, secular critics who liked the film praised its story as a very moral work with messages about forgiveness, empathy, and brotherhood.

Of note to many critics and viewers was the use of the film's aspect ratio as a storytelling device. The film begins at a standard widescreen aspect ratio of 1.75:1 (similar to the 1.85:1 ratio common in U.S. cinema or the 1.78:1 ratio of HDTV), while Kenai is a human; in addition, the film's art direction and color scheme are grounded in realism. After Kenai transforms into a bear twenty-four minutes into the picture, the film itself transforms as well: to an anamorphic aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and towards brighter, more fanciful colors and slightly more caricatured art direction. Brother Bear was the first feature since The Horse Whisperer to do a widescreen shift. It was the only animated feature to do this trick, until The Simpsons Movie and Enchanted in 2007.

The film made $85,336,277 during its domestic theatrical run and then went on to earn $164,700,000 outside the U.S., bringing its worldwide total to $250,383,219, which is successful. In addition, its March 30, 2004 DVD release brought in more than $167 million in DVD and VHS sales and rentals. In April 2004 alone, 5.51 million copies of Brother Bear were sold.


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