Friday, August 15, 2014

Disneynature Bears Blu-ray Review

Disneynature’s 2014 release of Bears was well received by nature documentary fans. The story of Sky and her two cubs as she guides them through their first year of life is beautifully filmed with the same attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from Disneynature films.  The film is narrated by Rhomann Dey… errr I mean John C. Reilly, and directed by seasoned nature documentarians Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey.  If you missed this film in the theater, or just want to see the gorgeous landscapes of Alaska, you can now take this movie home on Blu-ray.

The bonus features of the Blu-ray start off with “Welcome to Alaska”, which takes us to Katmai National Park where the film was shot.  It is one of the only places in the world where you can go to see Bears living in a natural habitat.  We learn about how the small production crew (common for nature documentaries) went about choosing and setting up their basecamp.  We also learn about some of the ways they tracked Sky and her cubs as well as get to see a close encounters with a wolf (presumably Tikaani).  At the end they had to pack up and leave as winter set in - the movie similarly ends with Winter.

“The Future for Bears” is discussion about how the bears and other animals shown in Disneynature films are protected.  One of the things we learn is that Disneynature films try to demonstrate how the animals they show are smarter than generally portrayed than their counterparts in stories and legends.  The main goal is to interact with the bears as friends, not enemies.  We learn that while the bears are protected their primary food source, salmon, is not. As this is mostly a message about conversation we get to see Jane Goodall visiting the sets to see her first bears up close ever.

In “A Guide to Living with Bears” the main focus is to remind is that while bears are protected they are still wildlife and as such they are still dangerous creatures and omnivores - they eat deer same as berries.  The crew was primarily ground based and as such they had to rely on the use of professional bear trackers and guides.  The bears in the movie have never been hunted because of their protection, but they are still dangerous animals / predators.  We learn about Bear Flares and how they are used in the most dangerous of situations to ward off bears without harm.  Even with more than 1700 bears in the region, the crew spent 2 years filming, and had no aggressive approaches.

If you’ve seen the film and are wondering “How did they film that?”, now you can find out.  Starting with a discussion about aerial filming of Sky’s den emergence with the cub.  The rigors of landscape filming outdoors.  About how they had to make a second base camp in the mountains to be able to track and search for the bears.  In addition to hiking we also see how they both skied and snowboarded down to the mountains investigate the bear dens.  You can also learn about how they set up for underwater filming using divers.

The final bonus feature is the music video of “Carry On” by Olivia Holt which is the theme song for the film.  There is also a preview of the next Disneynature film Monkey Kingdom due out on Earth Day 2015.  Overall this is a well put together Blu-ray, each of the bonus features is solid and interesting.  My usual complaint of “not enough” rings true here as one of the pieces tells us that the crew filmed more than 400 hours of footage.  And knowing this, and presenting only a 78 minute movie and 30 minutes of features makes you want to know what wasn’t shown.  Nature documentary films will want to add this to their collections of course, seeing the Alaskan wilderness alone is worth the price.

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