Starring: Animation film. Voiced by Joaquin Phoenix, Dave Thomas, Michael Clarke Duncan
Director: Aaron Blaise
THE Disney empire was built on animation films.
In the last 10 years other companies have upped the ante in terms of the complexity and nuance of this genre, but even though Disney prefers a more old fashioned style of animation, it has stayed the course.
Lion King was a huge hit for them.
In a sense Brother Bear is a Native American version of Lion King, but not nearly as successful.
At his initiation into manhood, and against all expectations, the young Native American warrior Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix) is given the totem of ‘love’ by the priestess Tanana (Joan Copeland).
His brothers tease him mercilessly about it. He was expecting ‘courage’ or ‘strength’.
Later, while hunting, his brother Denhai (Jason Raize) is killed by a bear. Kenai vows revenge, but while hunting for the animal the Great Spirits transform the young man into the very thing he wants to destroy – a bear. He gets to see what life is like from the other side of the hunter/hunted divide, and on the way learns more about what love is all about.
Brother Bear offers rich lessons to children about looking at life from the other’s perspective, the futility of revenge, understanding love as a greater power than physical strength, and the importance of personal conversion. It also imparts some more subtle wisdom as well.
A wise, old woman initiates the young warrior into manhood. The power of the metaphysical is presented as real as the physical world. Myth and ritual provide meaning and explanations for the tribe’s relationships to this world and the next.
Brother Bear remains an excellent animation film for children, one with several excellent moral messages. It’s just probably not the hit Disney would have liked it to be.