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Disney: Brother Bear

2003's Brother Bear is the 44th film in the Disney Animated Canon, and the second-to-last traditionally animated theatrical film produced by Disney for five years, until 2009's The Princess and the Frog. It was also the last movie produced by their Florida studio. Home on the Range succeeded Brother Bear, which actually DID end their traditional animation department until 2009.

The story tells the tale of Kenai, a young man growing up somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness about 10,000 years before it was Alaska. He is busy preparing for his coming-of-age ceremony along with his two brothers, Sitka and Denahi, but when said ceremony occurs, he is... less than thrilled that his "spirit animal" turns out to be "The Bear of Love." In an attempt to prove his toughness, he attempts to hunt and kill a bear who has stolen some food during the ceremony. His brothers rush after him to try and bail him out — Denahi gets out, but Sitka dies saving them. Later, Kenai catches up to the bear and slays it. The spirits of the land - Sitka among them - are none too pleased with his acts, and, in an attempt to teach him a lesson, turn him into a bear.

In order to change back, he needs to find a certain mountain to converse with the spirits. But while on his way there, he picks up a hanger-on in the form of a small, energetic, orphaned cub named Koda. Initially, Kenai is just as annoyed with this as he has been with everything else that's happened to him, but he slowly grows to like the cub, and as the two bond, Kenai grows and begins to see the error his ways. Now, how to explain this to Denahi, who has mistaken him for the bear who is apparently responsible for the death of Kenai and is now going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge to avenge him?

The movie was (mostly) critically panned by reviewers, who found issues with its thin plot and, at times, annoying characters, as well as the story as a whole being an alleged rehash of more successful Disney movies. Overall, it was felt that the movie stood especially weak if compared to original Disney classics. Despite the critical issues, the movie was a mild commercial success and even spawned its own Direct-to-Video sequel, Brother Bear 2. In hindsight, it's gained a little popularity, mainly due to the awesome soundtrack provided by Phil Collins.


This film provides examples of:

  • Accent Adaptation: In the Finnish dub of Brother Bear, the two moose speak in a South-Western Finnish dialect, which is equally funny to Finns as the 'hoser speak' in the original. As a side note, since Brother Bear takes place in the north, a Northern Finnish dialect (also amusing to some people) would have worked even better.
  • Aesop Amnesia: A more Tear Jerking in-universe example. Upon Sitka's death, Denahi attempts to follow his guidance in reverence and tries to be more wise; when Kenai doesn't listen to his warnings against revenge and seemingly gets killed as well, Denahi is overcome with guilt and grief and, forgoing all attempts at wisdom, goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge instead becoming the very thing he warned Kenai against being.
  • All There in the Manual: Denahi's totem is the Wolf of Wisdom.
  • And Then Kenai Was A Bear
  • Animal Talk: Lampshaded by the shaman. "You know I don't speak Bear!"
  • Animorphism
  • Anti-Villain: Type II. Poor Denahi goes rather nuts after losing both his brothers.
  • Art Shift: The film begins with an aspect ratio much closer to Academy than to Cinemascope, the colors are more drab, and the subject matter presented more seriously. Once Kenai becomes a bear, the film goes to full-blown widescreen, grows more colorful, and takes on a more comedic tone.
    • The bear who Kenai hunted and killed looks gradually less and less fearsome as he spends more time as a bear.
  • Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence: Since he is now a Spirit, this is one way of interpreting Sitka's death. At the end, Koda's mother, having given her son her final farewells, accompanies Sitka back to the Spirit Plains.
  • Badass Beard/Moustache: Denahi grows them while hunting Kenai.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Considering what happens to Kenai as a mixed cursed/blessing you can see it this way.
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • Inverted, of course. Here, the bears are the good guys and even represent "love".
    • Truth in Television: this really is what the bear totem represents in several Native American belief systems. It may have something to do with why we use the phrase 'Mama Bear'.
  • Big Badass Bird of Prey: Sitka's spirit appears as an eagle.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The plot is based around this because it is driven by a brother's desire to protect/avenge their younger brothers.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Just as Denahi is about to stab Kenai, Koda tackles Denahi.
  • Big "Shut Up!": The two rams and their echos shout this.
    Ram 1: Hey! Shut up!
    Echo: Hey! Shut up!
    Ram 1: No, you shut up!
    Echo: No, you shut up!
    Ram 2: No, you shut up!
    Echo: No, you shut up!
    Ram 1: Hey, will you shut up?!
    Echo: Hey, will you shut up?!
    Ram 2: No.
    Ram 1: JUST SHUT UP!!!
  • Bilingual Bonus: Igor, the foreign bear who starts ranting in another language is Croatian, and he's basically saying "I almost froze while I was crossing a huge icy passage. It was something I only barely survived. BARELY!" Later, he comments "These (two) are going to make me sick."
    • Also, the transformation scene is even more powerful when you know the translation of the Inuit song the Spirits sing.Which, thankfully, is provided on the soundtrack.
  • Break Up Make Up Scenario: a very tragic one.
  • Cain and Abel: Denahi and Kenai after Kenai suffers his Karmic Transformation.
  • Canada, Eh?: The Moose brothers.
    • Considering they're played by Bob and Doug McKenzie, it was kind of a given.
  • Cannot Spit It Out / I Uh You Too: Rutt and Tuke, when Tuke is trying to apologize to Rutt.
    Tuke: I said I love...dew.
    Rutt: I love dew too, eh.
  • Casting Gag: The McKenzie Brothers Traveling Moose Lodge definitely qualifies.
  • Caught in a Snare: Kenai gets caught in one and is rescued by Koda, much to his embarrassment.
  • Children Raise You: Looking after Koda eventually brings out the best in Kenai.
  • Coming of Age Story
  • *Cough* Trope *Cough*: Tuke tries this to call Kenai crazy, but Rutt seriously can't understand him, and Kenai knows exactly what he's saying.
  • Could Have Avoided This Plot: If Kenai had just taken the time to go back and hang up Denahi's basket full of salmon instead of blowing it off and rushing to receive his totem, then Sitka wouldn't need to sacrifice himself to save his brothers, thus leading to Kenai chasing after the bear, and ends up killing Koda's mom, meaning not only would he not have pissed off the spirits who decide to punish him by turning him into a bear, but he also wouldn't have orphaned the one character helping him get to the mountain where said spirits gather so he can become human again.
  • Cut Song: "The Fishing Song" by Phil Collins, which would have appeared instead of "Welcome".
  • The Determinator: Denahi becomes this after both his brothers appear to have died.
  • Deus ex Machina: Sitka's spirit coming to transform Kenai into a human as Denahi tries to kill him counts, although Kenai did call out for his brother to save him.
  • Disney Death
  • Drinking Game: Take a swig every time someone uses the word "change(s)."
  • DVD Commentary: Not by the filmmakers but by Rutt and Tuke, which earns some funny moments during the movie like one of them asking for a pizza. Not only that, but the two moose also share some nonsensical conversations like at one point when Kenai turns back into a human and they start talking about moose turning into lions in The Lion King.
    • This exchange during Kenai's transformation scene:
    Tuke: What's happening?
    Rutt: Well, all the little girls decided to form a baseball team, and Walter Matthau is gonna be the coach.
    Tuke: What? You're lying; that's a whole other movie!
  • Easily Forgiven: Koda is quick to forgive Kenai for killing his mother.
  • Eskimo Land: The closest trope of what Kenai's family are. Given this is thousands of years ago, the artists were able to fudge and simplify the culture without a problem.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • At the very beginning, Sitka, Kenai's oldest brother is killed in a fight against Koda's mother, who she corners on a glacier, and as she is about to go after Denahi and Kenai, Sitka performs a Heroic Sacrifice and uses his spear staff to break the ice, causing the glacier to collapse into the water below. His antlered hood and his totem pendant are all that is found by his brothers, who were desperately searching the water for him.
    • Later, Kenai as revenge for killing his brother, actually goes after Koda's mother, and stabs her to death, prompting Sitka's ghost to turn Kenai into a bear as punishment for his wrongdoings.
  • Flashback Cut: Happens to Kenai while Koda tells his story at the salmon run, and he learns that the bear he killed was Koda's mother.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: Kenai can either change back into a human or be with Koda. He decides to stick with Koda.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: All four of the brothers. Sitka was the responsible and his younger brothers were the foolish. After his death, though, Denahi became the responsible to Kenai's foolish and finally, Kenai became the responsible to Koda's foolish.
  • Get a Room!: Tug yells "Get a cave!" towards the Sickeningly Sweethearts bears.
  • Heroic BSOD: When Kenai realizes the bear he killed was Koda's mother.
    • Denahi suffers this after he thought both his brothers were dead. He spent the rest of the movie tracking bear-Kenai because he thought he killed human-Kenai.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Sitka's dislodging of the glacier to save Kenai and Denahi from the bear.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: During the credits. The DVD included a second set of outtakes, as well.
  • I Am a Monster
    Kenai: Well... I have a story to tell you...
    Koda: Really? What's it about?
  • Implacable Man: Denahi, in revenge mode. At one point, he jumps nearly clear over a ravine to get to Kenai. When he doesn't make it all the way, he tries to climb up a sheer cliff using only a dagger for support. He's a decent tracker, it seems like, because he's always following them.
  • Inertial Impalement: Before his transformation, Kenai is fighting a bear and gets knocked on the ground. When it charges at him, he grabs his spear. Rather than showing what happens, it shows the mountain from a distance and the viewer hears the bear roar one last time, and then it shows that Kenai has survived.
  • Inspector Javert: Denahi, who thinks Kenai is dead and that the bear he's chasing (really Kenai under a spell) killed him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Kenai.
  • Jitter Cam
  • Karmic Transformation: For Kenai after he kills a bear.
  • Lens Flare: That's right. An ANIMATED Lens Flare during the "Great Spirits" song as the camera pans across the sun. We had cameras to film movies during the Ice Age?
  • Mama Bear: Very literally. Kenai messes with her. He wishes he'd lost. At first.
    • Papa Wolf: Later Kenai becomes just as protective of Koda. Part of it would lead to hi being The Atoner for killing his mother.
  • Meaningful Echo: Not in words but actions - the bear advancing on Kenai, who raises his spear in self defense at the last second with a sharp turn, is repeated later with Denahi raising his spear to strike bear-Kenai.
    • It carries over to the sequel, where Nita does the same thing... but Kenai, already knowing this, swipes the spear away.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Sitka's.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Denahi suffers from this big time. First, he lost his older brother who gave up his life to protect Denahi and Kenai from a bear and then he thinks throughout the rest of the movie that Kenai was killed by the same bear. The latter happens after Denahi tries to be the mature and responsible brother in place of Sitka.
  • Mistaken for Own Murderer: Denahi spends much of the film tracking down Kenai's bear-self to kill him, thinking he's a bear that killed Kenai.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: Kenai refers to the bear he kills as a "monster", only to later find out she was Koda's mother.
  • Moose Are Idiots: Rutt and Tuke.
  • Morality Pet
  • Mr. Fanservice: All three of the brothers (not counting Koda, even if Kenai becomes his foster brother in the end), particularly Sitka and Kenai himself.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Kenai after realizing whose mother he accidentally killed.
    • Denahi almost has a moment of this when he realizes how close he came to killing his little brother.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: Kenai wasn't too happy receiving The Bear of Love at first.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Koda's mother? The bear Kenai killed.
    • Sitka dying was basically his brothers' fault, as Denahi insulted Kenai for losing the food, and Kenai responds by running off and getting attacked by Koda's mom.
    • Denahi also helps push Kenai into his aforementioned Nice Job Breaking It, Hero situation by denying his own part in causing Sitka's death and solely blames Kenai ("I don't blame the bear, Kenai!") Denahi really regrets this once he thinks that Kenai is dead.
    • In the DVD Commentary, Rutt and Tuke comment that if Kenai had bothered to tie up the basket with the fish properly, it's possible that most of the movie would never have happened.
  • No Cartoon Fish with a Carnivore Confusion chaser: This movie has a musical number about how bears aren't the monsters they seem to be, which depicts them joyfully killing fish and playing with their corpses. And this was released the same year as Finding Nemo. On top of that, there's a very nasty subversion of both tropes in the post-credits scene. Enjoy the Fridge Logic.
  • No Fish Were Harmed: Parodied and subverted in a post-credits scene.
  • Not So Different: "Those monsters are really scary. Especially with those sticks."
  • Ominous Fog / Censor Steam: The cloud cover used to prevent Denahi from seeing Kenai undergoing his metamorphosis. Given the Aesop being learned, it's probably intentional on the spirits' part.
  • Ominous Inuit Language Chanting: "Transformation". Also, awesome.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Apparently, your spirit takes the form of your totem animal. Awesome if your totem is an eagle. Maybe not so much if it's a salmon...
  • Pinky Swear: Koda asks Kenai for this.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Like Disney's earlier Tarzan film, this one has songs by Phil Collins.
  • Raised by Humans. A variant. Kenai (after being turned into a bear) becomes something of a surrogate brother to Koda. Ironically Kenai is the very reason why Koda is orphaned since he killed Koda's mother as an act of vengence for killing Kenai's brother.
  • The Reveal: The bear Kenai killed being Koda's mother.
  • Rite of Passage
  • Rule of Three
  • Running Gag: It is repeated many times in the movie that Kenai has a big head.
    Koda: First of all, his name's Bucky, not Binky! Second, it wasn't a pine cone, it was a pine nut. And, it was HUGE, even bigger than your FAT HEAD!
  • Sadistic Choice
  • Scenery Porn: If you do not want to visit Alaska after seeing this movie, you are a strange person.
  • The Scream: When Kenai realizes he's become a bear.
    • Also later at the salmon run, when his being surrounded by all the other bears finally sinks in.
    • Also happens when Kenai kills the bear.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: The he-bear and the she-bear at the Salmon Run.
  • Something That Begins with "Boring": Rutt and Tuke play "I Spy" while riding the mammoths. The only things around to spy are trees.
    • It gets to the point where they just alternate saying "Tree" a few times.
    Rutt: I didn't even spy anything!
    Tuke: It counts!
  • Those Two Guys: Rutt and Tuke, the moose brothers. (Voiced by Rick Moranis & Dave Thomas, who play the ultimate Those Two Guys Bob & Doug Mackenzie).
  • Tongue on the Flagpole: Koda relates a story to Kenai wherein some bear licked an iceberg and got his tongue stuck to it. It then floated away, so to save him, "They had to, like, rip his tongue off, so now he hath t'talk like dis alla time..."
  • Tough Love: Sitka displays to his youngest brother to teach him to honor all life, including bears, by turning him into a bear and forcing him through the hardships of the wild.
  • Tragic Keepsake: the bear totem for Denahi
  • True Companions: The various bears consider themselves all family. And, well, if you couldn't guess by the title...
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: One also has to wonder if Sitka intentionally planned that Denahi would turn into an obsessed, vengeful wreck the way Kenai almost did, to show Kenai what he was from the other side of the fence, and knew that when he saw Kenai revert things would snap back right away. Denahi certainly gets no flak for it by the spirits at the end.
    • The bald eagle that keeps popping up throughout the movie turns out to be Sitka keeping an eye on his brothers.
  • Verbal Tic: Rutt and Tuke stick "eh" onto the ends of their sentences a lot.
  • Vision Quest: What Kenai is literally sent on after becoming a bear - indeed, it's revealed that the reason Sitka turned him into a bear was not punishment, but because it was the only way he could successfully complete the quest.
  • The Voiceless: Sitka, after becoming a spirit.
  • Welcoming Song: "Welcome" is sung by the protagonist's new bear "family" when he makes it to their fishing spot.
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: What our hero thinks of his totem at first. His Character Development is learning that Heart Is an Awesome Power.
  • Your Other Left: Koda yells this to Kenai when he's carrying him through the geyser field while they're trying to escape from Denahi.

Additionally, Brother Bear 2 provides examples of:
  • Childhood Friend: Kenai and Nita.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Kenai and Nita again.
  • Death Glare: Kenai gives an intense one to the hunters who pierced his shoulder with their spears.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The sequel features blood for a brief moment towards the end.
    • "Hey, ye know what this calls for? A pile of delicious barley and amberweed on a cool bed of malted hops, eh." Now where do we humans find these sort of ingredients?
    • "She looked like a moose from behind."
  • Held Gaze: Nita and Kenai run into each other and after nearly trying to kill each other, gazing into each other's eyes for a long moment.
  • Interspecies Romance: Kenai, as a bear, falls for Nita, who is human. At the end of the movie, she becomes a bear so they can be together.
  • I Want My Brother To Be Happy: Koda asks the spirits to turn Kenai back into a human so he could be with Nita. He even says that he's be fine on his own.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Melissa Etheridge, following on from the first movie's celebrity musician.
  • Rascally Raccoon: A raccoon appears in the middle of the movie and steals Nita's amulet. Turns out he brought it to his hideout, where MANY raccoons live.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: One has to wonder if it was the Great Spirits' intentions from the start for Kenai and Nita to fall in love (or perhaps fall back in love) during their journey as well as Nita's transformation at the end of the film. They did seem prepared for it. Spirits apparently don't just work in mysterious ways; they work in sneaky ways too.
  • Why Did It Have To Be Water?: Nita has a strong fear of the water ever since she almost drowned as a kid and Kenai saved her.
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The Barbarian InvasionsDramedyClick
Finding NemoAcademy Award for Best Animated FeatureThe Triplets of Belleville
Finding NemoAnnie AwardLooney Tunes: Back in Action
Brave StoryAnimated FilmsA Bug's Life
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Bullet Proof MonkFilms of 2000 - 2004 Camp

alternative title(s): Brother Bear
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