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 older brothers, Sitka and Denahi, but when said ceremony occurs, he is... less than thrilled with the totem, or "spirit animal" that he is assigned, which turns out to be "The Bear of Love." To prove his toughness, he attempts to track down a basket dragged away by a bear who had stolen some food during the ceremony, and angrily provokes the bear after finding it. His brothers rush after him to find him cornered by the bear, and the three try to ward it off. Kenai and Denahi get out okay, but Sitka dies saving them. Later, Kenai hunts down the bear alone and slays it out of vengeance. The spirits of the land - Sitka now among them - are none too pleased with Kenai's needless violence, and, in an attempt to teach him a lesson, turn him into a bear.

Denahi encounters Kenai's bear form stumbling around, disoriented and confused right after his transformation, with Kenai's shredded clothes at his feet. Because of this, Denahi mistakenly comes to the conclusion that this bear has killed Kenai — though the bear actually is Kenai — and resolves to track it down and kill it.

In order to change back into a human, Kenai needs to find a certain mountain to converse with the spirits, while avoiding Denahi, who he is unable to communicate with as a bear. Though 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 life from a different perspective.

A sequel was released in 2006.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accent Adaptation:
    • In the Finnish dub, 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.
    • In the German dub, the moose are supposed to have a Swedish accent...
    • In the Swedish dub, the moose speak in a Norrland dialect.
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole: When Kenai finds out the truth about the bear he killed and flashes back to the fight along with the conversation he had with Denahi, the lines "Sitka wouldn't have wanted this!" — "Sitka isn't here because of that monster!" can be heard. These lines were never spoken in the film; however, they are lines from the junior comic.
  • 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.
  • Anachronism Stew: Throughout the film, things like pinkie swears, accents of people whose country didn't exist yet, and driving, for a few examples, are mentioned.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: And then Kenai was a bear.
  • Animal Talk: Lampshaded by the shaman. She realises it's Kenai trapped in the bear but, "You know I don't speak Bear!"
  • Animorphism
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Koda turns into this for Kenai, even before they become brothers.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License History: Although the story is set in Alaska, the cave paintings look more like a style only discovered so far in Europe.
  • Artistic License Paleontology: There were more than just mammoths in North America at the time. There were also mastodons, saber-toothed cats, lions, ground sloths, camels, horses, giant beavers, and many other animals that didn't make it to today. The saber-toothed cat is actually mentioned by Kenai as his desired totem, though none appear in the movie or its sequel. Although this would be accurate as the iconic saber-toothed cat Smilodon did not live in Alaska alongside woolly mammoths, instead being found south in warmer climates.
  • 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.
  • Award-Bait Song: Look Through My Eyes by Phil Collins.
  • Badass Beard/Moustache: Denahi grows them while hunting Kenai.
  • Baleful Polymorph: Considering what happens to Kenai as a mixed curse/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'.
    • The bear that the brothers fight near the beginning of the movie and that Kenai kills seems to be an example of this. It's actually Koda's mother.
  • Beary Friendly: Koda to Kenai, as well as the hospitable bear village near the salmon run.
  • 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!!!
    • Even funnier during the credits where the rams are exhausted and still yelling at their echoes!
  • 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.
  • The Cameo: Not within the movie itself, but the Hilarious Outtakes feature an unexpected appearance by Stitch.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Color Wash: The film uses an orange wash to emphasize the setting of Native American Alaska.
  • 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: The whole movie might never have happened if Kenai had done a better job tying up the fish. Rutt and Tuke even point this out in the DVD commentary.
  • 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, and it's hardly a surprise since they were on the spirit mountain (not to mention that this was what they were trying to accomplish all movie).
  • Diegetic Switch: The first verse of "On My Way" begins with Koda singing, then Phil Collins takes over, with Koda taking over on the last line. On the album version, Collins sings the entire song himself.
  • Disney Death: Sitka from Denahi's perspective.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: When Kenai goes out to avenge the death of his brother Sitka, he chases a bear up a mountain and kills it, which is later revealed to be Koda's mother; in Oedipus the King, Oedipus vows to find the murderer, only to discover after questioning the shepherd, that Laius, the man whom he killed in a skirmish, was his actual biological father.
  • Dub Name Change: In the German dub, Rutt and Tuke the mooses are called Björn and Benny.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: At one point, Rutt and Tuke, two moose who provide nothing but comic relief, point out that anyone hunting Kenai will see his tracks. Kenai, who is an experienced hunter himself, overlooked this.
  • 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.
  • Fantasy Americana
  • 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.
  • Furry Confusion: Rutt and Tuke look a lot more cartoony than the caribou does.
  • Get a Room!: Tug yells "Get a cave!" towards the Sickeningly Sweethearts bears.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: "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?
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: 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?
    Kenai: Well... it's kinda about a man... and kinda about a bear, but... mostly it's about a monster...
  • 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. It is narrowly averted at the film's conclusion, when Kenai lunges at Denahi to protect Koda and Denahi braces himself against his spear. Fortunately, Sitka intervenes before history can repeat itself.
  • 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. Denahi also qualifies.
  • 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, soon wishing he'd lost... at first.
    • Papa Wolf: Later Kenai becomes just as protective of Koda. Part of it would lead to his 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.
    • In a worded example, when they're resting on the mammoths, Kenai reluctantly opens up to Koda about Sitka's death. He says that Sitka was killed by a "monster", referring to a bear. Later, the two see a painting of a human with a spear fighting a bear. Koda says that "those monsters are scary... especially with those sticks". And after learning that the bear he killed was Koda's mother, Kenai tries to tell him what happened in the form of a story, mentioning that his tale was mostly about a monster, referring to himself this time.
  • 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 another 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
  • 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.
  • Naked on Revival: Kenai when he's (briefly) changed back into a human.
  • Narrator All Along: The village elder seen telling the story is revealed to be an elderly Dehahi.
  • National Animal Stereotypes: The moose brothers talk with a Canadian accent.
  • Never My Fault: Kenai blames the bear for Sitka's death when it was Kenai who provoked the bear in the first place, leading Sitka to sacrifice himself. While Denahi is right to blame Kenai, he denies the fact that he himself holds some of the blame. Both learn their lesson in the hardest way possible— Denahi when he believes Kenai was killed, and Kenai when he realizes the bear he killed was Koda's mom.
  • 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 blaming Kenai ("I don't blame the bear, Kenai!"). Denahi really regrets this once he thinks that Kenai is dead.
    • From the moment Kenai receives his totem, Denahi isn't helping matters. By teasing Kenai mercilessly and treating his totem as silly and girlish, he inadvertently pushes him toward his risky, overcompensating behavior.
    • 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 Antagonist: Despite furiously hunting Kenai, Denahi isn't actually a villain and is more driven by heartbroken anger from thinking his only remaining brother was killed. What's more, he comes to his senses when he realizes Kenai was the bear he was hunting.
  • 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.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: Sitka's spirit appears as an eagle, specifically, the Eagle of Guidance. He even keeps an eye on his brothers during their journey to the mountain, and guides Denahi to where Kenai is to force a final confrontation.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Parodied and subverted in a post-credits scene with fish.
  • 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 Latin Chanting: "Transformation" is sung in Inuktitut. Also, awesome. The sequence is the only scene from a hand-drawn animated film to make The Onion AV Club's list of (essentially) Crowning Moments Of Awesome in films from the 2000's.
  • 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...
  • Parting Words Regret: When Denahi first thought that Kenai was killed, he grieved over the fact that the last thing he said to Kenai was that he blamed him for Sitka's death.
  • Pinky Swear: Koda asks Kenai for this on taking the cub to the salmon run. Kenai breaks his promise and later changes his mind only for selfish reasons.
    • Pinky swears are apparently a thing Kenai and Koda partake in in the sequel, showing how their relationship has grown from the original film.
  • 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 vengeance for killing Kenai's brother.
  • The Reveal:
    • The bear Kenai killed being Koda's mother.
    • If you consider the film from Denahi's POV, the bear he furiously hunted, believing it killed his brother, turning out to be his brother, definitely counts.
  • Rite of Passage
  • Rousseau Was Right: Denahi isn't really a villain but he is the closest thing the film has to one. He also isn't really bad but rather a guy motivated by heartbreak.
  • 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!
  • 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!
      Rutt: Okay, fine...Tree!
      Tuke: Oh, let's play somethin' else!
  • Somewhere, a Mammalogist Is Crying: Kenai is portrayed as weak for having troubles wrestling a human, in both the original (Denahi) and sequel (Atka). In real life, just a pounce of a grown bear's paw is enough to knock the average man unconscious, and don't even try to think you can outmuscle one; you can't. The unusual circumstances makes this more understandable. Kenai is still new to being a bear, and not fully grown, and since he was originally human, doesn't really want to hurt Atka.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Kenai starts to tell Koda what happened to his mother. This is arguably the most important part of the film. What does Phil Collins do? Sing over it. A deleted scene shows the entire story without singing, averting this trope. In the introduction to said deleted scene on the DVD, co-director Aaron Blaise explains that the filmmakers felt that the confession scene and the song were basically the same beat in the story, so they were merged for simplicity. YMMV on whether keeping the song over the confession was the better choice, but one of them had to go.
  • 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 off his tongue, 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.
  • 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.
  • Verbal Tic: Rutt and Tuke stick "eh" onto the ends of their sentences a lot.
  • The Voiceless: Sitka, after becoming a spirit.
  • White and Grey Morality: Almost Good Vs Good
  • Welcoming Song: "Welcome" is sung by the protagonist's new bear "family" when he makes it to their fishing spot.
  • Wham Line: "Your mother isn't coming."
    • Earlier on at the cave painting: "Those monsters are scary... especially with those sticks."
  • What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway?: What our hero thinks of his totem at first ("Bear of love!?"). 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.