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Western Animation / Brother Bear

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"This is a story from long ago, when the great mammoths still roamed our lands. It's the story of my two brothers and me. When the three of us were young, we were taught that the world is full of magic. The source of this magic is the ever-changing lights that dance across the sky. The shaman woman of our village told us that these lights are the spirits of our ancestors, and that they had the power to make changes in our world. Small things become big. Winter turns to spring. One thing always changes into another. But the greatest change I ever saw was that of my brother… a boy who desperately wanted to be a man…"

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 (Joaquin Phoenix), a young man growing up somewhere in the Alaskan wilderness about 10,000 years before present. He is busy preparing for his coming-of-age ceremony along with his two older brothers, Sitka (D.B. Sweeney) and Denahi (Jason Raize), but when said ceremony occurs, he’s... less than thrilled with the totem, or "spirit animal" that he’s 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 greatly disappointed 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 (Jeremy Suarez). 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 with each other, Kenai grows and begins to see life from a different perspective.

A Direct to Video sequel, Brother Bear 2, was released in 2006.

Not to be confused with the other Brother Bear or the children's book Thank You, Brother Bear by Hans Baumann and Eric Carle.

This film provides examples of:

  • Accent Adaptation:
    • In the Finnish dub, Rutt and Tuke 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 were renamed Benny and Björn and speak with a Swedish accent.
    • In the Swedish dub, the moose speak in a Norrland dialect.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: 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.
  • Advertised Extra: The home video cover shows Kenai and Koda, comic relief Rutt and Tuke, and two rams who are only in one scene and the end credits.
  • 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 wiser; 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. His totem is never called out by name in the movie itself and is only indirectly referred to. Sitka refers to Denahi as “dog-breath” and soon afterwards tells Kenai that just because he has a totem related to wisdom does not make him wise.
  • 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.
  • Ancestor Veneration: Living things become Great Spirits after they die. All species venerate them, among them are the main character's brother, and a supporting character's mother, both of whom die early in the movie.
  • Animal Motif: Each person gets an animal themed totem when they come of age. Besides Kenai, the most notable of these is Sitka's eagle of guidance. Sitka represents the Tlingit people, who are divided into two moieties named for the eagle and the raven.
  • Animals Respect Nature: Kenai learns to respect nature only after being transformed into a bear.
  • Animal Talk: Bears are able to communicate with moose and (presumably) other animals, but not with humans. Lampshaded by Tanana, when she realises it's Kenai trapped in the bear but, "You know I don't speak Bear!" The sentence implies that it is possible for humans to learn to speak bear...
  • 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 is 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. As a result, the bear who Kenai hunted and killed looks gradually less and less fearsome as he spends more time as a bear.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Small carnivores (raccoon & mustelid) appearing in "On My Way" scene have rodent-like teeth. Averted with raccoons in the sequel.
  • Artistic License – History: The movie is set around 10,000 years ago at the latest, as evidenced by the presence of woolly mammoths, and the mention of other fauna such as the sabre-toothed tiger (Smilodon). However, this means that despite the tact implications (especially with the use of the Yup'ik language in the opening scene), the culture shown in the movie is not Inuit or Yup'ik, as the ancestors of modern Inuit only arrived in America around 5,000 BP, several thousand years after the movie is set, and the ancestors of the Athabascans and Tlingit were the dominant peoples during the film's setting. This wasn't really avoidable, though—we don't know much about the culture of that era, and knew even less in 2003, so it made more sense to use a later analogue. The movie and its sequel do, however, display an archaeologically accurate depiction of the Native Americans during the Upper Paleolithic era- as seen with the accurate clothing, settlements, the use of “Clovis” spear tips, the use of red ocher during ceremonies, and jewelry.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: There were more than just mammoths in North America at the time. There were also mastodons, sabre-toothed cats, lions, ground sloths, camels, horses, giant beavers, and many other animals that didn't make it to today. The sabre-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 sabre-toothed cat Smilodon did not live in Alaska alongside woolly mammoths, instead being found south in warmer climates.
  • Artistic License – Physics: How strong does your spear have to be to make a glacier calve?
  • 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.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: The film switches to Scope after Kenai turns into a bear.
  • Award-Bait Song: Look Through My Eyes by Phil Collins.
  • Backing Away Slowly: Kenai, who had just been turned into a bear, asks a pair of chipmunks how they can talk. The pair back away slowly partly because of this question and the fact that he's, well, a bear.
  • Beard of Evil: An anti-villain example: Denahi grows facial hair while hunting Kenai. It also overlaps with Beard of Sorrow, since Denahi believes that Kenai is dead.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Inverted, of course. Here, the bears are the good guys and even represent "love". Truth in Television, as 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 is 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 echoes 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."
    • The transformation scene is even more powerful when you know the translation of the Inupiaq song the Spirits sing. Which, thankfully, is provided on the soundtrack.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: a very tragic one. After learning that Kenai was the one responsible for killing his mother, Koda runs away in tears never wanting to speak to him again. He comes to change his mind after hearing a brotherly spat between Rutt and Tuke and saves him from Denahi.
  • 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.
  • Caught in a Snare: Kenai gets caught in one and is rescued by Koda, much to his embarrassment.
  • 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.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In "Great Spirits" during the scene where Denahi and Sitka are fishing for Kenai's ceremony, Kenai interrupts them while riding on a mammoth. Way later in the movie, during "On My Way" when Rutt and Tuke point out to Kenai and Koda that Denahi will track them down by following their footsteps, Kenai gets the idea to ride on the mammoths backs, to throw him off track.
  • 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.
  • *Cough* Trope *Cough*: Tuke tries to use 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: Rutt and Tuke point out in the Alternate DVD Commentary that the whole movie might never have happened if Kenai had done a better job tying up the fish.
  • 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.
  • Dramatic Irony: Koda believing his mother will catch up with everyone else at the Salmon Run, all the while being friends with Kenai, brings a whole slew of irony when one's aware Kenai unknowingly killed off Koda's mother. Meaning he's been travelling dozens, if not hundreds of miles, with the very person who had slain his mother.
  • The Dreaded: The bears are terrified of humans, who they regard as monsters. Koda's mother's immediate reaction when Kenai is tracking her down is to flee in terror, and the bears at the salmon run are visibly shaken when Koda tells his story.
  • Dub Name Change: In the German dub, Rutt and Tuke the moose brothers 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. Although Kenai did come clean about it and had prior to that been protecting Koda.
  • 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. In reality, Kenai's people represent the ancestors of the Athabascan and Tlingit peoples.
  • 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.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: All four of the brothers. Sitka was the responsible brother and his two younger brothers were the foolish siblings. After his death, though, Denahi became the responsible brother to Kenai's foolish and finally, Kenai became the responsible brother to Koda's foolish.
  • Foreshadowing: The movie has several hints to suggest that the bear Kenai killed was Koda's mother.
    • Notice how the bear doesn't directly attack Kenai or his brothers, only ever attacking in self defense. It also doesn't stop to finish off Sitka. Also, when Kenai is hiding in the bushes, the bear looks around as if looking for something before running off. Despite being large enough to be a threat, if the bear was the monster Kenai saw it as, it wouldn't be running away unless it was luring him away from something. Or, more accurately, someone. As it turns out, she had been protecting her son from hunters and clearly wasn't trying to hurt or kill Kenai and his brothers, just escape them until they made that difficult.
    • Koda notably brings up how he and his mother had recently been separated, only for Kenai to disregard it. In addition, his first appearance is him being afraid of the presence of hunters. He was present when his mother fought off Kenai and his brothers, and had he told Kenai the story earlier, Kenai would have known what it was that turned him into a bear.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: Kenai can either change back into a human or be with Koda. He decides to stick with Koda.
  • Furry Confusion: Rutt and Tuke look a lot more cartoony than the caribou do. When Kenai is tracking the bear early in the movie, a moose also briefly appears looking more realistic than either of the moose brothers. This is explained by Kenai's perception literally changing once he's transformed into a bear, giving all the animals more expressive faces and movements.
  • Get a Room!: Tug yells "Get a cave!" towards the Sickeningly Sweethearts bears.
  • Ghostly Animals: When people die, their spirits take the form of their totem animals; Sitka's spirit, for example, takes the form of a bald eagle. Some of the spirits are also shown to be of deceased animals (Koda notes that his grandparents are spirits during the "Night on the Mammoths" sequence) and at the end of the movie, Koda briefly reunites with the spirit of his dead mother before she leaves for the spirit plains.
  • Gigantic Moon: Very briefly, in the montage during "On My Way", when Koda and Kenai are trying to get some sleep on a cliff.
  • 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.
  • He Was Right There All Along: Koda's story reveals he was present when Kenai arrived at the bushes and his mother ran away to lure him away from her son.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: During the credits. The DVD included a second set of outtakes, as well.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: It's revealed that from Koda's perspective, humans are unfathomable "monsters" that come out of nowhere and stab bears to death with "sticks." And he's completely unnerved by the fact the one that killed his mother even took on the form of a bear.
  • 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...
  • I Choose to Stay: Downplayed; Kenai chooses to stay in his bear form to look after Koda as his unofficial brother, but doesn't cut ties with his home village entirely either. He does return at least once to complete his coming-of-age ceremony before returning to his life as a bear.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Echo: When Kenai defiantly points out to his brothers he'll be taken seriously soon after his manhood ceremony, Denahi mockingly "consoles" that it won't matter what animal totem the spirits choose for him, for he'll "always be [their] baby brother." Towards the end, when Denahi and Sitka suggest Kenai will have an easier time raising the orphaned Koda as a bear, Kenai worries what this will mean for them as brothers. Denahi, having truly grown into his totem of wisdom, says "No matter what you choose, you'll always be our little brother." The fact he uses the word "little brother" instead of "baby brother" lends itself a sense that Kenai has truly become a man in Denahi's eyes.
  • 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.
  • Jitter Cam: When Denahi attacks Kenai, who is in his bear form.
  • Karmic Transformation: For Kenai after he kills a bear.
  • Keeping the Handicap: Kenai, who was magically turned into a bear, ultimately opts to remain that way both to remain with Koda and out of guilt, since he caused the death of Koda's mother.
  • Kill the Parent, Raise the Child: Kenai, as a human, killed a bear that he blamed for his older brother's death. The Great Spirits transformed him into a bear as punishment for his actions, although he didn't know what he'd done wrong. He soon meets the bear cub Koda, and bonds with him throughout the film. Eventually, it's revealed that Koda's mother, who he's been separated from for a while, was the bear that Kenai killed. This revelation horrifies them both, though Koda comes to forgive Kenai (mostly because the latter regrets his actions). In the end, he becomes the older brother/foster parent of Koda, choosing to stay a bear.
  • Language Barrier:
    • Kenai transforms into a bear and gains the ability to talk to animals, but also loses the ability to talk to humans. This becomes an issue when Denahi mistakes him for the bear who killed him and tries to avenge him.
    • Most of the animals speak to each other in English, but there's a bear who only speaks Croatian, to the confusion of every other 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?
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: Discussed. When Koda sees Kenai caught in a rope trap, he claims the only way to escape is to chew his foot off.
  • Look Behind You: While travelling through a blasted waste, Koda teases Kenai with thinking that monsters are popping up behind him. The last time, though, Kenai blows off Koda's warning to look behind him right until Denahi's spear nearly impales him.
  • Mama Bear:
  • Mammoths Mean Ice Age: The presence of woolly mammoths is a major hint that the movie is set in the Ice Age.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • Not in words, but actions — the bear advancing on Kenai, who raises his spear in self-defence 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 tactic, 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 is sent by the tribe to be with the spirits via a funeral pyre prominently featuring his eagle totem.
  • Meaningful Name: Most of the characters are given the names of real life locations in Alaska.
    • Koda's name is derived from Kodiak, the island that is home to the largest specimens of brown bear in the world.
    • Tanana's name means "trail water" in Koyukon and refers to a river in Alaska used as a landmark and guide by many Athabascans. When Kenai is transformed into a bear and washed down a river, it is at the river that Tanana meets him and sets him on the trail to his redemption.
  • 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.
  • Mirroring Factions: "Those monsters are really scary. Especially with those sticks."
  • Misplaced Wildlife: For the most part the movies are pretty good with their wildlife placement, however, there are a few inaccuracies due to the film's setting meant to be Alaska.
    • Raccoons are featured in both movies, once during the 'On My Way' montage in the first movie, and appear again with a larger role in the second movie. However, the furthest north Raccoons naturally range is the northern parts of the provinces of Canada (i.e. south of Alaska).
    • Chipmunks appear in a few scenes, and while they do inhabit parts of the neighbouring Canadian Yukon territory, they don't inhabit Alaska.
    • Early in the first movie Kenai makes a mention of Saber-toothed Tigers (Smilodons) as a favourable totem, however, the northernmost remains of Smilodon fossils come from Alberta, Canada. Fortunately, as the Smilodon don't appear in either of the films, the mention could simply be explained by stories passed through trade.
    • During “On My Way”, we see a pair of what appear to be box turtles when Koda is telling a story to a group of animals. In real life, these live no further north than southern Canada, and in fact there are no turtles in Alaska — or reptiles, period — aside from the occasional sea turtle and a possible (yet unconfirmed) population of garter snakes in the extreme southern portion of the panhandle.
  • 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: "Brother Bear" journeys through a lot of different tones and moods in just eighty-five minutes, which earned it some criticism about the tones clashing. It starts off breezy and lighthearted like your typical Disney movie, then it becomes incredibly dark for a while after Sitka dies, then it becomes lighthearted again (with occasional moments of darkness and intensity) as Kenai and Koda embark on their journey and bond in the middle act, then it becomes violent and intense again in the last act, following The Reveal, before it finally wraps up with a semi-happy ending.
  • Moose Are Idiots: Rutt and Tuke managed to crash a mammoth in a mountain.
  • Morality Pet: Koda becomes this to Kenai over time, with Kenai wanting to protect the little bear cub helping him.
  • 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. Although it's outright stated at the start of the movie when he says "The greatest change I ever saw was that of my brother."
  • National Animal Stereotypes: The moose brothers talk with a Canadian accent.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Kenai blames the bear for Sitka's death when he was the one who provoked the bear in the first place (not to mention the bear wouldn't have stolen the fish if he'd tied the basket properly), eventually culminating in Sitka sacrificing himself.
    • Denahi‘s certainly not blameless, either. If he hadn't been so hard on his younger brother (even going as far as to say that he's constantly messing up) Kenai wouldn't have gone looking for the basket, and if Denahi hadn't blamed Kenai for Sitka's death, Kenai wouldn't have gone after the bear. 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 behaviour.
    • In the Alternate 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: 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. This is averted later on in the credits, with a Carnivore Confusion chaser.
  • 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.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: While Kenai is moping over how he unwittingly killed a mother bear, Koda tries to play with him. At seeing his friend down-trodden, he guesses that perhaps Kenai is sick from eating too much fish. Offhandedly, he brings up how his mother would normally advise lying down to alleviate such a stomach ache, not knowing he's making Kenai feel all the more guilty by bringing up the memory of the very mother bear he murdered.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: "Transformation" is sung in Inupiaq. 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 2000s.
  • Once More, with Clarity: While Kenai is hunting the bear, he hides from it as it sniffs the air nearby, grunting. Once Kenai has learned that it was Koda's mother, he flashes back to that moment, and it's recontextualized to show that she was anxiously looking for Koda to protect him.
  • Our Souls Are Different: Apparently, your spirit takes the form of your totem animal. Awesome if your totem is an eagle.
  • 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.
  • Personal Horror: First Kenai is transformed into a bear and has to repeatedly evade his brother, who thinks he is the bear that killed him (yes, it's as complicated as it sounds). Then he finds out that the bear he killed earlier was Koda's mother.
  • 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 during 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.
  • A Real Man Is a Killer: After finding out that his spirit animal is the "Bear of Love", Kenai left to prove himself a man by killing a bear.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Scary Black Man: Tug is a large, dark-haired bear, voiced by the late Michael Clarke Duncan.
  • Scenery Porn: If you do not want to visit Alaska (or Canada) after seeing this movie, you are a strange person.
  • The Scream:
    • When Kenai realizes he's become a bear.
    • Later at the salmon run, Kenai screams again when his being surrounded by all the other bears finally sinks in.
    • The bear does this when Kenai kills her.
  • Shout-Out: In one of the vignettes during the credits, somehow Koda is able to paint Georges Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
  • Shown Their Work: They put a lot of effort into getting the Native American culture right, and what discrepancies there are can easily be justified by the fact that these aren't actually Athabascans, but a similar culture that lived thousands of years earlier. It's probably the most accurate portrayal of Native Americans in any Disney film.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: The he-bear and the she-bear at the Salmon Run.
  • Snowy Sabertooths: Implied; a sabertooth totem is mentioned but no sabertooths physically appear in either the film or its sequel.
  • 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.
  • Stumbling in the New Form: In a more subtle take on the trope, when Kenai is transformed into a bear he spends some time on hind legs, possibly out of stubbornness as he hates bears. This proves awkward but not impossible, which is true to real life as bears can actually walk this way and will do so to get better vantage points sometimes. But it's not the most efficient way for him to travel, so he eventually switches to all fours.
  • Tempting Fate: After Koda tells his story at the Salmon Run alerting Kenai that he unknowingly killed Koda's mother, an eagle ear will overhear Koda remark that although the glacier incident was intense, he knows it will "take a lot more" to take her down. Not one scene later, he learns that his mother was indeed killed off (by Kenai, no less) and will not be returning to the Salmon Run as he believed.
  • 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).
  • Title Drop: During the song "No Way Out.''
    Brother bear, I let you down...
  • 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 honour 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, after mistakenly believing that Kenai was killed by a bear. Sitka's eagle totem and what was left of his clothes were all that was left for Kenai and Denahi.
  • Translation Convention: We get to hear what the human and animal characters are saying. We don't get to hear what the spirits are singing, but Kenai does.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change:
    • "On My Way" begins in C major, shifts to E-flat for the post-choruses, then to A for the bridge, and finally to D for the final verse.
    • "Look Through My Eyes" starts in D major, shifts to E major for the first chorus and second verse, then to G-flat for the second chorus, back down to D and E for the bridge, then returns to G-flat for the final chorus, and ends with an outro in E-flat.
  • 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.
  • Welcoming Song: "Welcome" is sung by the protagonist's new bear "family" when he makes it to their fishing spot.
  • Wham Line:
    • During storytime among the bears, Koda tells a story about his mother fighting human hunters on a glacier, making Kenai realize that the bear he killed was Koda's mother, who was only trying to protect her cub.
    Koda: ...And then from out of the trees, comes the hunter! And then there's nowhere my mama could go. The hunter had her pinned up against this giant glacier. The monster attacks. Pop! But mama was too quick for him, and before he could do it again, she stands up real big and yells "go away!".
    • After running away from the salmon run party, Kenai tells a story to Koda, confessing his guilt over killing Koda's mother.
    Koda: (backing away, tearing up) I don't like this story.
    Kenai: (guiltily) Your mother isn't coming back.
    • Kenai spends the majority of the film believing that bears are monsters and incapable of love. When he and Koda discover some cave paintings depicting humans hunting down animals, Koda says something that makes Kenai realize that bears aren't the real monsters, humans are.
    Koda: 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.
  • White-and-Grey Morality: Almost Good Versus Good—an unusual and refreshing approach for a Disney movie. 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.
  • Woodland Creatures: Unsurprisingly, given the movie's wilderness setting, Kenai and Koda have a good amount of run-ins into these creatures. A bunch of them even tag along on their mammoth ride.
  • 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.

We are all the same
Brothers to each other
In this world we remain truly
Brothers all the same!
Brothers all the same!


Video Example(s):


Kenai Turns into a Bear

After Kenai kills Koda's mother as revenge for Stika's death, the Great Spirits and his recently deceased brother turn him into a bear, in order for him realize what he has done.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / KarmicTransformation

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