After two summers of on-scene filming and thousands of hours spent wading through footage, Disneynature’s BEARS is set to open this week on Earth Day. In just over 70 minutes, moviegoers will be able to capture an intimate view of three Alaskan coastal brown bears making their way in an often unpredictable and unreliable world along the shores of Katmai National Park. Disneynature invites us to venture “into somewhere incredible.”
In typical Disney fashion, the film follows a bear’s life of sweetness and tragedy, with moments of silly joy thrown in with narration by John C. Reilly (voice of Wreck It Ralph). The value to young people, however, lies not within the laughable, but in the reality; growing up is damn hard, no matter your species.
Masterfully shot and directed, the little family group consisting of “Sky” and cubs “Amber” and “Scout” begins in a den somewhere near Hallo Bay Bear Camp, a place of magical opportunity for humans and where the majority of footage was collected. Hallo Bay is one of those places where earth and heaven somehow meld together in a beautiful tapestry of nature that cannot help but serve as habitat for these superheroes of the Alaska animal world.
I know this because I’ve been there, seated uncomfortably on a stream bed of stones waiting for an equally-uncomfortable but trusting mother bear to walk her cub within arm’s reach of my guide and I. When one’s visceral senses are sharp enough to smell wet bear fur and feel cold creek water seeping into boot tops, all while listening to the splash of paws and salmon and wind through willow branches, life slows down to only the important stuff. And this is important stuff.
It’s the only stuff, really, and it’s up to our kids to grow up and keep it that way.
In a recent conversation with BEARS co-director and producer Keith Scholey, this became especially clear for the legions of Alaska children who will hopefully take their parents to see the film. I asked Keith what he wants kids in Alaska to do with this film, and the answer was as equally beautiful as the sweeping skies and roaring waves.”
“You have a huge privilege, and a fantastic inner sense of value for bears, just by living in Alaska,” he said. “You know what a struggle they have just to grow up, and that they’ve been through so, so much.”
“And when you know that,” Scholey says, “You will be more likely to know the best way to protect them. Not just the bears, but the salmon streams, and oceans, and forests. It’s going to take a big global effort.”
I’ll be in Homer on Thursday night for a special screening of Disneynature BEARS, with my friends and cohorts from Hallo Bay Bear Camp.
We will smile, we will cringe, and we will celebrate the reality of growing up someplace incredible. Will you? The National Park Foundation and Disneynature have teamed up to take proceeds from opening week and donate them to our national parks. What better reason to go than that?
As recording artist Olivia Holt sang in her newest single released just for the premier of Disneynature’s BEARS,
“We will leave our footprints behind, and carry on…”
Curious about Hallo Bay Bear Camp? Try these previous blog posts and consider a trip to Alaska’s most intimate bear-viewing experience. Tell them AK Mom sent you.