This post is sponsored by Disneynature "Bears," in theaters April 18.
By Michael Sewall
In the opening scene of Disneynature's latest wildlife documentary Bears, two newborn brown bear cubs follow their mother out of their den and, along with the viewer, witness the majestic Alaskan landscape for the first time.
Bears, co-directed by Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill, combines the beauty of that TV series with a narration and storyline that's funny, accessible and never too scary for children, fitting Disney's G-rating.
The film follows new mother Sky and her cubs Amber and Scout as they trek down the mountain after hibernation in search of food along the Alaskan peninsula. It condenses one year of footage by using wonderful time-lapse photography to show the change of season.
Besides the underlying challenge of finding food, Sky and her cubs must avoid challenges from nature (an avalanche, rising water) and other animals (a gray wolf and two hungry male bears). Each scene features wonderful and up-close footage, perhaps the best being the overhead shot of the tremendous avalanche and multiple fights between bears.
Narrator John C. Reilly brings his goofy, man-child charm to the movie, helping lighten the mood. The film features a lot of kid-friendly slapstick, like Scout getting his claw caught in a clam and slow-motion shots of bears getting slapped in the face by the leaping salmon they're trying to catch.
Reilly does what many of us might do with our pets at home, giving a human voice to their actions and speaking for them, or relating their behavior to things we might be familiar with — “He looks like my dad when he’s watching TV," he says of one bear falling over while napping.
Still, there are many themes parents will appreciate, most notably the willingness of Sky to do anything necessary to protect her children, and the importance of passing down the lessons she's learned.
The film hopes to inspire people to get out and experience nature, and the beauty of the footage paired with the accessibility of the narration makes it a success for all ages. As a bonus, for every ticket sold during opening week, Disneynature will make a donation to help protect the national parks through the National Park Foundation.