Super Quick Reviews: Beauty and the Beast

Based on: Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s adaptation of the original tale.

Directed by: Bill Condon

Screenplay by: Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos

Music by: Alan Menken

Cinematography: Tobias A. Schlissler

Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Ian McKellen and Emma Thompson.

Okay, look, if you were expecting one of my long rambling articles for this film review, it wasn’t necessary due to the Walker brothers from Channel Awesome and JD Hansel beating me to the punch. Especially where the story is concerned. Anything I could say here would just be beating at a dead horse. However, there are still a few things to which I’d like to give my own take.

Best Casting: While not the bumbling, eccentric old man we all remember, I quite enjoyed Kevin Kline as Maurice. Kevin stands apart from the rest of the cast, playing his part in an understated way, just giving enough to the character to make him likable and able to provide a few chuckles here and there. His chemistry with Emma Watson as Belle is easily the most genuine, neither having to play off CGI characters whenever they share their screentime.

Best Song: The Mob Song would have to be the most intensive, attention-grabbing 4-5 minutes in the entirety of the run-time. Luke Evans as Gaston is menacing and dangerous, despite lacking that iconic operatic bass provided by Richard White in the original. This in turn is echoed by the villagers as they march towards the castle. The film truly turns darker in these few minutes and sets up the final act while giving the audience a sense of expectation.

The Score: While the singing was mostly sub-par, the music itself was sensational. Alan Menken clearly wanted to outdo himself the second time around, a venture that payed off tremendously. The score brings intensity, mystique, joy and certainly intrigue when needed. There’s a lot to be said when a film could potentially fail if the music doesn’t grab the audience by the heartstrings. The orchestra certainly acted as this film’s crutch on which to lean.

Major Highlight: That one villager who discovered his feminine side quite to be quite natural and fulfilling.  

Major Low-light: Introducing the enchanted book was completely unnecessary. Why include something that has the potential to change the entire course of the film if you’re just going to use it as an exposition-dumping device?

Missed Opportunity: Josh Gad deserved a lot more screen-time then he was given. His performance is clever, inviting, understated and rather amusing. LeFou was originally developed as a caricature of the ultimate ‘yes-man’, but in this remake, Josh and the writers bring actual motive to the character. And yet, sadly he isn’t used to his new potential. LeFou appears to be rather intelligent with the skills of a resourceful business man, even developing a guilty conscious as Gaston starts to cause havoc. But where do the writers take this character arc? Essentially nowhere. The subplot of LeFou secretly desiring Gaston should have motivated his actions instead of hindering them. Imagine how much more intriguing he would have been if LeFou had betrayed the man he loved by admitting that Gaston did in fact try to leave Maurice to the wolves? Missed opportunities seem to be the theme of this remake.

And One More Thing: My biggest disappointment with this film occurred during the castle battle scene between the enchanted objects and the villagers. In the 1991 animated version, my favourite moment is Cogsworth sliding down the banister, laughing maniacally in the way only David Ogden Stiers can, ready and willing to prick a few villagers in the tush. Here, mostly thanks to his restrictive design, Cogsworth proves to be a coward and needs to be rescued. Just one more moment to add to the ‘why did they even bother trying?’ pile for this film.

2/5 Enchanted Roses

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Muppet Crash Course: The Electric Mayhem

Welcome, my weirdo students to your first ever Muppet Crash Course, the article series that clears up misconceptions and educates the casual, and perhaps die-hard Muppet fan masses!

First introduced to the world during The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence pilot in 1974, The Electric Mayhem has been a staple of The Muppets franchise, bringing their own groovy style to the overall Muppet discography. They have served as the resident house band for multiple movies and shows, while constantly generating their own brand of humour based on musician stereotypes and the inner workings of show business.

Let’s meet the band!

Dr Teeth

Performed by:

Jim Henson: 1975 – 1990

Bill Barretta: 2005- Present

Dr Teeth is the band leader and keyboardist, although he has also been known to play the piano. Despite being the band’s front-man, he’ll happily share vocal-duties with his fellow band members.  Loosely based on jazz keyboardist, Dr John, Teeth leads his band with an easy-going nature, leading by his music rather than by example, although he can get a little testy if his ownership is called into question.  His vocabulary consists of words he created himself, or using words that sound accurate but have nothing to do with what he is actually talking about at the time. For Teeth, it’s always what feels right rather than what is correct.

Teeth is the only ‘live-hand’ Muppet in the band, meaning he is often performed by two people, the main puppeteer (Jim Henson/ Bill Barretta) performing his head, body and voice, while another performs his arms and hands by wearing them as a type of sleeve. Teeth often has some type of ruffle on the cuffs of his shirt as to obscure the puppeteer’s arms. Much in the same way as Rowlf the Dog, the puppeteer performing the arms during a musical number will practice the fingering for the keyboard beforehand to make the ‘playing’ look as accurate as possible.

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Sgt Floyd Pepper

Performed by:

Jerry Nelson: 1975-2003

Matt Vogel: 2008- Present

Floyd is the band’s key bass player, vocalist and possibly the most outspoken member aside from Animal.  His name and attire was heavily influenced by Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Self-described as ‘the hippest of the hip’, Floyd possibly adores music and his bass more than his part-time squeeze, Janice. While he is close with and loyal to his fellow band members, Floyd’s influence over Animal allows him to keep the drummer somewhat under control. As a result, it’s often left to Floyd to hold on Animal’s chain, not that he would complain about it. While interacting with his fellow Muppets, Floyd often turns to sarcasm and loose insults, Miss Piggy being the main target. In recent years, Floyd has evolved from a beatnik into somewhat of a conspiracy theorist, believing that there hasn’t been a real moon since the 70’s.

Floyd is a type of Muppet known as ‘rod-handed’, meaning he has rods installed in his wrists to make his arms and hands moveable. During a musical number, unlike Dr Teeth, Floyd only needs his primary performer (Jerry Nelson/ Matt Vogel), who’ll perform his left hand to strum or pluck to the music, while his right hand is attached to the neck of the bass guitar. However, there are cases where a second puppeteer is brought in to perform the right hand to create a sense of accuracy or even to perform Floyd’s legs to make it appear that he is standing.

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Janice

Performed by:

Richard Hunt: 1977-1991

David Rudman: 2008-Present

Janice is the band’s electric guitar player, on occasion playing the tambourine when a guitar isn’t required for a song. She is best described as a Valley girl type, very extroverted, friendly and open to try just about anything. Unlike her part-time beau Floyd, Janice is more likely to calm down a situation rather than hype it up with snide remarks. She can get easily distracted, continuing a conversation even when Kermit has called for silence, with amusing results. Janice has very recently evolved into a very spiritual character, taking up Reiki practices and connecting with the ‘astral plane’, believing that anything and everything is connected to the universe.

Janice is another rod-handed Muppet, performed similarly to Floyd with her primary puppeteer being able to perform solo, unless a second performer is brought in to improve the accuracy of her ‘playing’. It’s interesting to note that Janice, Floyd and other Muppet’s who perform stringed instruments such as Kermit with his banjo, play left-handed. Muppets are traditionally left-handed due to their puppeteers being right-handed. Even left-handed puppeteers are trained to perform this way. A puppeteer will always use their dominant hand to perform a Muppet’s head as that hand will provide a more accurate lip-sync, leaving their other hand to perform the arms.

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Zoot

Performed by:

Dave Goelz: 1975- Present

Zoot is the band’s saxophone player (although known to play other brass and wind instruments) and is most accurately described as a burnt-out musician with his head in the clouds. It’s quite common to see Zoot napping somewhere in the background, rarely joining in the antics of his fellow Muppets. At times, he’ll wake up in the middle of a conversation and misunderstand the context, asking odd questions to which others will respond by telling him to go back to sleep. As you can imagine, Zoot has taken a mostly non-verbal approach to life, only speaking up to tell a joke or to voice his weird understanding of the world around him.

Just like Janice and Floyd, Zoot is a rod-hand Muppet. During musical numbers, his hands are placed on the appropriate places on his saxophone, but still attached to arm-rods so his primary performer (Dave Goelz) can manipulate his arm movement from underneath. The mouthpiece of the sax, quite obviously, is placed in his mouth where the puppeteer can mimic blowing into it.

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Animal

Performed by:

Frank Oz: 1975- 2001

Eric Jacobson: 2001- Present

Animal is the band’s drummer who needs little to no introduction. Loud, crazy and brash, there are very few who can control him, Floyd and Kermit among them. He’s prone to breaking out in drum solos when he’s either too excited or bored. He’ll eat just about anything.  He’s a womaniser, who won’t hesitate to get what or who he wants. For him, there’s nothing better than a woman who will grab a pair of cymbals and box his head with them. While he is not capable of coherent speech and relies on communicating through action, there are times when he can almost get an entire sentence out. Despite his erratic and impulsive personality, Animal has a strong grasp of right and wrong and will take action if he sees anyone he cares about being pushed around. He also as a soft-spot for bunnies, which you can bet is as cute as all get out.

Animal is another rod-handed Muppet. During musical numbers, floppy drumsticks are attached to his hands, with the puppeteers hiding behind his drum-set. It’s very rare for Animal to be only performed by his primary puppeteer, as he needs a second performer for his arms, for the same reason Dr Teeth does. The floppy drumsticks give an illusion of quick and accurate drum playing, especially during drum solos. Animal also has a mechanism in his head that allows his eyelids to be raised up, down, or even closed.

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Lips

Performed by:

Steve Whitmire: 1978- Present

Lips is the band’s trumpeter (and my all-time favourite Muppet, but that’s irrelevant). Not a lot is known about Lips despite being around for over 30 years. He was originally added as an honorary member during The Muppet Show, but has been established as a key member of The Mayhem since that time. Due to discrepancies with his voice, Lips has only spoken on a small number of occasions. When he does, he’s voice is heavy and gravelly, most likely due to disuse. He appears to enjoy hanging out with the band and takes a silent interest in the affairs of other Muppets when he’s not playing, but his biggest passion is music. He may also be a bit of a bookworm as he has been seen reading quietly to himself.

Lips is yet another rod-handed Muppet, performed exactly like Zoot during musical numbers. Like Animal, Lips has a mechanism in his head, not to raise or lower his eyelids, but to direct them inwards when he’s blowing hard into the trumpet. It’s also worth noting that the mouthpiece of the trumpet has to be placed on one side of his mouth instead of the middle due to his nose blocking the way.

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Notable Honorary Members:

Clifford: Joined the band as an auxiliary percussion player for The Muppets at Walt Disney World in 1990.

Trumpet Girl: who also played trombone, played on occasion with the band throughout The Muppet Show and was a staple of the Muppet orchestra for all 5 seasons.

Rizzo the Rat: played cymbals on a couple of occasions, although I’m fairly certain this was merely an excuse to give Steve Whitmire something to do before Lips was created.

 

 

Strange Encounters: Time Piece

As a Jim Henson fan, I’ll admit it took me quite a while to get interested in some of his more unusual, non-Muppet related projects. In hindsight, it seems that this was a bit of a mistake. It never occurred to me that the inner-thoughts of a great filmmaker generally come through their most personal projects. Early last year, I was studying film genre and when the curriculum came around to discussing experimental filmmakers, I realized there was a piece of Jim’s mentality I had completely skipped over without a second glance.

His sense of mortality.

Time Piece, in its shallowest synopsis, is the tale of a man who finds himself running against Time, facing all the facets of life while trying to escape Time’s clutches. According to Jim Henson: The Biography and multiple other sources, the tragic death of his elder brother, Paul, provided Jim with an appreciation for just how delicate and short life can be. Many of his friends and family have reflected on this revelation and its effects on Jim’s own philosophy and work ethic, as if Jim believed he needed to get as much done as possible with the time he was provided by some kind of Fate.

While pretty much non-existent as you’d expect from an experimental film, I’ve tried to breakdown the narrative of Time Piece into three sections:

  • Breakdown
  • Work, Sex and Family
  • Death

Breakdown and Work Sex and Family make up the majority of the films run-time. The leading character who is only known as The Man (most likely to avoid any kind of generalization) seems desperate to live a life unencumbered by the workaday life that the standard American societal expectations has set up for him. The Man conforms to traffic lights, deals with traffic, gets a job he hates and joins the rat race. All of this occurs to a steady, on-beat soundtrack while The Man’s brain appears to be wildly off-beat, looking around for a chance to make a break for it.

Nine to five workdays, finding a nice girl, getting married, starting a family -The Man wonders if there is more to life than all of that and seeks to escape. The only word spoken in the entire film is ‘help’, The Man pleading to the audience (or Fate if you’d like to be symbolic about it) to get him out of his situation so he can be free from Time’s clutches.

Unfortunately for The Man, Time remains persistant. He comes to learn that Time is all encompassing, even having the power to strip him down to the most primeval aspects of humanity, seen as The Man walks through the city and suburbs and eventually finding himself in the jungle, stripping and relieving himself of his clothes as he goes. This is also seen later in the dinner montage as The Man and his wife are seen depicted in different forms of period dress and displaying varied forms of table etiquette (or lack of). This leads into an odd exploration of sex and feminine appeal in their most basic forms. Sex is pleasurable and entertaining, but it has a habit of providing more responsibility once children are conceived.

Personally, I read this as the film emphasising humanity’s ability to change and evolve, and Time’s blatant ignorance towards it, regarding it as it has been since the beginning of man.

This is where we come to Death. This more than anything explores and searches for the answers Jim may have been trying to find during that period of his life.

In the final two and a half minutes, The Man finds himself running the last leg in his race against Time. The montage begins with a medium long-shot of a judge banging his gavel, the signal of The Man’s final judgement being handed to him, followed by a series of narrow close-up shots of handcuffs being snapped to his wrists, entering a cell and then a wide shot of The Man in classic prison garb doing stone work. The editing is rapid as the shots continue to move by in quick concession, the climaxing emergency is emphasized by the trilling of a djembe in the percussion heavy soundtrack as The Man breaks from ‘prison’ and begins to run.jimrun

As The Man continues to run, his clothes change from the prison garb to a tuxedo and top hat. Random shots are mixed in, all acting as hints to the finality of The Man’s pointless life. A close-up of pink liquid pouring down the drain and a clock chiming allude to the phrases ‘pulling the plug’ and ‘time’s up’. As The Man switches between his tuxedo and a loin-cloth, he runs across a grassy field and through city streets, the camera panning horizontally to follow his actions in either wide or close-up shots. Other random shots are placed in between, such as The Man painting an elephant pink to emphasize the absurdity of life.

Eventually The Man takes to the sky in man-made wings, several switches are flicked, setting off rapid fire from things like a rocket launcher, a cannon, the Statue of Liberty and even The Man’s wife with a fire extinguisher. The Man is shot down, his death symbolized by an arrow hitting the bulls-eye, a bell ringing and a bowling ball getting a strike, all indications of a point being made or an ending of some kind. There’s a wide-shot of a feather floating softly down to the ground, only to be juxtaposed against a panned-in close-up of a golden clock thudding into mud after a quick cut.

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A final vignette of earlier scenes acts as The Man’s life passing before his eyes, a superimposed clock chimes in the background. The final few seconds returns to the hospital room. A bed sheet is placed over The Man’s body, only for the camera to pan out and upwards to reveal The Man as the doctor, looking straight into the camera and winking with one final click. There are different ways you could read this conclusion, but I’d like to think it was Jim’s way of telling us that in the end, while The Man had spent his whole life escaping, he was simultaneously bringing it all upon himself through his own choices.

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That’s a very broad conclusion to make from nearly nine minutes of nonsensical, weird imagery and a heavy percussion soundtrack all mashed together with quick cuts and staccato timing, but how else am I supposed to make sense of it? I may not understand Time Piece, but I can understand Jim and when you step back and really look at the driving forces behind this ambitious little project, there is almost no difference between Jim and The Man. Not only did Jim portray The Man, he really was in his own battle against Time, but knew he was never going to get away from it. Nobody can ever tell you for certain, but there is merit in the notion that everything Jim ever did was driven by that same ambition to just get things done because they were worth exploring.

Time Piece has been both a pain in the neck to grasp the concept of and a lesson in never underestimating what you can learn about someone from even their smallest projects. If I want to truly understand my greatest idol, I need to listen to what Jim Henson is saying between the lines. Not only will it make me a more-informed fan, but also someone whose eyes are much more open and ready to observe and understand what others may overlook.

Jim Henson and Philosophy

Going Deeper into the Mind of the Storytelling Genius

This article originally appeared on The Muppet Mindset. It was one of the first articles I ever wrote for the Mindset, so the following is a somewhat revised version.

When students and experts of philosophy come together to analyse and discuss the morals and values of a genius such as Jim Henson, you can bet that the conversation gets weird and wonderful fairly quickly.

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Muppet Fans like myself will agree that we are notoriously (possibly overly) analytical of all aspects of Muppetdom; from the characters, to the plot, to the underlying messages of the story, we devour and assess all of it. But what happens when you take The Muppet Show and replace Statler and Waldorf with Plato and Aristotle as the residents of the balcony? What would they make of the chaos?  What would they have to heckle about?

Well, if these kind of thoughts have ever crossed your mind, this collection of essays will more than likely have an answer for you to take into consideration.

The very intimate Foreword is written by Craig Yoe, a former creative director and manager for the Muppets from the Henson days. The Foreword sets a tone of nostalgia for the following chapters, Yoe fondly reminiscing about Jim’s work ethic and his interaction with his colleagues, in words that can only be described as ‘full of love’. This is followed by a brief introduction by Timothy M. Dale, letting the reader know that they are about to delve deeper into the genius mind of Jim, reassuring that a university degree is definitely not necessary to enjoy the following chapters. ‘….think about your favourite Henson characters and stories, enjoy the chapters exploring their philosophies,’ encourages Dale.

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Jim Henson and Philosophy is split into four subsections, with 5-6 chapters in each:

  • Part I: Living with Muppets: Social and Political Philosophy
    Authors: Timothy M. Dale, Samantha Brennan, Amanda Cawston, Laurel Ralston, David and Deborah R. Burns, Joseph J. Foy
  • Part II: Thinking like a Muppet: Epistemology and Logic
    Authors: Sheryl Tuttle Ross, Lauren Ashwell, Michael j. Muniz, S .Evan Kreider, Victoria Hubbell
  • Part III: Acting like a Muppet: Ethics
    Authors: Brooke Covington, Natalie M. Fletcher, Jennifer Marra, Dena Hurst, Christopher Ketcham
  • Part IV: Being a Muppet: Metaphysics
    Authors: Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray, Shaun Leonard, Christopher M. Culp, Ryan Cox, Rhona Trauvitch, Lauren Ashwell

The majority of  Jim’s projects are used as basis for a theory, or at least used briefly as an example. Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, The Muppet Movie, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, The Storyteller and Fraggle Rock are most commonly used, with The Cube, Time Piece, and Mirror Mask also briefly analysed. In each chapter, a certain idea of Jim’s is openly compared to the ideas of well-known, respected philosophers of the past. Whether it’s about where Miss Piggy stands as a feminist, or Sesame Street’s contribution towards education, everything is explored from a fresh perspective.

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There are far too many chapters to discuss in one article, but I’ll certainly pick out a few highlights; the first of which being Chapter 16, “Whatever”: A Biograffiti of Gonzo the Alleged Magnificent. This peculiar essay explores what exactly it means and what exactly it takes to be a Gonzo. The entire chapter is slightly confusing, very perplexing and oddly constructed and yet you can still understand and relate to it. The entire chapter is a constructed type of Gonzo. 

Is it possible to split Gonzo into two Gonzo’s then physically separating those Gonzo’s to see if Gonzo could still be Gonzo even if he was just half a Gonzo?

I think so….maybe….Get back to me after the reassembled pieces of my brain start functioning again.

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Another chapter that really spoke to me was Chapter 2, Kermit and Leadership: Believing in the Dream. It discusses how Kermit’s decision to not go out of his way to be a recognized as a leader, assists him in becoming more capable to believing in and achieving his dream, which as we saw in The Muppet Movie causes the other Muppets to want to follow him. The wonderful dream of entertaining and bringing happiness to millions of people is what brings the Muppet troupe together, with Kermit simply being the linchpin that keeps it all in check. By being hesitant and reluctant to take absolute control, Kermit is the perfect leader for a group of weirdos that shouldn’t really be able to function as a group at all (not unlike Jim Henson’s own ethics as a boss).

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These are just two small examples of what Jim Henson and Philosophy has to offer in regards to wonderful insights into the worlds of Jim Henson. f you enjoy being surprised by new revelations that you can’t believe somebody could even think of, you need to read this.

When I first picked up this book, as someone who has never studied philosophy in her life, I had no idea what I was getting into. Fortunately as I read on, I came to realize that asking the bigger questions about Jim and his influence on both pop culture and our perspective of the world around us can be beneficial to being a Henson fan. As someone who takes delight in completely overthinking things, the fresh ideas brought about by these intellectuals open new doors for consideration. Not only did I learn a lot more about Jim, but also about myself as a follower and self-claimed critic of his work.

I’m certain any Henson fan could find something to enjoy in this book, whether you’re a philosophy enthusiast or not. Exactly as Timothy M. Dale promises, just about anyone can read this, although it certainly helps to keep an open mind if you want to digest the huge variety of Muppet concepts. Even if you don’t agree with what the authors have to say, it never hurts to gain a new perspective that’s not your own. I found myself with a few opposing thoughts, but at the end of the day, it’s the discussions we have with both ourselves and others that allows ideas to grow.

It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to say that the book doesn’t do Jim Henson justice; Jim’s ridiculous optimism is well presented and it is made quite clear that Jim was looking out for the world; whether by comedy or education, he truly wanted to make it a better place.

We have much to thank Jim for; I can’t imagine a world without his influence and let’s all be glad that his morals and beliefs left the world a little bit better than when Jim got here.

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Waving Off Nostalgia: Brother Bear (2003)

Looking back at one of my childhood favourites.

Directed by: Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker

Produced by: Chuck Williams

Written by: Tab Murphy, Lorne Cameron, David Hoselton, Steve Bencich and Ron J. Friedman

Voice Talent: Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Rock Moranis, Dave Thomas, Jason Raize and D.B Sweeney

Narration by: Harold Gould

Music by: Mark Mancina and Phil Collins

Synopsis: An Inuit boy named Kenai, eager to the recognised as a man, is transformed into a bear after killing a bear in a foolish and misinformed act of revenge for the death of his eldest brother Sitka. To become human again, he is sent by his tribe’s Shaman on a journey to the mountain where the light of the Spirits touch the earth. Along the way, he must learn to see through another’s eyes, feel through another’s heart, and discover the meaning of brotherhood. Luckily for Kenai, a small, upbeat, misplaced bear cub named Koda, might just be the perfect candidate to show him how.

I remember seeing Brother Bear at the cinema in my hometown at the age of 7 with my mum and older brother during the summer holidays. While I can’t recall much about the actual first viewing, I have a distinct feeling that my brother and I walked back out of the cinema with two very different opinions. He found it to be very boring. I on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of it!

As a kid, there was a part of me that really wanted to believe in the Spirits of the Earth, whether it was the Spirits of the Australian Dreamtime, or the manipulators of the Native American ethereal plane. So you can imagine why an animated film consisting of such a thing appealed to me as a viewer. There was something comforting about ‘knowing’ that there were beings all around me, protecting and guiding me through life’s trials and tribulations. Do I believe in all of that now? No, not really, but I can still remember that feeling of security, even wishing that it could come back to me as easily as it used to.

So, do I still hold the film to the same standards now in 2017 as I did back in 2003? Let’s take a closer look by starting with my favourite aspect of any Disney film:

The Music

While it wasn’t the first time I had heard any of his work, Brother Bear was the first time I had ever paid attention to Phil Collins as a songwriter and musician. Phil acts like a second narrator, telling the emotion of the story rather than simply giving exposition. The soundtrack for Brother Bear is awesome, with two songs in particular making it into my Top 20 Disney Songs list. The first of which is ‘On My Way’, a very upbeat travelling song that seems to promise nothing but great times ahead. It gives you that kind of optimism you want when starting a new adventure. I still have it on my iPod playlist for that very reason. The second song is ‘No Way Out’, a complete opposite of ‘On My Way’ on a scale of emotion. I consider this song to be a replacement for the typical Disney villain song, considering Kenai himself committed the murder. Instead of having the villain singing about what he has planned, you get a sorrowful, mislead, would-be-vengeful character who just wants to make everything right again.

More often than not, even if I have lost interest in a film, the soundtrack still has the potential to remain relevant and enjoyable. You can bet I’ll be singing about spending time with my fellow bears at the Salmon Run for a long time to come.

The Story

As a child, how efficiently a story was told never really mattered to me. As long as everything made sense, I was fine with a few inconsistencies and blunders, mainly due to the fact that I would never have recognised them in the first place. Brother Bear was always pleasant and easy enough to watch, with just enough depth to make a child think a little deeper about the world around them. Brother Bear seems to be for boys what Lilo and Stitch became for girls, a reminder that your brother/sister is someone you can learn from and depend on, even if they do get on your nerves most of the time. Denahi’s story arc reflects this just as much as Kenai’s, facing all the hardships that comes with trying to avenge a fallen brother despite thinking that Kenai had been killed as a result of doing just that.

And what about Koda’s place in Kenai’s journey to discovering how to be a man? Yes, Koda gives Kenai a chance to play big brother, but he also assists him in learning to become a well-adjusted and contributing member of society by learning to empathise with others. Understanding this wasn’t difficult as a child, but now I’m able to actually put into words what I was absorbing by watching these characters go through and battle against the motions.

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Aside from the morals, there’s not much I can complain about when it comes to the telling of the story itself. The film is pretty well-paced, aside from one of two scenes that probably could have had a couple of seconds cut from them. The plot hits hard exactly where it needs to, such as Sitka’s death or Kenai revealing to Koda the truth about his mother’s death, and allows the audience have moments to cool down and process what is going on. The climax of the film is rather predictable, but still resolves everything in a way that pleases the audience because it simply seems the way it’s meant to be.

Brother Bear is one of Disney’s more underrated animated features. As a kid, I couldn’t grasp the reason why…and to be honest, I still don’t. There’s nothing in the storytelling that stands out as problematic, the animation is fantastic, the soundtrack is great and the characters give a freshly blunt take on the ‘kid who wants to be seen as a man’ trope. I don’t love it in quite the same way I used to, but you can bet I’ll be encouraging my younger relatives to give it a go.

As a Kid: 4 ½ Salmon Heads Out of 5

As an Adult: 3 ½ Salmon Heads Out of 5

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