In the 1940s/1950s, Disney’s “True-Life Adventures” won eight Academy Awards and a surprisingly steady audience for their astonishingly intimate nature photography.
The studio’s revival of the series, now called Disneynature, began in 2007 with “Earth” and has continued with “Oceans” (2009), “African Cats” (2011) and “Chimpanzee” (2012).
The fifth installment, “Bears,” brings back the co-directors of “African Cats,” Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, along with Adam Chapman, for a look at an Alaskan bear family over the period of one year. Like Disney’s Oscar-winning 1953 “True-Life Adventure,” “Bear Country,” it focuses on the central event of the brown bears’ lives: hibernation.
The movie begins with tiny claws struggling toward the light as a couple of bear cubs, Amber and Scout, emerge from a six-month-long winter’s nap. An avalanche greets them, followed by a tide that threatens to engulf Scout, and a hungry adult male who wants to dine on either or both.
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The cubs and their mother spend half the year asleep, and the other half trying to survive in the wild. At one point, it looks like Mom will never digest enough salmon to keep the kids fed from her milk. Finding enough protein is a constant struggle.
The filmmakers throw in a few comic-relief episodes, including Scout’s adventure with a Velcro-like shellfish. The folksy narration by John C. Reilly tries to soften scenes that remind us why the mortality rate for cubs is high.
It may be rated G, but for the most part this is serious stuff, as potentially traumatic for younger viewers as the death of Bambi’s mother.
John Hartl: firstname.lastname@example.org