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Toon Talk: Brother Bear Special Edition DVD
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by Kirby Holt (archives)
March 30, 2004
Kirby reviews Disney's latest DVD release Brother Bear: Special Edition

Toon Talk
Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt

(c) Disney

Brother Bear
Special Edition DVD

O Brother, Bear Art Thou
Despite a mediocre critical reception upon its release last fall, Brother Bear still went on to become a modest hit for the Disney Studios and was even nominated for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award.

Now available on a two-disc special edition DVD, the charms and faults of this Bear are easier to swallow on the smaller screen, where the questionable character designs and song intros are not as jarring as on the first viewing, allowing a little more breathing space for the emotional core of the film to come through. The simplified watercolor backgrounds and sumptuous color palette also shine bright, and with a greater familiarity, Phil Collins’s songs stand up just as well as his Tarzan tunes. (Click here for the original Toon Talk review of Brother Bear.)

Like last year’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit set, this collection is divided amongst the two discs, with the condescendingly titled “Family Friendly Aspect Ratio? (read: Full Screen) of the film taking up the first disc (along with the requisite kiddie attractions such as Sing Along Songs and DVD games), while the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio is preserved on the second disc, along with the more in-depth supplementary material.

What this means is that those of you who didn’t catch the transfer of the film from 1.85:1 to 2.35:1 in theaters will no doubt notice it this time, as the image in this version is surrounded on all sides by black bars for the first twenty-four minutes of the film. Credit is due to the DVD producers for allowing the filmmaker’s original vision to be preserved, retaining the artistic integrity of the film in perpetuity.

Its during the second disc’s features that those ‘in-the-know’ may feel an underlying sadness; while watching the spiffy ‘making of’ documentary, those who have followed the ups and downs (and downs) of the Disney Company over the past several months will realize that not only may this be the last time Disney DVD mainstay Roy Disney may appear on one of these collections, but that it is indeed the last time the Florida Animation Studio will appear as well. Factor in the untimely and tragic death of actor Jason Raize (who voiced Denahi here and originated the role of Simba in Broadway’s The Lion King) earlier this year, and this disc becomes bittersweet viewing.

And while its puzzling that Disney chose Bear for the two-disc treatment after relegating its stronger predecessors Lilo and Stitch and Treasure Planet to single disc efforts (even though a planned Lilo two-discer is awaiting release sometime in the future), this set does afford a strong testament to the wealth of talent that brought it forth, those who are still with us and those who are not.

Toon Talk Rating: B

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