Walt Disney Studios and Disneynature have supplied us with a ton of newly released high resolution stills and behind-the-scenes photos from their upcoming film, Bears (April 18, 2014), along with fun facts and additional information. You can find the new stills added to the beginning of their respective galleries below.
In an epic story of breathtaking scale, Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure Bears showcases a year in the life of a bear family as two impressionable young cubs are taught life’s most important lessons. Set against a majestic Alaskan backdrop teeming with life, their journey begins as winter comes to an end and the bears emerge from hibernation to face the bitter cold. The world outside is exciting — but risky — as the cubs’ playful descent down the mountain carries with it a looming threat of avalanches. As the season changes from spring to summer, the brown bears must work hard to find food — ultimately feasting at a plentiful salmon run — while staying safe from rival male bears and predators, including an ever-present wolf. Bears captures the fast-moving action and suspense of life in one of the planet’s last great wildernesses — Alaska! Bears is narrated by John C. Reilly.
BEARS FUN FACTS
- LYING DOWN ON THE JOB — Principal photographers for Disneynature’s Bears endeavored to place moviegoers within the world of the bears by shooting all footage within a bear’s eye line. This meant positioning the cameras — and the operators — low to the ground.
- LUNCHTIME — Hungry? In Katmai, you could eat a sandwich 10 feet from a bear and he wouldn’t be inclined to take a nibble. The production team — who regularly spent 12-14 hours a day out filming — was allowed to bring lunch on location. Meals never included fish — as bears would recognize this as food — but could be consumed in the presence of bears. Since these animals (unlike bears in the lower 48) have no knowledge of human food, they weren’t drawn to the scents the team’s lunch items emitted.
- Extreme caution was taken to ensure no remnants remained. Everyone was advised to eat over a re-sealable storage bag. Drop a crumb? No problem — scoop it up, sand and all, and put in your bag to be brought back to camp.
- The main camp employed strict rules regarding food so bears would not be enticed to venture into camp at night.
- LOTSA FISH. LOTSA BEARS — Katmai National Park and Preserve is home to an estimated 2,000 brown bears, who are attracted to the abundance of salmon — there are five species of Pacific salmon in Katmai, including sockeye, or red salmon.
- ON THE MENU — The brown bears that live in Katmai eat a variety of food (while waiting for the coveted salmon run). Bears snack on sedge grass, use their claws to pry open clams and other shellfish, munch on mussels and in late summer, will dine on ripe berries.
- IT’S ALL ABOUT LAYERING — With Alaska’s unpredictable weather and shooting days that often went 14 hours, filmmakers had to plan accordingly. The key, they said, was in layering. Favorite pieces included thick thermals, waterproof jackets, chest waders, goose-down jackets and assorted t-shirts.
- Chest waders also came in handy when it came to cooling off in the river on hot days and having a dry place to sit on wet days.
- SAFETY FIRST — The production team was able to film among enormous brown bears and wolves without feeling threatened thanks to the untouched area they chose to film in and the brilliant guides who accompanied them on every shoot.
- The Hallo Bay guides did not bring firearms or pepper spray during filming. Their keen sense of bear behavior helped them avoid confrontations. They did carry handheld flares, that — if triggered — would light up with a bright flame, alarming any overly interested bear (these flares have only been utilized four times in 25 years).
- I’M HOME! — A brown bear’s home range can span 100 square miles.
- LET SLEEPING BEARS LIE — Two filmmakers and their guide trekked to the top of a cliff to capture a wide shot of bears in the meadow. While scouting the right angle, they inadvertently interrupted a young male bear in the midst of a snooze. None too happy, the bear voiced his feelings, offered a bit of a bluff charge, and headed off to the meadow along with his girl for a bite (of sedge grass).
- TEDDY’S BEARS — The original teddy bear dates back to the early 1900s when President Theodore Roosevelt went on a Mississippi hunting trip — and refused to shoot a bear that had been wrangled on his behalf — declaring it unsportsmanlike. Political cartoonist Clifford Berryman depicted the story in the Washington Post in Nov. 1902, and candy shop owner Morris Michtom — inspired by the bear illustration — displayed a couple of stuffed toy bears, naming them ‘Teddy’s Bears’ (with Roosevelt’s permission). A German company called Steiff started making stuffed bear toys around the same time.
- READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP –– Filmmakers had never before captured wolf behavior like they do in Bears. In many areas, wolves steer clear at first sight or scent of a human — so capturing natural wolf behavior is difficult, if not impossible. In this area of the Alaska Peninsula, the wolves have grown accustomed to the scents of the naturalist guides who accompanied the filmmakers on every excursion. They’ve learned over the years that these humans pose no threat to them and are therefore able to act like wolves act — which makes for very happy filmmakers.
- FISH LIKE A BEAR — Filmmakers observed a variety of fishing techniques while on location in Katmai.
- Some bears opted for the belly flop — sloshing through the river or creek, leaping and landing — belly first — on an unsuspecting salmon.
- Many tried the traditional approach of coordinating a few good claws with their snapping jaws to snag a fish.
- When fishing at the falls, bears picked prime spots to position themselves as salmon were leaping out of the water — their own journey interrupted by the waiting jaws of a hungry bear.
- A few abandoned fishing altogether and just stole fish from unsuspecting bears.
- CRAZY WEATHER — Filmmakers found the weather in the Alaska Peninsula very unpredictable with temperatures ranging between 45 and 70 degrees for most of their filming season, though they saw snow and experienced nearly tropical conditions (80 degrees) during production. Extreme rain, wind and fog frequently delayed filming — and prevented the production team from coming and going (as the plane needed proper conditions to land safely).
- PASSING THE TIME — Waiting is one of the realities of shooting footage for a film like Bears. Members of the production team employed a host of activities to pass the time:
- Perfecting still photography skills
- Word play — whether it was tweaking song lyrics to fit the Alaskan landscape or testing one another’s knowledge of elusive trivia, filmmakers kept their minds busy when the bears weren’t.
- Cricket — Filmmakers capitalized on a lull in their shoot one day and taught their guide the basics of cricket. They fashioned stumps from sticks and a bat out of driftwood, but their game came to an abrupt end when a bear interrupted the fun. It turned out the bear just wanted to join in, as he sniffed the stumps and seemed interested in playing wicket-keeper.
- SNAP, SNAP — Naturalist guides who accompanied the production team on every shoot were sure to bring rain gear every time — even if the sun was shining and no clouds were in sight. If a bear appeared to be a little too curious about the group, a swift snap of a pair of rain pants — like snapping a towel — was a great deterrent as the sound was like nothing in the bear’s environment.
- BOUNCING BABY BEAR — A newborn cub weighs about one pound. The average mature male bear on Katmai weighs 900 pounds.
- NEW DIGS, LONG NAP — Brown bears dig a new den annually, hibernating from November to April.
BEARS BY THE NUMBERS
- The Bears production team filmed approximately 430 hours of footage.
- They spent more than 550 days filming on location.
- A typical day in Hallo Bay was 14 hours long, but some days went as long as 16 hours away from camp filming.
- On a bad day, the production team would capture just a few minutes of footage. On a good day, the team might get up to an hour.
- Field assistants carried up to 80 pounds of camera kit while trekking on the Alaska Peninsula. This was spread between two backpacks per person — one on the front and one on the back.
- On a typical day, the team covered about 8 miles on foot. On the most arduous days, the team trekked as many as 15 miles — resulting in sore feet and exhausted filmmakers.
- The wettest day: 9 inches of rainfall
- The windiest day: 102 mph wind speeds
- The hottest day: 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The coldest day: sub 32-degree temperatures in the mountains
- The longest day: more than 18 hours of daylight
WHO’S WHO IN BEARS
SKY is a first-time mom, and raising two tiny cubs on her own can be pretty overwhelming. She’s a strong mother with good instincts, but life on the Alaska Peninsula is tough. It’s up to Sky to protect her cubs as they make a momentous trek to find the food they’ll need to make it through next winter. Mother bears typically give birth to two or three cubs; a bear’s first litter comes at age 8 or 9, and she’ll nurture the cubs for 3 or 4 years. Only about a third of bear cubs will make it to adulthood.
AMBER is a mama’s girl. This young cub likes to catch a ride on Sky’s broad back or curl up next to her for a cozy nap. Amber’s habit of hanging close to mom might make her look timid, but make no mistake: Amber is watching mom’s every move and learning the tricks to surviving in Alaska. Smart bear.
SCOUT is all about adventure. He’s a curious cub who relishes the new sights, sounds and smells his family’s journey reveals each day. But Scout’s penchant for exploration gets him into some trouble. Bold is good if you’re a big bear, but little Scout best keep one eye on mom at all times.
MAGNUS is king. He’s the biggest bear in the neighborhood and highly respected. While male bears are typically a threat to young cubs like Amber and Scout — Sky knows that Magnus’ high-ranking status gives him first dibs at every meal, so he’s not likely to bother the young family as long as they keep their distance.
CHINOOK, an exile from local bear society, is constantly challenged by the other male bears — especially Magnus. A born fighter, Chinook is indignant, vulnerable, hungry — and a surefire threat to Sky and her young cubs.
TIKAANI is a mischievous, scheming wolf who spends much of his time lurking in the bears’ shadows. Tikaani fills his belly by stealing fish from unsuspecting bears. But he’s also watching Sky, plotting the best way to outwit the new mother and snatch one of her cubs.
THE RAVEN forms an easy alliance with Sky. The shiny black bird beckons Sky from above, pointing her toward the next meal — and Sky rewards the tips with leftover clams, muscles and fish that the raven could never get on her own.