Bears Movie Poster Image




Some tense moments in Disney's nature documentary.
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 86 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids will learn lots of things about brown bears, like how they live in the Alaskan peninsula, travel great lengths to find spawning salmon every year after hibernation, and nurse and care for their cubs for two years -- as well as how male bears don't participate in child-rearing and may even cannibalize the cubs of other males. But there's not a lot of in-depth discussion about the bears, what threatens their habitats, and how they interact with one another in bear society.

Positive messages

Family oriented messages about sticking together to overcome obstacles, protecting one another from threats, and caring for your young. This is also, in a way, a tribute to single parenting, since in bear society, only mothers raise their offspring.

Positive role models

The narration ascribes human characteristics to the animals, so it's easy to see the mother bear in "human" terms. She takes her job to protect and provide for her offspring seriously. She cares for cubs when it would be easier to flee and get to the salmon faster; she faces alpha bears and a hungry wolf in order to keep her cubs safe. And she doesn't leave her cub behind, even when it seems like he's been killed.

Violence & scariness

The mother bear and her cubs must overcome various obstacles -- nature, a hungry wolf, and fellow bears. Although they all survive, there are several tense, perilous moments when it seems like one or both of the cubs might die. In one scene, a hungry male searches for a cub, and then the cub doesn't emerge, making viewers think he's been eaten.

Sexy stuff

When Magnus the alpha bear spots a she-bear, the music changes, and the narrator says he has "game" as Magnus tries to flirt with this potential mate. But she seems to shun him, so the narrator says "that's Bear for 'no.'"

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that wildlife documentary Bears is family friendly overall, but a few moments/scenes might be too tense and potentially scary for preschool-aged viewers. None of the animals die, but there are several scenes in which the lives of the mother bear and her cubs are in danger, and in one it seems like a cub has been eaten by an adult male bear. Other threats include predator males, a gray wolf, and the environment itself -- all providing for dramatic sequences. Children who can get past that part of the movie will learn a good bit about the brown bears of Alaska and get a close-up look at how mama bears treat their cubs.

What's the story?

BEARS follows an Alaskan brown bear named Sky and her two nurslings, Amber and Scout. Sky and the cubs, who were born during hibernation, must leave their winter den in search of food, or else Sky won't be able to produce enough milk to feed the cubs during the next winter. The three bears embark on a dangerous journey across the Alaskan peninsula to reach the spawning salmon that make up the bulk of a bear's diet. John C. Reilly narrates the "true-life adventure" as Sky, Amber, and Scout face everything from threatening alpha bears to natural disasters in order to make it to the fish that will nourish and sustain them for another year.

Is it any good?


Veteran Disneynature filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey know what they're doing with nature documentaries. They have an amazing team of cinematographers who can take incredible shots that are either so close that you can see individual strands of wet fur on the bears' bodies or so large-scale that you get a breathtaking view of Alaska. The Bears footage took a year to complete, and like all of the pair's documentaries, the cinematography is unforgettably beautiful.

As for the narration, Reilly is game for the funnier lines without being overwhelming with the hammy humor. His voice lends itself perfectly to switching between factual statements and corny comments about the bears acting like humans. The story celebrates the relationship between a mother bear and her cubs, and it's compelling -- and sometimes intense -- to watch. So just make sure you have kids who can handle potentially dangerous scenes, or they might end up worried about the cubs instead of caught up in the whimsy.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why wildlife documentaries are so popular. What attracts families to nature films? Are they better for kids than other live-action movies? Why or why not?

  • The narrator combines moments of humor and imagined dialogue with discussing facts about the way that bears live. Does the combination work? Which parts do you prefer?

  • Some critics have mentioned that the narration doesn't delve deeply into the way that bears live and act. Why do you think filmmakers might have chosen that approach? Might that make the movie more appealing to a younger audience?

  • Does humanizing the animals in movies like Bears make them more or less likable? Is it right that some are depicted as "good" and some as "evil"? Aren't all the animals just acting like animals?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:April 18, 2014
DVD/Streaming release date:August 12, 2014
Cast:John C. Reilly
Directors:Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey
Studios:Disneynature, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Topics:Science and nature, Wild animals
Run time:86 minutes
MPAA rating:G

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Parent Written byDude's Mom April 23, 2014

Bears- The first movie we got through without tears

My son is nearly 6, and has generally found all movies scary, all the time. He saw his first in-theatre movie a few months ago (at his request) and he stated he would not go back, ever. (It involved his favourite building blocks.) However, he watched the Bears previews with me, and he asked to see the movie, and he really enjoyed it- even said he would go back with his Dad. Somehow, the live action with the bears was much easier for him to manage than anything animated. He was a bit worried at times, but not to the point that he was demanding to leave. As an adult, I found it enjoyable, though definitely a bit Disney-fied. I was surprised that they so openly showed the cubs nursing on the one hand, and then the fish being eaten alive the next. The filming is spectacular, and many of the scenes are just amazing to watch. I found the narration a bit trite, but it suited the almost 6-year-old sense of humour -he's still repeating lines almost a week later and laughing madly so clearly he enjoyed it. Overall - a big hit for us, and it opened the door to more movies in our future - though perhaps just documentaries for now! :)
Educator and Parent Written bysarahlefton April 20, 2014

Great unexpected fun

My four year old son is riveted by anything on a screen and likes action. He did not find the little animal dramas scary at all even though I was nervous that he would. He unexpectedly was most interested not in the bears but in the underwater scenes of salmon.
Parent of a 8 year old Written byParentof1 April 20, 2014

Great Family film

I really liked this movie, it was refreshing to have something to watch as a family that is appropriate for children, educational and still entertaining. I liked the narrator, he was funny. It was written well and had good music so it made scenes that would normally be slow and boring for kids, more interesting. There are scenes that show the animals as scary to younger or sensitive children.
What other families should know
Great messages


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