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A historical perspective on Disney’s latest film “Brother Bear”

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This past weekend I saw the movie Brother Bear, it’s a new Disney movie and rated G. I have some trouble with the historical accuracy of the film and will be discussing that at great length. Sure it’s a children’s movie, but does that mean it’s ok to disregard historical accuracy? Perhaps the fact that it’s designed for children makes it even more important to keep it historically correct, after all children take things very literally. Why shouldn’t they be shown facts? There were many historical inconsistencies that bothered me throughout the film. My main thoughts while watching this were 1) where is this 2) when is this 3) how much of this is accurate.

So lets start with where. That’s not a hard one to figure out, my evidence: the wildlife, the weather, the people, and their culture. The moose in the film have extremely Canadian accents, so perhaps it’s Canada. There was an Orca in the ocean, they are well known for being Alaskan animals. So possibly it’s Alaska, for sure it’s very northern. There were countless icebergs, that supports the idea of the far north. The people seem to be based on Inuits (native to the general area of Alaska), and they used kayaks, which are not found south of Canada. (The Spokane Indians used canoes.) Therefore I believe I’m correct in stating that, this all took place in either Alaska or Canada, after all they are connected.

That brings me to when, which is much more difficult to place. Possibly because the fine folks at Disney didn’t actually know, or care which time period they were animating. The main problems as I see it are: the climate, the wildlife, and development of the land.

We have woolly mammoths; woolly mammoths were found during the ice age. Although, I would assume that it wasn’t the ice age based on everything else. First of all there wasn’t that much ice, or more importantly, the ice was extremely inconsistent. There would be snow and glaciers, and then there would be sunshine and meadows of flowers. People don’t normally associate glaciers with meadows and flowers.

Then there is the whole question of the surrounding wildlife considered with the implications of the ice age. Bears existed then; I’ve seen them in museums. They just didn’t look like these bears; these bears appeared to be the same as the ones currently found in the wilderness. The bears, when compared in scale to everything around them, including the humans, are not bears that would have lived in that time. And the bears that were here during the ice age would not be foraging for berries and fishing for salmon. Bears in that time would have been much too large to live on berries, it would have been like cats trying to live on ants. There are other animals to consider as well, were there moose, rabbits, salmon, geese, or chipmunks in the ice age? If so, I’m sure they didn’t look the same.

Then there was an extremely disorienting scene that seemed to take place in a sort of fire pit. I would say volcano, except that the ground wasn’t entirely molten. It was bright red and spewed steam occasionally, it really didn’t seem to me to be the sort of thing that you could find at that point in the earths development. If that kind of turbulence were to have happened, it would have been over long before humans came about. There is the possibility that it was part of the “ring of fire”, but I would think that would be in the form of a volcano, not a valley of partially volcanic red steaming earth. Also depending on where in the earth’s growth, this takes place the continental drift must be considered. Below is a visual reference for the “ring of fire”.

“Pacific Basin, on the bottom of the seabed, laid a dramatic series of volcanic arcs and oceanic trenches. The zone – the ‘Ring of Fire’ – notorious for frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, coincides with the edges of one of the world’s main tectonic plates. Earth’s hot, pliable interior. Alaska’s Aleutian Islands are growing as the Pacific plate hits the North American plate. The deep Aleutian Trench has been created at the subduction zone with a maximum depth of 25,194”

The term totem is misused throughout the movie. What they’re referring to, as a totem appears to be a fetish, a carved stone bead or pendant. I was of the opinion that a totem was related to a totem poll, which is a large carved log, positioned in the ground vertically. I can’t imagine how they could confuse the two.

Also the symbol of the bear is not in anyway identified as love. Often love or something similar is recognized as a deer, swan, or even a wolf in the sense of familial love. Bears are generally identified with the totem of dreaming, spiritual sleep, regeneration (as in hibernation), or strength.

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