Moviegoers across the country got an up-close look at the wild Grizzly bears of Katmai National Park over the weekend. After a two-year shoot at Hallo Bay Bear Camp, Disney’s wilderness feature “Bears” opened last Friday.
Like most dramatic features, Disney’s “Bears” has its charismatic leading lady. Co-Director Keith Scholey says the stars of "Bears" are a sow named Sky and her two newborn cubs, Scout and Amber.
"The story is about their first year and how this mom is going to get enough food and also protect them from danger," said Scholey.
Scholey says that finding the stars of the show – out of the dozens of bears that call Hallo Bay home in the summertime – was actually the easy part.
"I think they chose us," he said.
In the trailer and the handful of scenes that Disney released on its website in advance of the film, the shots are spectacular. The camera is right there, seemingly just a few feet away, when Scout and Amber are born in the den. Genuinely scary moments are captured on film, as are a few hilarious ones.
In one scene, Scout – voiced by actor John C. Reilly – attempts to open a clam and gets one of his little claws stuck in the crack. As he hobbles about with the clam stuck on his paw, he asks for help.
Simyra Taback of Hallo Bay Bear Camp worked with the Disney film crew. For 26 years, the camp has run a bear-viewing operation out of Katmai National Park on the Alaska Peninsula. Taback has been working at the camp for 14 years and over that time, she has worked with several film crews. But nothing like Disney’s production of “Bears,” which shot over a period of two years with multiple camera crews operating all over the camp.
Taback says that over that period of time, the camp’s guides and the filmmakers really got to know one another. She says the filmmakers acted ethically during their time at Hallo Bay, never forcing their way too close to the bears and never arranging shots like you might do with human actors on a reality TV show.
"Nothing has been modified so it is real," she said. "This will put you in their element, to show you what it is like to live a year of life as a bear."
“Bears” opened in theatres nationwide Friday. Keith Scholey says he hopes moviegoers become as attached to the animals as he and his crew did while filming them.