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BEARS

Family's Journey Reveals Heroes and Villains
The story of one family's epic journey, "Bears" features an array of colorful characters-real-world heroes and villains that come together against a picturesque backdrop, each driven to do whatever it takes to ensure survival-even it comes at the expense of the others.

"After months and months of filming the same animals, it was clear that they all have very distinct personalities," says co-director Adam Chapman. "And one bear can show a huge range of behaviors, depending on the circumstances. They are completely tuned in to the landscape and the other bears around them. They're very complex characters."

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 Alaskan 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.

"She has from the beginning of April to the end of October to fatten up-not just deal with her own hunger for that day or the next, but to deal with six months of starvation ahead of her and her family," says director Alastair Fothergill. "It's a pretty worrying thing if you're a mother."

"It's kind of a rollercoaster ride," adds director Keith Scholey. "There are top places to feed, but every bear knows where those are, so there's not only competition, but potential threats. It becomes a balancing act between keeping the cubs safe and eating enough to get through the year ahead."

But, adds Fothergill, Sky finds time to enjoy her role as mom. "There are amazing moments of warmth," he says. "She tussles with her cubs, nudges them, rolls them over-the gentleness of Sky towards her cubs is very special."

AMBER is a mama's girl. She 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.

"Amber is the kind of child every parent dreams of," laughs Chapman. "She pays attention to what Sky's doing. She listens. And eventually shows an astonishing degree of independence."

"It's interesting," adds Scholey, "that whenever you see two bear cubs with their mother, there is almost always one that stays close to mom, while the other larks around. So 'Bears' is a very true reflection of most bear families-and a lot of human families."

SCOUT is all about adventure. He's filled with curiosity and 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.

Narrator John C. Reilly says he can relate to the boisterous bear cub. "I was a pretty mischievous kid, so Scout's personality is probably most like me as a kid."

"Scout finds his surroundings incredibly exciting," says Scholey. "He's experiencing new things every day, the Alaskan wilderness must seem so big and bewildering for a cub just stepping out into the world. His journey is both fun and a little scary."

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.

"In bear society, it's all about dominance," says Scholey. "And the biggest bears rule. Most other bears will take one look at a bear like Magnus and just let him be."

Adds Chapman, "When everyone else is running and chasing fish-Magnus just sits and waits for the right moment. Or the opportunity to go and take someone else's fish."

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.

"All of the bears in a given area-like where we filmed 'Bears'-know each other," says Scholey. "So when a stranger shows up-a male bear they don't know like Chinook-everyone stands up on their hind legs to check him out. It's these outcast bears that are the most dangerous. Chinook's like a guy in a new town who walks into the local pub carrying a big shotgun. He's a little too ready for a challenge."

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.

"Tikaani is sly, hanging out on the edges of bear society," says Chapman. "But he's an opportunist."

"Wolves are a competitive predator. A mother bear like Sky with small first-year cubs has to be pretty wary about a wolf like Tikaani."

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, mussels and fish that the raven could never get on her own. "The best stories are in nature," says Fothergill. "I love the interaction between Sky and the raven-there's a charming connection between bird and bear that adds a layer to what's already an emotional journey."

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