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BROTHER BEAR

Creating A Bear's Eye View
One of the most innovative aspects of "Brother Bear” is the aspect ratio itself. The film starts off in the standard 1.85:1 format commonly used for most of today's releases. One third of the way into the film, when Kenai discovers that he has been transformed into a bear, the screen opens up to a widescreen Cinemascope or 2.35:1 format. 

Walker, whose background is in the area of layout, says, "To me, this was a great layout movie, with its Pacific Northwest setting. With Cinemascope, we had much more screen to play with and we were able to show the enormous scale of the settings. When Kenai is transformed into a bear, we thought maybe the audience should go through the same thing.” 

Blaise adds, "We thought that since Kenai was being enlightened by his transformation, why not widen the audience perspective as well. Our color palette changes from muted tones to bright, saturated, beautiful colors. It's basically a much more mild version of ‘The Wizard of Oz' and a lot of people won't even be aware of the change.” 

Layout supervisor Jeff Dickson explains, "This film really demanded Cinemascope more than any other film that we've done before. Having gone to Alaska, we were struck by how big everything was. It's bigger than anything you could have imagined before and the vistas seem to go on forever. There's one mountain range stacked after another way into the horizon. With the widescreen format, we could enhance the vastness of this world. The basic philosophy to composing shots for ‘Brother Bear' was that this is a world too vast for the camera to contain. We were trying to give the impression that it goes way beyond the frame edge. In many shots, the mountains rise right out of frame so you get the sense that you're only seeing a little narrow aspect of this humongous world. To compose that kind of scale into a 1:85 format is almost impossible.” 

Dickson and the layout team came to understand the advantages and restrictions of Cinemascope. 

"Close-ups can be a real bear in Cinemascope,” jokes Dickson. "If you have a shot of a full head and maybe a bit of the shoulders, you get all this empty space around the character and you have to do something with it. You have to be careful what you put in back there because you don't want to detract from the character. This meant using tighter close-ups, like from the forehead to just under the chin. It helped a lot that bears' heads are basically horizontal.

"Camera movements were also a bit tricky,” he adds. "When the camera moves in Cinemascope, it's not as forgiving as in the smaller format. Any motion of the camera can tend to overwhelm your processing circuits. We dealt with this by creating more levels than we otherwise would have and being a little more cautious about how quickly we moved the camera. Moving the camera at more of an angle across vertical lines and blurring trees was one method that we used.” 

Producer Williams adds, "Act II of the film begins with Kenai waking up for the first time as a bear. We do this sort of double-eye fade-in, where things start out a bit blurry as he looks at the sky and these beautiful trees. The image is now Cinemascope. Not only that, the colors are richer, the sounds are more acute, and the background sounds are turned up. The other thing we do is free up the camera. We're now moving in three-dimensional space. Act I was flatter and now it's bigger, more colorful with more movement to it. We tried to keep the camera a bit more static during the first third of the film and very fluid during the next two acts.”

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