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Nature Calls
Directors Blaise and Walker were well suited to their assignment on "Brother Bear.” Both are nature lovers who spend a lot of their spare time hiking, boating and enjoying the great outdoors. They quickly realized that the art direction for this film would have to be as truthful to nature as possible. 

Art director Robh Ruppel explains, "The directors wanted a very naturalistic look for the film. By that I mean, they wanted it to be based on nature but interpreted through art. It was extremely helpful for our artists to visit Alaska and take a painting trip to Wyoming. We were struck by how raw and primitive the landscapes were with huge ranges of mountains upon mountains upon mountains. The sky had so many layers and so many different types of clouds. We drew and painted and took lots of photos. When you sit there and draw something you have a much more intimate connection with it. You're actually looking at it really intensely and studying it. Part of what makes art great is when you interpret something with your own eyes, you're translating three-dimensional space and color and form into the language of drawing and painting. You become much more acquainted with what's really going on around you. 

"Our goal in the art direction for ‘Brother Bear' was to make it look believable and we tried to accomplish this with the way the film was lit and composed,” adds Ruppel. "It doesn't look like a stage play. It feels like it's outdoors or like it was shot on location. We tried to get real air and light into it and keep the light sources believable.” 

The filmmakers made their first trip to Alaska in August 1999 and returned for a second field trip one year later. They spent time at Denali National Park and the Kenai Fjords National Park, where they visited Exit and Holgate Glacier. The artists painted mountain ranges and observed semi-extinct volcanoes in the setting sun. They practiced a style called "plein-air” (or open air), in which the artist works in natural light and careful attention is paid to how light appears on subjects. 

Ruppel says, "One of the legendary artists who inspired us was Albert Bierstadt, a famous 19th Century painter who specialized in Western scenery and immortalized the Rocky Mountains and Yosemite with his grand romantic paintings. He was part of the Hudson River School, known for their awesome images of the wilderness, and the use of dramatic light effects to portray such elements as mist and sunsets. That was the look we tried to capture with ‘Brother Bear.'” 

Another major influence on the look of the film was a talented background stylist on the Florida team by the name of Xiangyuan (or "Jay”) Jie. "This guy is one of the most amazing painters I've ever met,” says Blaise. "Bob and I saw a show of his paintings and immediately decided that we wanted the movie to look like that. You can see the strokes in his paintings. They're very rugged, painterly, three dimensional backgrounds. We basically adopted his personal style of painting for ‘Brother Bear.' Robh melded everything together in a great way.” 

Background supervisor Barry Kooser and his team of artists took a painting trip in 2001 to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to study with renowned contemporary Western landscape painter Scott Christensen. He taught them how to simplify objects by getting the spatial dimensions to work first and working in the detail later. For this film, eighteen artists created about 800 backgrounds ranging in size from a twelve-inch field to dynamic vistas measuring two-feet high by four feet long. 

Kooser explains, "The backgrounds in this film are quite different from the watercolor approach we used in ‘Lilo & Stitch.' Our style here is very much like oil painting. It is similar to the style of ‘Bambi,' where the brushstrokes are more implied. It's an indicative approach that is rougher and sketchier as opposed t

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