The Country Bears
Studio: Walt Disney
Film Length: 88 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
They're legends. Bearly
I tell yuh, for the fast few months I have been
doing nothing but talking about how great Walt Disney
Home video has been to the DVD format. In fact, they
were my personal pick for Best Studio of the Year.
All my praises for the studio have just come to a
screeching halt after watching their upcoming release
of The Country Bears on DVD. You had to see
my face when I popped in this DVD and was greeted by
a full frame presentation. Now I not only have
to turn this review into an ugly rant against Disney,
but I have to take flack from the membership for doing
a full-frame review.
Disney really blew it on this one! I watched The
Country Bears, and thought it was an absolutely
sensational movie. Not only that, but the video
and audio presentation is top-notch. Had this been
an anamorphic transfer, I would have given it
my highest praise.
Instead, I have to sit here and chastise the studio
for making a totally idiotic decision in releasing
this title in full frame only. I could have
helped the studio sell thousands of more copies with
a positive review -- especially for the fact that this
is one of those family films that appeals to both
kids and adults. In fact, this is one of the most
entertainingly "fun" movies I have seen all year.
Part road picture, part musical, The Country
Bears is a wonderfully fun film that features
both human and bear characters (courtesy of Jim
Henson's Creature shop) in a rather heartwarming
adventure. The star of our film is 11-year old
Beary Barrington (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) who
is starting to realize he is different from his
human big brother Dex (Eli Marienthal) who rather
cruelly who tells him that he's adopted and doesn't
belong as part of the family.
So where does Beary really belong? That's the
question that is posed as Beary packs his bags in
the middle of the night and sets out in search of
his heroes, The Country Bears. Problem is, the
musical group of bears broke up long ago, and their
Country Bear Hall is about to be demolished. Beary
has an idea to get the Bears in the band back
together for a benefit concert to save the hall
before the local banker (Christopher Walken) calls
in the demolition crew.
At first, the idea of creating a film out of a
Disneyland attraction called the Country Bear
Jamboree seemed sort of desperate. But as I watched
this film, I couldn't help but be entertained by
this rather neat adventure that features musical
performances by real-life rock-and-roll legends such
as John Hiatt, Brain Setzer, Pete Thomas, Willie
Nelson, Bonnie Raitt and others. If that wasn't
enough, there are some cameo appearances in this
film that will take you completely by surprise. Of
course, I never get tired of watching Christopher
Walken, even when he has to embarrass himself just
a little bit. I'm telling you -- this is a really
How is the transfer?
It's a damn shame (can I say "damn" in a G-rated movie
review?) that Disney opted not to make a secondary
anamorphic release, because the transfer would have
been amazing. This full-frame transfer is stunning
as is, with a crisp detailed picture that shows off
its vividly beautiful colors. The exterior outdoor
scenes are very sharp, and the darker interior scenes
are well detailed. The only slight problem I see
here is that the color of the film has been pumped
up a little too high. This causes the facial tones,
particularly those of Christopher Walken, to be
overly red. Otherwise, I was extremely impressed
with what I saw.
The film really struts its stuff with a toe-tappin'
5.1 mix that really adds flavor to this film. From
start to finish, you always seem to feel as if you
are part of an enveloping musical experience. I often
thought about The Blues Brothers movie while
watching this film. Not only is the story similar,
but the manner in which the 5.1 music mix is utilized
is also very similar. The music always seems to wrap
itself around the listening area with superb direction
that puts vocals in the front and chorus in the rear.
As the film begins, you find yourself in the midst of
the Country Bear's final concert where you take a
front row seat to the crowds of cheering fans that
surround you. The dynamic range of this mix is just
terrific, and in addition to the bass-heavy response
of the front channels, you have additional bass from
the LFE channel. This creates a floor-shaking
musical experience that is just delightful to hear.
In addition, this is one of the rare mixes that
properly utilizes voice direction. If someone is
in another room, you hear their voice distinctively
in the rear channels. At times, the rears even place
voices in their exact location, so you may hear a
character responding from the rear left channel only.
Sure, this sort of thing should be normal of any mix,
but this is the first time I have heard such distinct
voice direction used since Disney's George of the
Now you see why I am so utterly upset that this
entertainment experience has been ruined by the fact
that Disney chose not to include an anamorphic
transfer. Had they done so, this could have been
one of their highest rated live-action DVDs to date.
First up is a full-length audio commentary
with director Peter Hastings and his bear guests,
Ted and Zeb. Anyone looking for anything technical
here should look elsewhere -- this commentary is
totally played for kids. Not that this is a bad thing.
In fact, I really like the fact that for once, a
kid's film has a commentary for kids. The entire
commentary belongs mostly to Ted and Zeb, who play
this out entirely in character. It's very rare
that Peter Hastings gets any filmmaking information
out, but he does often offer antidotes about working
with his human actors, mainly Christopher Walken.
This is something kids are actually going to listen
Making me more sad about this release, The Country
Bears out of the Woods is a highly enjoyable
"mockumentary" about The Country Bears who had fame,
but eventually fell apart under the pressures of
super stardom. Not only are there interviews with
the various bear band members, but with the legends
of music who were inspired by them, including Brian
Setzer, Willie Nelson and Queen Latifah.
(length: approx. 14 minutes)
Here's something else I thought was quite cool....
Video Mix Jamboree lets you put together your
own Country Bears music video by selecting 5 different
scenes and inserting them in any order you wish as
many times as you wish throughout the song. The end
result is a customized music video that you can play
back and call your own.
The Country Bears Concert for America looks
to be a possible Disney Channel featurette, and is
ultimately another fun mockumentary, this time hosted
by "downtown" Julie Brown. Crowds of fans await the
arrival of the Country Bears tour bus. As the bears
arrive, we learn how group rose to stardom complete
with interviews from some musical legends themselves.
The featurette ends with an extensive concert
performance from the Country Bears as the play
their music mix of country, rock and blues.
(length: approx. 22 minutes)
Sing with the Movie is an option that when
turned on, adds text to all the musical sequences
allowing kids to sing along with their favorite song.
There's also a Music Video, The Kid in You,
performed by Krystal Marie Harris.
There is no trailer to be found anywhere for this
film. There is, however, a handful of Sneak Peeks
that gives you previews of upcoming Disney theatrical
and DVD product including Spy Kids 2
I am sure that I sound like a broken record by now,
but Disney really goofed on this DVD release. The
Country Bears would have been an outstanding
anamorphic release -- perhaps their best live action
DVD to date. Instead, Disney continues to believe
the age-old myth that children don't want their films
in widescreen when in fact, it's their ignorant
parents that do all the complaining. It's also
further unfortunate that parents of this forum will
be catering to their child's desires by purchasing
this DVD only to have to sit through a full-frame
presentation while trying to teach their child the
value of proper film presentation.
Release Date: December 17, 2002
All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality