Cinematters - Brother Bear


By Kelly Parthen and Shannon Payette Seip

Grizzly grapples to find guiding light

Your family piles in the minivan for a weekend camping trip. Your kids can't wait to find the cool hidden cave their friends told them about. But when you start your search through the woods, your children have no idea where they're going--they never asked for directions. Without a map, you spend your Saturday circling around pinecones, not in the depths of a secret cavern.

The animated film Brother Bear can help your kids learn how good guidance can lead them in life's right directions. And our activity "Character Compass" can bring the lesson to life.

Set in the Great American Northwest, Brother Bear revolves around Kenai (Joaquin Phoenix), a mischievous boy who receives his totem--an icon to wear around his neck. The totem represents a principle that will guide him his whole life. Expecting a totem of bravery or courage, Kenai instead receives one of love, which he hates for its seemingly feminine qualities.

Through a series of mishaps, Kenai's brother dies trying to save Kenai from the wrath of a ferocious bear. Kenai makes it his mission to kill the beast. When he does, the Great Spirits transform him into a bear--the very animal he despises.

Unable to communicate with humans, a bitter Kenai is befriended by a talkative bear cub named Koda (Jeremy Suarez). As Kenai sets out to regain his human form, he learns the heartbreaking twist of fate that brought him together with Koda. In the end, Kenai must decide if his totem of love will guide him to do the right thing for his family and Koda's future.

Family Activity: Character Compass
Your family doesn't need to be lost in the wilderness to need direction. Together, create our Character Compass--personalized totems that will help guide you when you don't know what to do.

Start your family discussion by reflecting on what totem Kenai wanted versus the one he ended up with. Why was Kenai upset about the totem he received?

Discuss how the totem of love guided Kenai through his adventures with Koda. How did love play a part in Kenai's decision at the end? Why do you think Kenai put the totem back around his neck?

As a family, think about heroes in your lives--from friends or relatives to people in the news or in history books. Looking at their actions and personalities, pick a totem that best describes the strength that guides them. Perhaps your second-grade teacher put a stop to a fierce gang of class bullies. His totem could be bravery or justice.

Materials needed:
Twine or leather cord
Oven-bake clay (available at craft stores)

Use the oven-bake clay to sculpt the initials of your name, about three inches high for each letter. Press each letter with your fingers so it lies flat.

Together, think about words that start with each initial that would be good totems to guide you through your life. For example, if your name were Hannah Andrea Finley, you might come up with the words "helpful," "adventurous," and "friendly."

Find stickers that are good examples of your words and stick them on each appropriate initial. For helpful, you might choose stickers of kittens because you volunteer at an animal shelter. Cowboy boot stickers might stand for your adventures in horseback riding, and party stickers could represent your friendly way of surprising your pals on their birthdays.

Leaving a large loop at the top, use twine or leather cord to tie the letters together so one hangs above the other. Hang your compass on your bedroom doorknob, or attach it to your backpack.

When you're in a situation where you feel lost or confused about what to do, look to your compass to remind you of what you really stand for. Just like Kenai, you'll find that when you're true to your character, you can "bear" even the toughest of times.

E-mail your comments or ideas to [email protected].

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