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Toonhound presents...






  Short British Films &  TV Specials  

       The Bear

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 The Bear    (1998)
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producers: TVC London for Channel 4
2D animation
      run time:
29 mins



n a daytrip to London Zoo, young Tilly drops her beloved teddy bear in the
    polar bear pen. That night she's woken by the self-same bear from the zoo,
    who has returned her teddy bear. Tilly is easily smitten with her new furry
    friend, but she struggles to hide him from her suspicious parents as they explore
    her home together. He's such a big bear. As evening draws in once more, the
    Bear returns Tilly's kindness by whisking her away on a moonlit tour of the
    London landscape. He
introduces her to the celestial spirit of the Great Bear,
    Ursa Major, before heading north alone, back to his Arctic home

    "The Bear" is adapted from Raymond Briggs' classic story. At the time it was
    the fourth such project by John Coates and his TVC team, and it's a film very
    in the mold of  "The Snowman". Just like that magical film, it's hand-drawn and
    coloured to look just like the original pictrure book, and
 the story is once more
    told through a combination of animation and music, without
dialogue. There's
    a rich choral element to the orchestration and another wintery flight through
    the night sky. But never fear, "The Bear" leaps and bounds across the screen
    very much on its own. It's exquisitely produced in a widescreen format,
    introduces us to a dazzling star bear - the Great Beat Ursa Major - who both
    thrills and begiules us with his immense starfilled form. There's a particular
    intensity invested in his scenes. "The Snowman" leaves us grieving
    for the loss of a special special friend. But when the Bear finally departs for
    the Arctic, our sadness is tinged with hope and understanding. The Bear
    is far too big and cumbersome a beast to be cooped up in Tilly's home.
    It's time for him to be free, like the Star Bear. He must go home to the
    Arctic, back to where he belongs.

    Tilly wrestles with  The Bear...

    Bear facts

    After the success of "The Snowman" producer John Coates had been
    continually pestered in to finding a project in a similar vein. But "The Snowman"
    had a very decisive end, so a sequel was out of the question. "The Bear"
    became its perfect successor. The story's dialogue was removed, and Tilly's
    parents were nudged into the background so that the narrative focused
    on Tilly and her ursine guest. Even so, the story wasn't quite long enough to
    fill a half-hour format, until inspiration struck the director Hilary Audus. She
    had been brainstorming one night with the art director Joanna Harrison,
    and was inspired by the luminous stars and constellations decorating
    her daughter's bedroom ceiling. Thus, the sequence with the Great Bear
    took flight.

    Initially, the TVC team decided to bypass the scenes where the Bear has
    - erm - relieved himself in Tilly's house. But they were soon restored to the
    story, at Raymond Briggs' insistence. He felt, quite rightly, that it was
    neccessary for us to see this creature behaving just like a real bear, so
    that we could better understand how inappropriate and impractical it would
    be to have Tilly's wild guest around the house...

    Howard Blake picks up the musical baton once more. Where "The Snowman"
    had soloist Peter Auty stirring our hearts, "The Bear" has the (then) angelic
    talents of a young Charlotte Church. But she wasn't the first choice. Initially,
    newcomer Arabella Wrigley had shone at the audtions, but it was decided
    that a stronger voice was needed to sit next to the men who were portraying
    the bears. 

    "Tilly's Song" and the score compliments the story supremely. It's another
     masterful soundtrack. However, in America, the distributors still felt it
    neccessary to add a narration to proceedings. The voiceover is spoken by the
    rather lovely Judi Dench.

     In the final tally of things, the film took twelve months to make, and cost
     £1.3m. There were over 40,000 separate pieces of artwork used in its

     Look closely...
  » Those with a keen eye will notice that, at one point, Tilly and her parents
         settle down to watch "The Snowman" on their tv

     » Paul Madden, the executive producer, appears as one of the sailors on
         the arctic vessel, at the the start of the film...

     » The lady in the London Zoo gift shop is director Hilary Audus...

     » The lady with the two children looking into the bear pit is art director
         Joanna Harrison and her children...
» As Tilly and the Bear glide through the streets of London, we cut to a
         a mewling baby in its crib. You'll see it has the initials JC sewn on its
         romper suit. It's the film's producer, John Coates!

» Tilly and The Bear's magical flight also takes them past the window of
         a frustrated pianist, who looks remarkably similar to real-life composer
         Howard Blake....

     » Oh, and we pass two High Street stores, one called "Coates" and
         another called "Harrison" - those are John Coates and
Joanna Harrison

     »  Finally, we pass by the smiling face of The Man In The Moon, who
         looks unquestionably like the one and only Mr Raymond Briggs!

      Tilly and The Bear on the prowl...


    1998 - Peabody Award for Broadcasting


     The Bear on DVD

    UK DVD 
The Bear
                Region 2 / 4DVD / October 2009

     USA DVD Raymond Briggs' The Bear/The Animal Train

                Region 1 / double bill / Miramax / December 2003


     based on the book by Raymond Briggs
      a TVC London production for Channel 4

     director:             Hilary Audus
     producer:           John Coates
     exec prod:          Paul Madden
     art director:        Joanna Harrison
     music & lyrics:    Howard Blake
        Charlotte Church
     spfx dir:             Richard Nye
      & st'board:
         Hilary Audus,
Joanna Harrison
     line prod:           Catrin Unwin
     head of
          Janet Archer

      layout:               Jacques Gauthier, Richard Nye,
                              Jack Stokes, Hal Clay
     b'grounds:          Michael Gabriel, Paul Osborne,
                              Michael Haywood
        Jimmy T Murakami
     animation:          Roger Mainwood, Tony Guy, Peter Dodd,
                              Nicolette van Gendt, Andy McPherson,
                              Simon Williams, John Perkins, Jacques Gauthier,
                               David Livesey, Dave Webster, Arian Wilschut,
                              Joe Mulligan, Jonathan Hall, Joan Freestone,
                              Sarah Vincent, Dave Unwin, Les Gibbard,
                              Kevin Richards, Alan Green

                              Debbie Dryland, Stella Benson, Stephen Harper,
                              Juliann Franchetti, Monica Brufton, Ray Newman,
                              Pauline Trapmore, Diana Tusheva-Molloy,
                              Denise Dean, Darren Kardich
     paint & trace
            Sara Fairbank-Williams, Seb Markham
     painters:            Carol Lesley, Jaqui Miller, Annette Brown,
                              Rozlin Lambert, Debbie Davis, Denise Marshall
     rend co-ord:       Lotty Pfeil
         Janette Taylor, Norma Ricketts,
                              Lydia Adams, Lynn Bailey, Penelope Wilson,
                              Rachel Booth, Carol Hughes, Mike Adams,
                              Tonia Thorne
     head of
          Erica Darby
     checkers:          Guy Brockett, Nicci Angell, Cyrus Green, Ed Salkeld
     editor:               Taylor Grant
     voices:              Peter Knapp (Star Bear)
                             Philip Sheffield (Polar Bear)
                             Charlotte Church (Tilly)

                             + Judi Dench (narrator - US version)


      On the web

      No links as yet, unfortunately...

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