a daytrip to London Zoo, young Tilly drops her beloved teddy bear
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, and
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.
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
her daughter's bedroom ceiling. Thus, the
sequence with the Great Bear
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
"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
with a keen eye will notice that, at one point, Tilly and her parents
settle down to watch
"The Snowman" on their tv...
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...
lady with the two children looking into the bear pit is art director
Joanna Harrison and
As Tilly and the Bear glide through the streets of London, we cut
a mewling baby
in its crib. You'll see it has the initials JC sewn on its
It's the film's producer, John Coates!
and The Bear's magical flight also takes them past the window of
pianist, who looks remarkably similar to real-life composer
and we pass two High Street stores, one called "Coates"
"Harrison" - those are John Coates and Joanna
Finally, we pass by the smiling
face of The Man In The Moon, who
like the one and only Mr Raymond Briggs!
- Peabody Award for Broadcasting
Bear on DVD
2 / 4DVD
/ October 2009
Briggs' The Bear/The Animal Train
1 / double bill / Miramax / December 2003
based on the book by Raymond Briggs
a TVC London production for Channel
exec prod: Paul
art director: Joanna
music & lyrics: Howard
spfx dir: Richard
& st'board: Hilary
line prod: Catrin
Gauthier, Richard Nye,
Stokes, Hal Clay
Gabriel, Paul Osborne,
Mainwood, Tony Guy, Peter Dodd,
van Gendt, Andy McPherson,
Williams, John Perkins, Jacques Gauthier,
Livesey, Dave Webster, Arian Wilschut,
Mulligan, Jonathan Hall, Joan Freestone,
Vincent, Dave Unwin, Les Gibbard,
Richards, Alan Green
Dryland, Stella Benson, Stephen Harper,
Monica Brufton, Ray Newman,
Trapmore, Diana Tusheva-Molloy,
Dean, Darren Kardich
paint & trace
Fairbank-Williams, Seb Markham
Lesley, Jaqui Miller, Annette Brown,
Lambert, Debbie Davis, Denise Marshall
rend co-ord: Lotty
Taylor, Norma Ricketts,
Adams, Lynn Bailey, Penelope Wilson,
Booth, Carol Hughes, Mike Adams,
Brockett, Nicci Angell, Cyrus Green, Ed Salkeld
Knapp (Star Bear)
Sheffield (Polar Bear)
Judi Dench (narrator - US version)