Runtime: 82 minutes
Directors: Lorenzo Mittotti
Starring: Thomas Bidegain, Leila Bekhti, Jean Claude-Carriere, Thierry Hancisse
By: Tom Moore
Through visually stunning and eye-catching animation as well as charming storytelling, director Lorenzo Mittotti’s adaptation of Dino Buzzati’s famous Italian children’s book of a similar name brings the imaginative illustrations and story to life.
The film, set in a fantastical version of Sicily, tells the story of a conflict between a clan of mountain dwelling bears and the humans that live in the valley below as told by traveling comedy performer Gedeone (voiced by Thomas Bidegain), his assistant Almerina (voiced by Leila Bekhti), and the grisly old bear (voiced by Jean Claude-Carriere) they come across. The storytelling in this film is a lot of fun with how it cuts back to Gedeone theatrically telling his story and the two of them chatting with the old bear about storytelling as a whole. It creates this great mythos for the entire story of the bears invading the valley and builds on the lore of the world. It’s great how seemingly non-essential mentions of historic monsters and characteristics of characters come back in big ways and the energy and excitement of Gedeone and Almerina’s storytelling is really engaging. Not to mention, the transition from Gedeone telling the story to the old bear is perfect and gives the overall story a nice flow.
As for the story itself, it’s a charming tale of adventure in two-parts that’s fitting for all ages. Personally, the initial story of Leonce (voiced by Thierry Hancisse) the King of Bears bringing his army into the human-filled valley lead by the dastardly Grand Duc (voiced by Pascal Demolon) to find his son Tonio (voiced by Arthur Dupont) is the better of the two. It’s just much more adventurous, comical, and easier to relate to with Leonce’s drive to save his son and be a great leader to the bears. Also, the bear army is just so damn lovable and seeing them thwart the Duc’s plans at nearly every turn is always fun.
The second part of the story is more of an aftermath and brings out interesting themes about prejudice and good leadership. There’re definitely some interesting character arcs that come into play and story details and characters that are well utilized to tie everything together. It also has a good amount of heart to it with how Tonio’s and Leronce’s relationship is fleshed out and the impact that humans and bears have with one another is really interesting. The reactions from Gedeone and Almerina towards the old bear’s part of the story are equally interesting and further delve into the film’s ideas of great storytelling.
When talking about “The Bears’ Famous Invasion”, the real MVP is the amazing animation that makes the film an entrancing and vibrant viewing experience. The film utilizes a mix of 3-D animation for its characters that really make them pop off the 2-D backgrounds turning Sicily into a fantastical dreamscape. The rolling mountains and thick forests really draw you into the scenery and the look of the small Sicilian town looks great and definitely gets me excited for Pixar’s “Luca”. The large-scale scope of scenery is especially amazing and there’re some shots in this film that look like a beautiful painting in a museum. There’re these great wide shots that show the vastness of the scenery and even the immense size of Leonce’s army that look absolutely incredible. There’s even a moment where the film pays homage to the book’s illustrations that oddly aren’t too far off from the film’s whimsical fantasy style.
The character designs are incredibly charming and the 3-D animation for them comes with some really nice shading and adds a lot of satisfying depth to movements. Synchronized movements are absolutely hypnotizing here, and they honestly belong in an oddly satisfying video. They just look so clean and create these visuals that are fascinating to watch. Things like soldiers marching, circus acrobatics, and bears rolling ever-growing snowballs downhill as attacks have never looked as mesmerizing and cool as they do here. It’s also easy to appreciate that the action and fighting in the film isn’t just played off safely. It’s not bloody or anything like that, but the visuals of a giant cat eating bears and the humans using cannons and guns definitely leave a stronger impact that doesn’t hold anything back from what’s happening and don’t go too far.
“The Bears’ Famous Invasion” is an animated visual marvel with its slick animation and features equally vibrant and fun stories and characters to boot. It’s as imaginative and ambitious as every animated feature should be and a tells a charming story that everyone can enjoy.