This Day in Disney History, 2003: Theaters Released Brother Bear and That Bangin’ Soundtrack

by | Nov 1, 2021 | Disney History, Disney Movies

Nearly two decades ago, Brother Bear premiered in theaters nationwide. And while the story has amazing heart, it’s the Brother Bear soundtrack by Phil Collins that so many are drawn to.

On this day, Brother Bear, Disney’s 44th animated feature, opened in theaters nationwide. Though he is more often credited for his Tarzan music, Disney Legend Phil Collins wrote some beautiful compositions for the Brother Bear soundtrack as well. Learn more about Collins’ experience writing for this film in this post.

Brother Bear

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Photo courtesy of Disney

Arguably one of the most underrated Disney animated films, Brother Bear offers top-notch Disney storytelling along with expert songwriting by Phil Collins and an all-star cast of voice actors. Actors who worked on Brother Bear include the likes of Rick Moranis and Joaquin Phoenix, and the plot is classic Disney storytelling at its finest.

In Brother Bear, a young Inuit hunter named Kenai is turned into a bear after showing his resentment for the animal when one kills his older brother.

He soon learns that the only way for him to turn back into a human is for him to fully see life from a bear’s perspective to gain an understanding and empathy for others. To turn back, he must also go to the place “where the light touches the Earth,” aka the Northern Lights.

As he sets off for the film’s main adventure, he meets Koda, a younger bear who is trying to find his way home to an area nearby the Northern Lights. The two team up and end up taking away an entirely new kind of bond away from the experience, and well … we won’t give it all away!

The animation in Brother Bear is also stunning, and the film was actually the last to be fully animated at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) when the park had a working animation studio onsite. (Other films animated in the park have included Mulan, which debuted in 1998, and Lilo and Stitch in 2002.)

Brother Bear Soundtrack: Phil Collins Joins the Team

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Photo courtesy of Disney

Following the success of Tarzan, which was released in 1999, Phil Collins teamed up with Disney once more to create and record the soundtrack for Brother Bear.

The songs featured in Tarzan, most notably “You’ll Be in My Heart,” are among some of the most beloved songs from any Disney animated movie, but we would argue that some of Phil Collins’ work in Brother Bear is equally good or perhaps even more exceptional with hits like “Look Through My Eyes,” and “On My Way.” 

Unlike Tarzan, however, Collins provided much of the writing and creativity behind the music in Brother Bear, but he did not provide the vocals alone. Fearing that featuring only Phil Collins on the vocals would make the film appear too similar to Tarzan, released four years earlier, Disney brought in different musical groups that fit the story and tone of the film to work with Collins.

The Bulgarian Women’s Choir provided their vocal work in a background motif that was inspired by the music of the film’s Alaskan locale, and other musical artists including Tina Turner provided additional vocals for the Brother Bear soundtrack. The Blind Boys of Alabama were another musical group later brought onto the project to perform for the “Welcome” song heard when the bears meet up at Salmon Run.

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Songwriting with Phil Collins

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Photo courtesy of D23

Coming off of his last project with Disney on Tarzan, which he wrote and composed with Disney composer Mark Mancina, Phil Collins was thrilled to be given even more creative freedom over writing the soundtrack to Brother Bear

This came at the cost of intimidation, however, as Collins admitted he never felt like a true songwriter while working alongside the likes of Disney composer Tim Rice, who could seemingly write on command, a talent that Collins did not believe he possessed. 

Still, both of Phil Collins’ Disney soundtracks have seen resounding success. He even rejoined the studio to further work on the Tarzan soundtrack while creating the Broadway version of the story, and he has remarked in interviews over the years that he truly does look back at this time of his life fondly as he thoroughly enjoyed working on these projects with Walt Disney Animation Studios. 

Will We See More of Phil Collins in a Disney Film?

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Photo courtesy of Philippe Roos via Creative Commons

Unfortunately, Phil Collins suffered from a spinal injury in 2007, which left him with nerve damage and difficulty in moving his hands. Despite these challenges, he still set out on his last tour in 2019 and wowed crowds at each venue even while remaining seated onstage. 

He has not mentioned or been approached by Disney for any projects in recent years; however, he has expressed at multiple times over the course of his career that he would love to work with Disney again.

He has shared that some of his favorite memories from his musical career came while working on Tarzan and Brother Bear, and if Disney had work for him, he would be happy to come back.

The Walt Disney Company shared appreciation for Collins’ work by naming him a Disney Legend in the year 2002. At the time, this was actually the shortest time after his first role with Disney that a person had been inducted as a Disney Legend! (Anika Noni Rose surpassed this record when she was named a Disney Legend in 2011 for her performance in The Princess and the Frog.) 

If you have never seen Brother Bear, or if it’s been some time, we highly recommend watching it (it is on Disney+, after all) and carefully taking in Collins’ writing in the lyrics and his performances throughout the film. Trust us: That Brother Bear soundtrack is bangin’.

Written by Brittany DiCologero

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Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.
Brittany DiCologero

Written by Brittany DiCologero

Brittany DiCologero is a freelance writer specializing in Walt Disney World history, along with various travel, and lifestyle topics based in New England. She is the author of “Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Realities of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort,” and “Brittany Earns Her Ears”. When she is not writing, you can find her exploring local museums and historic sites, and binging documentaries on Disney+.

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