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Grizzly Peak spotted! Nemo found!

Grizzly Peak spotted! Nemo found!

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Boy, this story is really going to annoy you Al Lutz-haters out there.

But -- based on conversations that I had yesterday with various folks at Disney Feature Animation -- it would appear that Al was right. Sort of.

To explain: As part of yesterday's JHM article (Where I was trying to get some rather rabid readers to hold on their somewhat gleeful attacks on Mr. Lutz. All because Al supposedly bobbled a story about "Brother Bear"), I said that I'd try and get in touch with some friends at Walt Disney Feature Animation. To see if there was any truth to this story about DCA's Grizzly Mountain deliberately being shoehorned into this picture.

Well, I have now talked with a couple of animators who actually worked on "Brother Bear." And -- based on what these guys told me yesterday -- this California Adventure icon really is in this film. But not quite in the way that Al described it.

In his October 15th Miceage update, "Can This Man Save the 50th?" Lutz stated that:

"Fairly late in the production of the movie, a major change was made to the placement of the mountain that plays home to all of the animal characters in the film."

Well ... That's not exactly correct. The mountain that was changed in "Brother Bear" wasn't the movie's main mountain (I.E. The place "where the lights touch the earth"). But -- rather -- the mountain where Kenai is transformed into a bear. Which only really figures in one short sequence of the movie.

To further complicate the situation, Al went on to say:

"... the Disney Studio animators went back and edited all of the scenes in the film where the original mountain appeared."

Actually, this change only affected one shot in the movie. To be specific, the very last shot in "Brother Bear"'s transformation sequence. The one that comes right after Kenai-bear washes up on shore.

And what about this particularly outrageous statement?

"It all took quite a bit of political wrangling by the resort, as the Studio had to go back in and alter existing animation to help the struggling theme park pull off a marketing message. But once Michael Eisner was sold on the much needed synergy for DCA, the money was approved and the mountain in Brother Bear suddenly looked a lot like DCA's raft ride rather than British Columbia."

That claim of Al's is kind of off the mark. By that I mean: Disney CEO Michael Eisner actually did ask "Brother Bear" 's directors -- Aaron Blaise and Bob Walker -- to find a way to fold Grizzly Peak into their picture. Which is why Aaron and Bob provided "Brother Bear" 's art director, Robh Ruppel, with a photograph of DCA's icon and said "Can you make Transformation Mountain look more like this?"

So -- to make the Mouse House's Big Cheese happy -- Robh went and repainted exactly one background for the film. So that Transformation Mountain would look more like Grizzly Peak. (Which -- given that Transformation Mountain already was somewhat bear-shaped -- wasn't exactly an artistic risk.)

"But ... But ...But ..." I hear all you Al Lutz-haters out there sputtering. "If Al is actually right about Grizzly Peak being in 'Brother Bear,' then why aren't more people noticing this DCA icon and talking about it?"

Because -- as I mentioned before -- Grizzly Peak only really pops up in one shot. However, it's also been suggested that the main reason that most people aren't recognizing this DCA icon when they see it is because the reference photo that Robh Ruppel used as he was transforming Transformation Mountain wasn't the most flattering angle of Grizzly Peak.

So -- in conclusion -- Al did get some of the specifics of his "Brother Bear" story wrong. But -- that said -- that still doesn't negate the fact that Lutz was actually right about Eisner insisting that Disney's animators find a way to fold DCA's Grizzly Peak into the studio's latest release. So you gotta give the guy a few points for that.

But you know the story that Al totally missed out on? Where the title character from Pixar's latest hit -- "Finding Nemo" -- actually pops up in "Brother Bear."

Mind you, this scene is really too hard to catch at full speed. But -- next year -- when we all have our very own copies of the "Brother Bear" DVD -- you'll be able to go frame-by-frame through this film and see what I'm talking about.

But in the film's opening number ("Great Spirits," which is sung by Tina Turner), pay particularly close attention to the moment when Kenai -- while riding on the back of a mammoth -- busts through a fishing net that his brothers, Denhai and Sitka, are holding. As the net breaks, salmon fly everywhere.

It's at this moment -- as the fish go soaring through the air, then splash down into the river -- that you want to keep an eye out for everyone's favorite little clown fish. As to whether Nemo is animated traditionally or done in CG ... I don't know. Let me make another call to the guys down in Orlando and find out.

And -- while I'm at it -- I'll see if I can't get them to give us a confirmation / clarification on Grandmother Willow's alleged appearance in the picture.

But there you have it, folks. Al Lutz's much disputed claims about how Grizzly Peak can actually be seen in "Brother Bear" are proven to be correct. (Sort of.) And -- as an added bonus -- we now all know where to look if we want to find Nemo.

Hopefully, this short story will help all of you Disneyana fans fill your daily minimum requirement of useless-but-cool trivia.

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