We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is probably S’s all time favourite book. After reading it with me so many times (complete with actions and sound effects), she can now “read” it herself – she turns the pages and knows exactly what comes next.
It’s a favourite of mine, too; I remember being at school aged five, as our teacher recited the story with all sorts of actions and excitement. Swishy, swashy!
When I heard the book was being made into an animation, I wasn’t too sure about it; you never know how these things will turn out, do you. Whether they’ll stay true to the original. But then I saw an interview with Michael Rosen where he revealed that he was the voice of the bear, and quite excited about it. I decided if Michael Rosen was on board, it must be a good thing. We missed the actual showing when it was on TV over Christmas, so we were pleased to receive a dvd for review. Can you tell S is excited?
As you may be able to tell from this photo, the dvd comes with bear ears, which you can cut out and slot over your own. We’re quite enjoying those at the moment.
Before we go any further, I must issue a warning: there are spoilers below this point. If you don’t want to know what happens in the We’re Going on a Bear Hunt dvd, read no further!
The magical thing about the book is that it’s so open to interpretation: there are very few words, and you can if you like sit and discuss what’s going on in the pictures. The animation removes some of that guess work, and often in an unexpected way. I had always assumed that the people going on a bear hunt were a mother and father with their young children, but in the animation the “father” is actually the older brother; the “mother” the older sister.
I love that the animation stays true to Helen Oxenbury’s original drawings for the book; in fact, watching the bonus extras on the dvd tells me that she was happy about what had been done with her work too. The animation was produced by the same team who made The Snowman and The Snowdog and has the same sort of feel to it. The “making of” feature in the bonus section was an interesting look at how the animation was made, including footage of Michael Rosen recording the bear’s voice, and the actors who voiced the children in the animation. It was nice to see that they used real children, and even encouraged a little ad-libbing along the way.
Of course, an animation that was literally just a reading of the book would be very short, and probably wouldn’t work quite as well; this one has a lot more going on in it, but not in a way that detracts from the original. While watching it S still knew exactly when to shout out “stumble, trip!” or “uh-oh, mud!”
One part of this animation that you may have heard about is the ending. When I posted on social media that we’d been sent this dvd for review, a couple of people commented that their children had been in tears watching it. In the book, we see the family run away from the bear, rush into the house and hide under the duvet. On the last page there is a bear on its own, walking back along the shore to its cave. S and I always say “poor bear” at this point and talk about what he might be doing. In the animation, the bear is actually not a “baddie” as S would say it. One of the children makes friends with him, but the others think he’s dangerous and drag her away. It’s a sad tale of the bear chasing after his friend before being locked outside. S did find it quite sad, and kept saying “poor bear!” We talked about how bears can’t really be friends with humans, and he will have to go off and find some other bears to be friends with.
Despite the sad ending, I do think this is a great animation that has worked really well. It stays true to the original while adding to it in an authentic way. S is so enthralled with it, we’ve watched it several times already. Each time it ends she brings me the remote and asks me to put it on again.
S’s verdict on the animation: I love the bit where she gives the bear a honey sandwich!
Tomorrow afternoon from 4-6pm we are taking part in a #BearHunt Twitter party where we’ll be tweeting from our very own Bear Hunt party. As well as seeing the Bear Hunt parties of several different families, you can join in with the party and even have the chance of winning a prize or two. Simply follow the #BearHunt hashtag on Twitter and join in where you like.