Joaquin Phoenix Asks Florida Park to Transfer Bears Used for Disney Film to Sanctuary

Oscar winner and vocal animal activist Joaquin Phoenix has called out the Bearadise Ranch, a Myakka City location in Florida that bills itself as a preserve, asking the facility to free two bears that inspired the 2003 Disney film “Brother Bear.” Phoenix lent his voice to the animated film, which features the likenesses of the bears Bruno and Bambi. As obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Phoenix has called upon the park to retire them from show business, and transfer them to an animal sanctuary, in a letter.

“These bears deserve better than a life on the road, where they are robbed of everything that’s natural and important to them, and if you put yourself in their place, I’m sure you’d see that, too,” wrote Phoenix in the letter. “You know firsthand that bears are curious, complex animals who love to climb, dig, forage, and play. Their acute sense of smell and plate-sized paws evolved so that they could seek out mates and food across vast distances, but those carefully honed traits are wasted on the county fair circuit, where they’re relegated to transport cages when they’re not pulling hoops over their heads and carrying basketballs around in front of crowds of strangers.”

The bears, according to the website, are rented out for weddings, “bearthday parties,” and more, as well as lent to film and TV productions. According to the ranch’s Facebook page, Bruno and Bambi were used to create the characters Kenai and Koda. Kenai is voiced by Phoenix. Below, read his full letter, addressed to ranch owner Monica Welde.

Dear Monica,

I just learned that two of the bears used in your traveling show, Bambi and Bruno, served as models for Disney’s Brother Bear. I voiced the movie’s main character, Kenai, who, as a lesson in empathy, is magically transformed to be able to see the world through bears’ eyes, and now I’m asking you to see through their eyes, too. These bears deserve better than a life on the road, where they are robbed of everything that’s natural and important to them, and if you put yourself in their place, I’m sure you’d see that, too.

You know firsthand that bears are curious, complex animals who love to climb, dig, forage, and play. Their acute sense of smell and plate-sized paws evolved so that they could seek out mates and food across vast distances, but those carefully honed traits are wasted on the county fair circuit, where they’re relegated to transport cages when they’re not pulling hoops over their heads and carrying basketballs around in front of crowds of strangers.

Bambi and Bruno will never experience life in the wild. They’ll never get to sniff out salmon runs or traverse mountains—but that doesn’t mean their lives can’t improve. Will you please consider putting an end to the tricks and the travel and give all the bears at your facility the chance just to live like bears? If you want to do what’s truly the best thing for them, let me help you make arrangements to get them transferred to an accredited sanctuary.

Sincerely,

Joaquin Phoenix

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