Film - The Life and Times of Grizzly Pisky

Bart the Bear

Romeo Kennedy enters the minefield that is animals working for our entertainment as he remembers Bart the Bear...

An article like this is difficult to write for many reasons and does open up many topics of conversation. Whilst I want to focus on a very well loved animal’s work within film and television, It would be foolish of me to completely bypass the moral and ethical issues that surround a topic such as this. Animals working within film is a very murky issue, whilst a vast majority of these animals are well loved by their trainers and are given respect and dignity, the question becomes, is it right to train these animals for use in entertainment? I’m not qualified to answer that and neither am I going to attempt to. I have my thoughts and opinions on this and I can see valid arguments on both sides of the fence.

However I do feel that many of these animals’ work should be celebrated and none more so than Bart the Bear.

Bart was a nine foot, 680 kg Alaskan Kodiak bear, born in 1977. This large mammal was adopted by Doug and Lynne Seus whose company Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife have been responsible for many animal actors over the years. Having seen a couple of videos, like the one below, about the relationship between Doug and Bart, you can see that it is somewhat symbiotic and with a large amount of love and respect from both man and animal.

One of Bart’s first on-screen appearances was in The Life And Times of Grizzly Adams, which also starred a bear named Bozo playing the role of Ben as an adult, with Bart playing Ben as a cub. Bart’s film debut as an adult was in the Western, ‘Windfall,’ and, from there, the animal actor went on to star in many films over the years alongside such acting greats as Daryl Hannah, John Candy, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, and Anthony Hopkins. Directors who had the privilege of working with Bart referred to him as the “John Wayne of Bears.”

After filming the Jean Jacques Annaud film entitled ‘The Bear,’ Bart was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance, although did not win. However, a few years later, Bart appeared on stage with Mike Myers and handed an envelope to the actor.

After an illustrious film and television career, Bart was sadly diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and died two years later at the age of 23.

Bears are one of my favorite animals and I first discovered Bart whilst watching ‘The Edge.’ I was quite captivated by this bear’s size, power and on-screen presence. After that, I noticed his name appearing in a lot of other work and quickly became a bit of a fan of the ursine actor.

Not only has Bart left his paw prints on the entertainment world but he has left a wonderful legacy namely in the form of the work that Doug and Lynne do on his behalf with their organization Vital Ground, preserving the natural habitat of bears and other wildlife in the U.S as well as the continued work they do within film and television with Bart’s non-blood related heir, Bart II, and two grizzlys named Honeybump and Tank who, since Bart’s passing, have contributed in many popular movies and television. Bart II even making a recent appearance in the HBO serial, Game of Thrones.

No matter what my opinions are on the thorny issues that surround animal actors, there is no denying that both Doug and Lynne have protected, cared for, and deeply loved these incredible animals, and the Seus/Bart legacy is a mighty one indeed.

Image - VitalGround.