“I just learned that two of the bears used in your traveling show, Bambi and Bruno, served as models for Disney’s Brother Bear.”
👆 That was Joaquin Phoenix’s opening line in a letter he sent to Bearadise Ranch operator Monica Welde. After learning from PETA that the two bears who were used as models for the Disney film (which Joaquin starred in) are living at the Florida roadside zoo and being forced to perform in a traveling show, the longtime PETA supporter appealed to Welde, hoping that she’d consider bears’ perspective, much as audiences saw his Brother Bear character do.
“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,” Joaquin wrote. “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.”
While on the road, Bearadise Ranch operators keep the bears inside cramped transport cages in which they can barely turn around, let alone avoid their own waste. During performances, the bears climb ladders, carry a basketball while walking on their hind legs, pull hoops over their heads, and perform other tricks—likely because they fear what will be done to them if they don’t. Florida wildlife officials recently issued Bearadise Ranch’s owner a misdemeanor citation after she forced a bear to perform as a “ring bearer” during a wedding ceremony and ushered a news crew into the bear’s enclosure.
In addition to urging Welde to end the traveling shows, in his letter, Joaquin offers to help arrange for the bears to be moved to an accredited sanctuary, where they’d never be exploited for entertainment again. “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?” he asks Welde.