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Bears: Spy in the Woods (2004)

Bears around the globe were observed in their natural habitat using specially designed and disguised cameras.


John Downer
2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview:
David Attenborough ... Himself - Narrator (voice)


Using specially designed and camouflaged cameras this documentary offers an intimate look into the secret lives of bears in various parts of the world. The disguised spy-cams blend into the bears natural environment to capture a glimpse of the everyday life of these engaging creatures. Unprecedented footage of wild Pandas in their native bamboo groves in China shows never seen before activities of these elusive and endangered bears. The documentary also gives a new insight into the lives of Grizzly bears and Arctic Polar bears. The last bear shown is the South American Spectacled bear, the inspiration for Paddington Bear. Written by Mark Smith <msmith@osi.co.uk>

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Release Date:

30 November 2004 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Kataskopevontas tis arkoudes sto dasos See more »

Filming Locations:

Alaska, USA See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Theme music by Will Gregory (Musician- Goldfrapp) and Stuart Gordon (Composer). See more »


Followed by Trek: Spy on the Wildebeest (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

Going bear spying
12 September 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

Saw the 'Wildlife' specials as a big fan of the national treasure that is David Attenborough. As much as he may dislike the term it is a perfect way to sum him up, with his best works being documentary masterpieces and masterpieces in general.

There are twenty two of these specials in total, fourteen listed under 'Wildlife Specials', the others listed as one-offs. Eighteen of these up to 2008 were narrated/presented by Attenborough, the others ('Polar Bear: Spy on the Ice', 'Penguins: Spy in the Huddle', 'Swarm: Nature's Incredible Invasion', and 'Dolphins: Spy in the Pod')up to 2014 by David Tennant. All are must sees, have a preference for Attenborough's work here (being more familiar with his work and being a big fan of it) but Tennant's contributions are very well done too.

As has been indicated, "Bear: Spy in the Woods" is highly recommended for nature lovers, documentary lovers and those who love Attenborough. It is very diverse/varied, looks great and shows a great deal of technological advancement in the camera work. This is apparent in "Bears: Spy in the Woods" once again, this time dealing with bears, their physical and psychological qualities, the different kinds of them and how they adapt and survive in their varied habitats.

Would have liked it to have been longer so that even more was explored and gone into more depth.

Loved the music score on the most part, but also felt that it was a little too constant and that there could have less of it.

First and foremost, "Bears: Spy in the Woods" looks amazing. It is gorgeously filmed, done in a completely fluid and natural, sometimes intimate (a great way of connecting even more with the bears), way and never looking static. In fact much of it is remarkably cinematic and intimate, the hidden spy camera is used cleverly and feels like the viewer is a presence amongst the bears but as a spy invisible to them. The editing is always succinct and smooth and the scenery is pure magic.

The music score fits very well generally, generally not overly grandiose while never being inappropriate with some lovely sound.

"Bears: Spy in the Woods" fascinates, teaches, moves, entertains and transfixes. In terms of the facts there was a very good mix of the known ones and the unknown, of the well known species and more rare ones, some facts being familiar to us while also dealing with the subject with tact. Their intelligence comes out on screen crystal clear and how they live and their cultural aspects are handled in a way that does illuminate. We know of some of the stuff that is talked about but it is rarely seen, certainly not in the way shown here, and it is amazing that they were filmed in the first place and so intimately that you feel like a spy yourself.

Narration by Attenborough helps significantly. He clearly knows his stuff and knows what to say and how to say it. He delivers it with his usual richness, soft-spoken enthusiasm and sincerity, never talking down to the viewer and keeping them riveted and wanting to know more. Some may not find "Bears: Spy in the Woods", and in general the 'Wildlife Specials', treating the respective animals in a human-like way in all the instalments to their taste, personally love it myself and it made it easier connecting and relating to the animals and the things covered.

It's not just visually beautiful and informative. The bears featured show a mix of playfulness, pathos, cuteness and ruthlessness. That headstand is quite jaw-dropping to view, but the Spectacle Bear segment is also for me the standout. "Bears: Spy in the Woods" also displays a wide range of emotions and found myself really caring for everything that was shown to us on screen. The conflict has genuine tension and suspense in seeing moments of ferocity (though the bears are shown as more than just predators), seeing how the bears adapt and survive amidst much adversity, there is some charm seeing the behaviours, though treated more sympathetically than most animals featured in the 'Wildlife Specials' there is a lot of personality. Found myself really caring for what is said and shown to us.

"Bears: Spy in the Woods" doesn't feel like an episodic stringing of scenes, but instead like the best nature documentaries it feels like its own story and journey, with real, complex emotions and conflicts.

Overall, truly great and one of the must watch documentaries on bears. 9/10 Bethany Cox

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