Bear 71: Rich and Moving Multimedia Documentary (FWA Site of the Year)

Yesterday morning, I happened to spot this Twitter post from @wefail. I’ve followed their projects back when they were working heavily in Flash, and I was curious to see what folks were still doing nowadays with it.

I’ll say this now: it’s a 20 minute documentary, but very much worth your while. I found it such a great bit of multimedia that I strongly encourage you to watch this thing (and watch it all the way through).

Bear 71
is the story of a female grizzly bear that was monitored by wildlife conservation officers for a period of time from 2001 – 2009. The site functions like a multimedia documentary, lasting about 20 minutes, featuring a mixture of audio, video, and real-time video from users.

That snare had a breaking strength of two tons. The dart was full of something called Telazol, brought to you by Pfizer, the same people who make Zoloft and Viagra. Next thing I know, I’m wearing a VHF collar and have my own radio frequency.

They also gave me a number. I’m Bear 71.

The writing and audio work is excellent, and rivals some of the best programs I’ve heard on the radio/NPR. Leanne Allison serves as the “voice” of Bear 71, and the entire story is done through a personified point of view. It’s incredibly compelling.

What I really want you to understand is this: I was a good bear. I didn’t knock over anyone’s garbage cans. I didn’t break into anyone’s mobile home. I raised three sets of cubs eating berries and hunting invisible elk in a valley that smells like hash browns.

The site provides you with an interactive map of Banff National Park, near a town called Canmore. As you explore around, you can see many other “animals” tagged in a similar manner as Bear 71: Golden Eagle 129, Wolf 77, Dear 431. I believe all of these represent tagged animals, and the actual paths they traveled.

When looking around, you’ll also occasionally see other humans, other visitors to the site who are looking around. If they’ve enabled their webcams, you can catch glimpses of them, as they’re watching the documentary.

Throughout the map, there are a variety of points to explore: photographs, videos, everything working while the audio documentary plays in the background.

I only watched the first part of the documentary in the morning, and returned later in the day to watch the whole thing. If you can manage, watch this in one shot, start to finish. The ending was a surprising one, and moved me more than I thought possible.

It’s well worth your time. You’ll see.

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