Coke’s Polar Bears Film Is Adorable. It’s Also Full of Lies.

Slate’s animal blog.
Dec. 20 2013 10:23 AM

Coca-Cola’s Polar Bear Film Is Full of Lies

Like peas and carrots, Coca-Cola and polar bears were meant for each other. Since 1993, the soda company has driven this notion home each winter, releasing adorable and fuzzy advertisements that radiate joy and warmth despite the Arctic chill on screen and, for many viewers, outside.

But as heartwarming as those advertisements are, they cannot breeze by the cold hard facts. Coca-Cola is lying to you about polar bears!

Advertisement

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the company’s 2013 critically acclaimed short film, The Polar Bears. Produced by the venerable director Ridley Scott, it lovingly depicts a family of polar bears suffering through a bout of sibling rivalry and daddy drama before, of course, reaching an "awwwwww"-inducing conclusion.

Now, before playing the scientific Scrooge, I'd like to say that I really enjoyed the film! It's innocent, spirited, and tender—something to show to your kids this holiday season. But it's also woefully inaccurate. (Spoilers to come.)

Filmmakers are permitted to anthropomorphize cartoon animals, so let's gloss over a few obvious points: Polar bears don't speak English, nor do they dance choreographed numbers with puffins. And they definitely don't drink Coca-Cola, vastly preferring energy-rich seal blubber to carbonated high-fructose corn syrup.

But less obvious is the fact that polar bears don't group together. The film shows a host of polar bear families forming some sort of community similar to the lion pride in Disney's The Lion King. They do nothing of the sort. In general, polar bears live very solitary lives, wandering the Arctic in search of food, though adult males are occasionally known to form "friendships" with each other.

Another inaccuracy is the presence of the younger sister, Kaia. She's absolutely adorable, but she also shouldn't exist. In reality, the mother, Sakari, would never have another cub until her older children—brothers Jak and Zook—had left. Polar bear mothers usually abandon or drive off their cubs when they reach 2 1/2 years of age.

The third and largest inaccuracy in the film is the relationship between the father, Kaskae, and his cubs. Rather than acting as a stern but doting dad (as he is depicted), in reality Kaskae would be long gone, and if he returned, he might even eat his children. Once a male wins the right to mate with a female, often through intense and bloody competition with rivals, he remains with her for about a week, during which time the two mate repeatedly. But after the week of loving, the male skedaddles, leaving the pregnant female to fend for herself. Such is love in the frigid, unforgiving Arctic. The harsh environment has also been blamed for cannibalism and infanticide. When food is scarce, adult males have been known to prey upon cubs.

Coca-Cola is by no means the first company to ignore inconvenient animal behavior facts, so we shouldn't be too hard on it. To Coke's credit, it does support polar bear research and conservation efforts, pledging $2 million over five years via the Arctic Home project to "define a place where polar bears and people can thrive in the Arctic." In addition, the company has reportedly "raised over $3 million to date in consumer and matched donations for the project."

Still, those numbers are positively diminutive compared to Coke's net income last quarter: a whopping $2.45 billion. Hey, Coke! I think your bears deserve a little holiday bonus this year!

This article originally appeared in Real Clear Science.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 16 2014 1:23 PM Germany Has Asked Google to Reveal Its Search Algorithm, but That's Not Going to Happen
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 8:41 PM You’re Cut, Adrian Peterson Why fantasy football owners should release the Minnesota Vikings star.