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Protective bear suits and The Simpsons? Using movies to teach

This is an excerpt from Teaching With Movies by Teresa O'Bannon & Marni Goldenberg.

Teaching With Movies: Recreation, Sports, Tourism, and Physical Education is a resource of pop culture movies. When the film are framed (set up in advance) and debriefed (analyzed afterward) effectively, they can serve as educational tools to enhance learning objectives in a variety of settings.

The framing section of the entry provides students with the proper perspective for viewing the movie. The debriefing section provides questions to help students reflect on the connections between the film and the course content. The concept exploration section provides suggestions for activities to give students a chance to explore aspects of the film's theme in greater depth.

Project Grizzly

DIRECTOR: Peter Lynch


YEAR: 1996

RATING: NR (not rated)


CORE CONCEPTS: Outdoor recreation, leisure behavior, physical and mental challenge

A close encounter with a grizzly bear changed the life of Troy Hurtubise. He undertook a mission to build a protective suit that would allow him to safely interact with grizzly bears in the wild. The documentary follows his field testing of the Ursus Mark VI, which took seven years and $150,000 to develop. Hurtubise gets hit by a three-ton truck, beaten with baseball bats, pushed off a cliff, set on fire, and shot with a 12-gauge shotgun. The ending is slightly unsettling because his attempts to greet the "old man," as he calls the bear, are quickly derailed after he discovers he can't walk on uneven ground in the suit. The film is also interesting from a pop culture perspective because it has been spoofed on The Simpsons in an episode titled "The Fat and the Furriest" and lauded by director Quentin Tarantino as his favorite documentary.


This film can be shown in its entirety. The scenes of the field testing of the Ursus Mark VI and Hurtubise's earlier attempts to build a bear-proof suit are good examples of the lengths someone will go to in pursuit of serious leisure.


The World Leisure Commission on Education defined serious leisure as "the systematic pursuit of deep satisfaction through an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer activity that participants find so substantial and interesting that, in the typical case, they launch themselves on a (non-work) career centered on acquiring and expressing its special skills, knowledge, and experience" (Stebbins, 2000).

Debriefing Questions

This movie lends itself to a discussion on leisure behavior, outdoor recreation, and physical and mental challenges. Ask questions such as the following:

  • What are some examples of serious leisure?
  • Do you engage in serious leisure?
  • Discuss how the grizzly project meets the requirements of serious leisure. Is Hurtubise crazy, self-delusional, or a visionary?

Concept Exploration

The following activities, assignments, or discussion ideas facilitate concepts from this movie:

  • Discuss the dimensions or characteristics of serious leisure and how the grizzly project compares. Discuss other examples of movies that depict serious leisure such as Best in Show, Fever Pitch, and Trekkies.

This is an excerpt from Teaching With Movies: Recreation, Sports, Tourism, and Physical Education.

More Excerpts From Teaching With Movies