On December 21, 1948, Walt Disney released his first True Life Adventure, “Seal Island.” For the next twelve years, the Disney Company continued with a series of documentaries that educated and entertained at the same time. Two-reel shorts like “Beaver Valley,” “The Olympic Elk,” and “Bear Country” inspired an early Disneyland attraction, Nature’s Wonderland. And “The African Lion” played a part in the creation of Adventureland and the Jungle Cruise.
Often narrated by Rex Allen (the original voice of Father on the Carousel of Progress attraction), these nature movies always told a story in a lighthearted manner. Although the realities of nature were touched upon, they were presented in a style that allowed the viewer to understand the seriousness of the situation without the graphic details.
Originally released in theaters, these documentaries eventually made their way to Walt’s various television shows and brought the wonders of Mother Nature to a whole new audience. Many people (like me) have fond memories of these charming films and wax nostalgic about the “good ol’ days” of Disney’s True Life Adventures.
But we no longer need only remember the “good ol’ days” as Disney is once again bringing this type of quality documentary to a new generation. On April 21, 2008, the Walt Disney Company founded Disneynature, an independent film label. The goal of this company is to create inspirational and moving films that will once again educate and entertain audiences. Some of their past films have been “African Cats” and “Oceans.”
Recently (April 13, 2012), Deb Wills and I were on hand for the world premiere of Disneynature’s latest film, “Chimpanzee.” This heartwarming story tells the tale of a young chimpanzee named Oscar, who is still very dependent on his mother for survival. During the film we learn that Oscar and the other chimpanzees in his troop have real emotions. They work together, play together, and genuinely care for one another. They are a family in every sense of the word.
As with any good story, “Chimpanzee” has moments of extreme joy and deep sadness. But just like the True Life Adventures of yesteryear, the tragedies of life are handled in a manner that allows the viewer to understand the depth of the situation without being plagued by graphic details.
When I was young and watching the original True Life Adventures, I was always amazed at how the photographers were able to capture many of the scenes seen in the movie. I knew it took a special talent to achieve what they did. But the photographers of Disneynature have taken this skill to a new level. The cinematography in “Chimpanzee” is breathtaking. You will often wonder how the filmmakers were able to capture the chimps and the environment with such spectacular clarity and intimacy.
Tim Allen (Home Improvement, Toy Story, Last Man Standing) narrates the film and his relaxed tone carries the movie through an array of emotions. The film is rated “G” and is definitely suitable for the entire family. “Chimpanzee” opens on Friday, April 20th.
To kick off the movie, Disney staged a Hollywood-like premiere at the AMC Theater at Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World. A red carpet was rolled out and several of the movie’s human celebrities made an appearance. One of the most exciting for me was Jane Goodall, who has spent her life observing these magnificent creatures.
Disneynature has joined forces with the Jane Goodall Institute for a special “See ‘Chimpanzee,’ Save Chimpanzees” program. For every moviegoer who sees “Chimpanzee” during the film’s opening week (April 20-26, 2012), Disneynature will make a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to protect chimpanzees today and tomorrow.
Another celebrity on hand for the event was Joe Rohde. Deb Wills captured a few moments with Joe on tape where he explains the relationship the Disney Company has forged with Jane Goodall and how the messages of “Chimpanzee” are played out in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
Also walking the red carpet were the movie’s directors and producers, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield and the films Executive Producer, Don Hahn.
During the event, I filmed several interviews with these and other individuals connected with the movie. The video is eight minutes in length and it helps explain the importance Disney puts on the films of Disneynature and their commitment to the environment.
Several Disney Channel Stars were also in attendance as part of the Disney Kids and Nature Celebration Weekend
Laura Marano and Ross Lynch from Disney Channel’s Austin and Ally
Debby Ryan from Disney Channel’s Jessie
Bella Thorne and Zendaya from Disney Channel’s Shake It Up
(Check back tuesday for Kristin’s blog on the Disney Kids and Nature Celebration.)
For the last three years, Disney has also used the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival to promote their Disneynature films. During each festival, an elaborate sand sculpture is created to draw attention to their most recent movie. This year, Oscar and his family have been reproduced in this short-lived medium.
To learn more about the movie “Chimpanzee,” click here.