There were quite a number of Disney films in the first half of this year that I wanted to see at the El Capitan Theatre, and among those films was "earth", the first release from Disney's nature documentary division called Disneynature.
It probably doesn't come as a surprise that I really loved this movie. I like nature stuff anyway, but the cinematography was breathtaking, and it was absolutely gorgeous on the big screen.
The advertising for the film was a little misleading, though, in that it said the movie was about three families that they followed for a year - polar bears, elephants and humpback whales. Well, they did follow one of each of those families, but that was really only a portion of the film. They showed a lot of other animals as well, which was really nice.
I wasn't too keen on the "beat you over the head to get you to believe that the Earth is experiencing catastrophic global warming" message, but it didn't go on too long, so I could overlook it for the most part.
However, I was really unhappy with the story they fabricated from the polar bear family. There was a mother and two cubs that they showed for the most part, and then they showed the father, and he was in trouble and ended up leaving the family, and the implication is that the changing global climate somehow contributed to his demise and his cubs having lost a father. First of all, there was no indication to me that the male polar bear being shown was the father of the two cubs with the mother. It could have been just some random male polar bear. Second, even if that was their father, male polar bears do not stay with their young anyway - the mother doesn't allow it. A mother polar bear is *very* protective of her young, from everyone, and she will chase males away for fear that they will hurt her young, and that includes their father since they don't have any kind of familial relationship. This is that whole "why a documentary is rarely ever a documentary" opinion that I hold which would be better suited for another post if anyone is interested and if I ever actually feel like going into it.
I did notice that they are very careful about not showing kill scenes when it comes to the animals. There are several instances where chases are shown, in slow motion to marvel at the situation itself, but while the prey is shown being caught, they cut away before any violence is done. The only exception to that is when a great white shark is shown with half a sea lion hanging out of its mouth, but I'm not sure kids would realize it's a sea lion from the parts you can see. There's no blood, but it's pretty terrifying to watch that giant great white leap completely out of the air. Someone is going to seriously need a bigger boat.
I did enjoy that during the end credits of the film, they pretty much showed "bloopers" of the cameramen who were responsible for the amazing footage in the film. Some of the mishaps were fairly amusing, but you seriously could not pay me enough to do any of that. I'm much happier in my comfy theatre seat.
My understanding is that some of the footage in the film comes from the documentary television series "Planet Earth", but I've not seen that show myself.
The U.S. release of the film is narrated by James Earl Jones, who I enjoyed, but the original version which was released internationally was narrated by Patrick Stewart, who I think would be wonderful as well. I hope both versions are put on the DVD when it's released.
Disneynature's next release is "Oceans", and it was recently announced that they are also working on a film about chimpanzees and another about African cats. I'm definitely on board for anything Disneynature decides to produce and release - unless it's about reptiles, in which case, I'm out.
To read about the experience of watching this film at the El Capitan Theatre, including pictures of the outside mural and marquee and from the live stage show with real animals, click here.