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Movie Review: African Cats

April 22, 2011

African Cats – A Walt Disney Pictures’ Release

Release Date: April 22nd

Rated G for violence and some scary scenes

Running time: 89 minutes

Alastair Fothergill (dir.)

Keith Scholey (dir.)

Keith Scholey (story)

Owen Newman (story)

Nicholas Hooper (music)

Samuel L. Jackson as Narrator (voice)

©Walt Disney Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.  Photo by Keith Scholey

Two lion cubs wait by the water in Disney•Nature’s African Cats.

Our reviews below:


African Cats Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Disney•Nature’s latest Earth Day release, African Cats, is a strong example of pure documentary storytelling done right.  The breathtaking images of lions and cheetahs roaming the African savannah speak for themselves, but Samuel L. Jackson’s assured narration and a well-written screenplay add a heartwarming story to the visuals.

Our story starts at the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, following two rival prides of lions and a family of adorable baby cheetahs being raised by their single mother.  The stories are expertly edited together, showing us a near-epic story of the powerful bond between families, over the course of a brisk 89-minutes.

African Cats allows us to indulge in the same sort of breathtakingly beautiful cinematography that has become a staple of the Disney•Nature films.  Scenes of animals against the setting sun and time-lapse videos of storm clouds are striking, and the many close up images of the baby lions and cheetahs are irresistibly adorable.  Along with the overwhelming roars of the lions, this is a film that deserves to be seen in theatres.

This one is somewhat darker than Disney•Nature’s previous two films – Earth and Oceans – as brief images of animals hunting and eating their prey are shown.  But those above a certain age will surely be able to put this into perspective.  This is a wonderful marriage of images and true-life storytelling, that is sure to be enjoyed by a wide audience.


African Cats Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

Like the previous Disney•Nature Earth Day films, African Cats shows us the beauty of nature woven into a story that will capture the hearts and attention of audiences of all ages.  This particular installment (after Earth and Oceans) follows more of a story, considering that it focuses mainly on only two animals – a family of lions, and a family of cheetahs.  The others focused more generally on several different species, which I liked as well.  From the teaser, it looks as though next year’s Chimpanzee promises to be in the vain of African Cats in terms of storytelling with its directed focus.

In some ways, I quite enjoyed the two previous ones, with their many varied shots and stunning vastness oftentimes set only to music – in other words, African Cats was more talkative at times.  Still, it is a good film and is definitely worth seeing.  The images are stunning as usual, and the animals will connect with your heart.  Here’s still hoping for a ‘Polar Regions’ soon, although some of that was already covered in the previous two Disney•Nature films…

Go out to see African Cats opening week, and money from the tickets will be donated to help save the savannah – what better way to support a worthy cause than by seeing a wonderful film such as this?


African Cats Review by Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

First Disney•Nature came out with the documentary Earth.  Next they released Oceans.  Now Disney•Nature has come out with the third film in the series, African Cats.  This documentary follows two families of wild cats, a lion pride and a cheetah family.

The family of lions, known as the River pride, lives south of a meandering river.  They consist of several females and their cubs.  The River Pride is guarded by a male known as Fang, so named because of a broken tooth that hangs from his mouth.  One lioness, named Leila, has a single cub named Mara.  Despite a limp from a zebra’s kick, she will risk everything to defend her cub from other animals, including a rival pride North of the river, run by a tough male named Kali and his four muscular sons.

North of the river, a more amicable group of cats resides as well.  A mother cheetah name Sita raises her litter of cubs alone, as cheetahs don’t live in social units like lions or feral domestic cats.  Sita must singlehandedly defend her cubs from the threats such as hyenas, male cheetahs, as well as Kali and her sons.  She constantly puts her safety at risk to distract other animals from her cubs.

What struck me about African Cats was the strong devotion and powerful bond between mother and child.  The most dramatic example of this is how Leila, despite suffering severe injuries, won’t give up until she knows her daughter is safe.  The various selfless acts on the part of the animal mothers completely debunks the myth that animals lack “human” qualities and emotions like altruism and love.

Another one of the things I really liked was the cinematography.  Every scene is framed and beautifully shot.  As a nature artist, I found the camera captured each animals personality perfectly.  African Cats is a beautiful documentary that I would especially recommend for Earth Day and Mother’s Day.


African Cats Review by Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

At the beautiful Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya the inhabitants raise families, play, love, fight, hunt and do their best to survive.  Their stories are beautifully told in Disney•Nature’s latest Earth Day release, African Cats.

With the help of narrator Samuel L. Jackson we follow two groups of cats.  The first consists of two rival lion prides.  The river pride is led by majestic lion, Fang, named for his dangling tooth.  The lionesses are lead by Leila, caring mother to adorable cub, Mara.  The rival pride is led by lion Kali, and his four young adult sons.  Kali’s goal is to drive away Fang and take over as lead male to the lionesses.  The second group featured is a lone female cheetah name Sita and her incredibly cute cubs.

African Cats goes back and forth seamlessly between the lions and cheetahs stories.  Along with the expected close up shots of adorable baby lions and cheetahs there is a good deal of realism shown in the day-to-day lives of these beautiful cats.  Animals get hurt in fights, prey animals are killed and eaten.  The blood on the mouths and fur of the predators may disturb younger or more sensitive viewers.  However, everything is beautifully and tastefully shot and fascinating to watch.

What makes African Cats so watchable is the incredible cinematography.  There are some absolutely spectacular scenes.  Nature lovers will not be disappointed.  There also is at its core a lovely message about the powerful bond of love between family members, especially mother and child that is universal among all creatures.

Opening wide for Earth Day, African Cats is a beautiful look at some of nature’s most majestic creatures in a unique part of planet Earth.


African Cats Review by Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

African Cats, this year’s Earth Day release from Disney•Nature, reminds me of the True Life Adventures that Disney staged back in the 1960s, but this time the scenes are for real, in spectacular footage from Kenya’s Maasai Mara Reserve, with fine narration from Samuel L. Jackson. Over more than two years we follow Sita, a mother cheetah raising her cubs, and a pride of lions. Sita has to protect her brood from hyenas, lions and other cheetahs until they are able to defend and hunt for themselves. The pride’s alpha male Fang is challenged by another male Kali and his four sons. When the crocodile infested river is high, rival groups are separated from each other, and game is plentiful during the seasonal migration of wildebeest and zebras. At other times, conflicts are inevitable.

While the film is careful to demonstrate typical animal behaviours without comparison to human traits, people will appreciate the affection and protective instinct among animals within a group, particularly between mothers and their cubs. Hunting scenes are beautiful to watch, slowed down to observe the chases in fine detail, but cutting away after pouncing to spare young eyes from the kill. Scenes of conflict within species are also edited with family audiences in mind. Various animals appear briefly, sometimes as comic relief, including elephants, ostriches and other birds, aardvarks, jackals, warthogs and a tortoise, all usefully and whimsically identified in the closing credits as part of the film crew.

I liked African Cats about as much as Born to Be Wild, but for those on a budget, African Cats is better value at over twice the running time and, not being in IMAX 3D, about half the price in theatres.


Consensus: With strikingly beautiful cinematography and a strong story-driven narration by Samuel L. Jackson, Disney•Nature’s African Cats is an excellent nature documentary for older kids and adults.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill H permalink
    April 25, 2011 11:43 am

    “Get these mother fluffin’ cats off this mother fluffin’ plain”


    • April 27, 2011 10:22 am

      Thanks for the witty reference to Samuel L. Jackson’s hugely quoted line from Snakes on a Plane. One has to wonder if anything of the sort was said in the recording studio, but didn’t make the cut on a G-rated film…

      -John C.


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