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Celebrate Earth Day with Disney•Nature

April 16, 2012

By John C.

For the past several years, the celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd has been recognized with the release of a new documentary from Disney•Nature.  This year is no exception with the touching and beautifully filmed Chimpanzee opening this Friday.  So before we publish our reviews on opening day, I would like to remind everyone of the other films in the series that are already available on Blu-ray and DVD.

Starting with the True Life Adventures that were produced between 1948 and 1960, Disney has had a long history of creating nature documentaries for family entertainment and education.  Those classics of several decades ago were influential in the creation of the Disney•Nature label in 2008, a branch of the studio that has been dedicated to delivering authentic looks into the lives of different species.

The series started in 2009 with Earth, a spectacular look into the lives of animals that starts in the Arctic and continues south throughout the course of the film.  Narrated by James Earl Jones and edited down from BBC’s Planet Earth, this was a sweeping documentary that was epic in its scope and just beautiful because of the way that it captured natural moments from around the world.  The film also shared an important message about the harmful effects of global warming, powerfully doing so by showing the beauty of the world on which we live.

The film was followed up with Oceans in 2010.  Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, the relaxing and often meditative documentary gave us a stunningly beautiful glimpse into the lives of numerous different types of fish and dolphins as well as many other underwater creatures.  The point of the film was to show us a world that we rarely get a chance to see, and the magnificent images were captivating for those of all ages and allowed us to marvel at the beauty of the planet that we all call home.  With Earth and Oceans, it immediately became evident that the wonderful Disney•Nature documentaries would become an annual tradition and the perfect excuse to see breathtaking images of our planet on the big screen.

Last year’s entry into the series was African Cats.  Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, it was also the first one to tell a clear story with the animals by giving names to the characters.  Following two rival prides of lions and a family of adorable baby cheetahs being raised by their single mother, the stories were expertly edited together and showed us a near-epic story of the powerful bond between families, over the course of a brisk 89 minutes.  The breathtaking images of lions and cheetahs roaming the African savannah spoke for themselves, making African Cats a strong example of pure documentary storytelling done right.

With charming and nicely done narration from Tim Allen, Chimpanzee is a touching and beautifully filmed documentary that follows the life of Oscar.  An adorable young chimp who spends every day learning how to find food with his mother, his story becomes miraculous when he is adopted by one of the older males in the group, after tragedy separates him from his mom.  Disney•Nature has partnered with the Jane Goodall Foundation, and a portion of the opening week proceeds will be donated to the important charity.  Like with the other three films in the series, Chimpanzee is powerful in its messages of conservation because it allows the breathtaking images to speak for themselves.

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