Disneynature revived the true-life documentary tradition of Walt Disney in 2009 and faithfully has delivered a new, and increasingly wondrous, adventure around every Earth Day — from Earth, Oceans, African Cats and Chimpanzee to Bears, Monkey Kingdom and now Born in China. Some of the proceeds from the first week’s box office for these films goes right back into the cause, a nice and rare gesture from a major studiom where it all seems to be about money these days. In the case of Born in China the World Wildlife Fund will be the beneficiary.
These films have contributed millions of dollars to the betterment of life itself in recent years, so it is gratifying to be able to say that the G-rated latest effort from the studio not only lives up to this great Disney tradition, it exceeds it. Certainly this franchise is not on the blockbuster level of its Star Wars, Marvel comic book films, animated offerings or live-action remakes like Beauty and the Beast, but it is no less valuable. Utilizing remarkable camerapeople from around the world who will wait in harsh, isolated conditions for months just to get their shot of an elusive animal, this film might be the most ambitious yet in that it travels to remote, almost uncharted areas in a country more known for its bustling cities and large human population.
As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), Born in China takes us to places where we follow the lives of a mother panda and her adorable offspring, the majestic snow leopard and her two cubs for whom she must constantly find food, the golden snub-nosed monkey who is trying to win attention away from his baby sister, the migrating and marauding pack of chiru and the incredible red-crowned cranes who open and close the film with a message of the circle of life that is so indigenous to the continent. The film divides its sections into the seasons, beginning and ending with spring. It’s a useful story device as we get to alternately chart the progress of all these creatures and become engrossed in their journeys — at times playful, thrilling, dangerous and heartbreaking.
What is astonishing about all of this is what the filmmakers — led by director Lu Chuan and producers Roy Conli, Brian Leith and Phil Chapman — manage to get onscreen. But even better is the way they tie it all together, making each section character-driven and endlessly fascinating and fun to watch. Helping matters is a terrific musical score from Emmy winner Barnaby Taylor that manages to blend traditional Chinese sounds with a sweeping orchestral sound that works wonders. I understand it took three years to put this all together, but the 400 hours of footage edited down to a fast-paced 75 minutes is well worth the effort. Disney releases the film on Friday, and it is a treat for families everywhere.
Do you plan to see Born in China? Let us know what you think.