Walt Disney won several Academy Awards decades ago for his True-Life series of nature films. This documentary is the first in a similar series called Disney Nature. Scenes from the Emmy-winning Planet Earth program on the Discovery Channel were incorporated to create this one-year-in-the-life tale of a group of animals.
British filmmakers produced this zoological study. Narrated by James Earl Jones, it's an entertaining, fascinating and pretty sight to behold, though when you go to beautiful places like the tropical rainforest, it's difficult not to come back with pretty sights, especially that of exotic creatures like the Superb Bird of Paradise.
There are also shots of cute, baby elephants, monkeys, and ducks. Jones' comments about the animals are funny, but ascribing human characteristics to these animals is pretty basic and has been a long-standing, Disney trick since the initial days of Mickey Mouse.
If you've seen and enjoyed Oscar-winning films like March of the Penguins or Winged Migration, then there isn't any new ground that this movie will break for you. Each of those movies focused on one type of animal, whereas this one is more expansive, focusing on the movement patterns of three species in particular with asides to passing creatures along the various treks.
The documentarians, however, seem to have more than a passing interest in the polar bears put on display here. Jones' narration seems to want to evoke more sympathy for the polar bears than any other wildlife. The commentary about the white-furred mammals constantly refers to the fact that climate change and the so-called melting of the polar ice caps are affecting them.
The writer here obviously comes from the Al Gore school of inconvenient truths. There were times where I thought it was trying to be overly sentimental, but I got no real sense of a political agenda. There are in fact no humans to be seen here.
What you get instead are vast, sweeping vistas, herds or large flocks of animals, moving together on land, in sea, or through air, as well as beautiful time-lapses that progresses us past the seasons. All of which, as you see, are influenced by the Earth's tilt toward or away from the sun and how all life reacts to it.
Not since Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home have I seen such a glorious depiction of humpback whales! However, the best scenes are those that involve predators going after prey. We may have seen it a thousand times, but the shots of the wolf running down the caribou, the cheetah chasing the gazelle, or the great white shark swimming and swallowing in slow motion is always compelling.
The true lesson to be learned, despite it not being shown, is that death is a part of Earth as anything else. The idea of this film, which reverberates in almost every scene, is that hunger and thirst are the great equalizers. We all need to eat. We all need to drink.
No mattter how big or small, no matter the color or creed, we all feel the same on the inside. The growl of stomachs or the parchment of throats are things we all share. There may be a variety of forms and shapes, but they all have one driving force. They don't want to starve.
Four Stars out of Five
Rated G for being suitable for all audiences
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.