Look into the eyes of the chimpanzee in the photo above. Does he warm your heart? If not than wait till you hear his story. It is pretty amazing. Even the great Jane Goodall seemed stunned by the events of Chimpanzee.
The above chimp is named Oscar. He is born to a mother chimp named Isha. They are part of a tribe that spends most of its time cracking nuts with large stones and eating fire ants. They establish a rivalry with another tribe led by a chimp called Scar (not all that creative there with the name Disney!)
Spoiler coming so if you don’t want to know don’t read on but trust me it is impossible to talk about this movie and not talk a little bit about spoiler.
The producers were busy ready to tell their story about Isha and Oscar when one day Isha was suddenly gone. They didn’t know what happened to her but the narrator said it was most likely a “nocturnal leopard”. This left Oscar alone with nobody to care for him and according to Jane Goodall he should have died fairly quickly.
Director Alastair Fothergill says in the film they called Disney and was ready to tell them the project was off. But they keep the cameras rolling. Oscar looks for his Mother, starts to lose weight and tries to find another mother from the </female apes. Things look pretty grim for Oscar.
Again they were ready to take down the entire production when suddenly a male leader of the tribe named Freddy (terrible chimp name) begins to care for Oscar. He shares some of his food, and ends up caring Oscar on his back which according to Goodall is not normal behavior for the chimp males.
You could tell the production was genuinely moved by the unexpected bond between Oscar and Freddy, and we as viewers feel it as well. It is touching to see the positive in nature especially when it isn’t required for survival.
The people who make these movies are amazing. What they go through to get the shots is mind blowing and the love they have for the animals is touching.
Watch this whole video but the adoption of Oscar is discussed at about the 3 minute mark:
Chimpanzee is only 77 minutes long and it feels even shorter. There is maybe a bit too much of the nut cracking at the beginning but once Isha is gone and the relationship between Oscar and Freddy develops it is completely engaging and awe inspiring.
Tim Allen does the narration and I’d put him in with Tina Fey and Samuel L Jackson. They are fine but lack the gravitas I think a film like this needs for a narrator. To me like a Jeremy Irons or James Earl Jones fit this kind of movie a little bit better.
But I think with the male ending up adopting Oscar it is cool they had a voice like Tim Allen who is such a relatable father figure from television and real life. There’s something about his voice that feels familiar and safe.
Crimson Wings is still my favorite but Chimpanzee is probably second on my list. It wasn’t as staged as Monkey Kingdom (the birthday cake scene in that movie was obviously set up) and the adoption of Oscar by Freddy was special too watch. Even Jane Goodall says that was special so no staging could have planned it. That’s really neat.
I think kids will love it and aside from killing a few monkeys mostly off camera I don’t think there is anything too upsetting for them. Plus, it is a good chance to teach them about Jane Goodall, adoption, what ‘family’ really means and more. It also is short enough for even very small children to absorb and not get bored with.
Overall Grade- A
Have any of you seen Chimpanzee? It’s certainly one of the best in the Disneynature Canon.