Disneynature Ranking

Hi guys!  So I have finished reviewing the Disneynature films!  It has been such an amazing experience to see God’s creation in all their variety and order.  I’ve learned a lot, been entertained and inspired.  But I know you are dying to know now that I have seen all 8 how do they rank?  First of all, they all have incredible cinematography and what these people do to get these images is unbelievable.  They risk their lives to keep all of us and especially children aware of these animals.  That is worthy of the strongest praise.  All of them are worthy of integration into the classroom and could be valuable parts of any home library.

But here is my ranking of the films.

wings of life28. Wings of Life–  bugs just aren’t that cute and I didn’t learn that much about the bees or bee crisis.  The only one I would say was kind of boring although Meryl Streep is good as the narrator.

earth

7. Earth– more like a nature documentary for television.  No real narrative but full of amazing images so I enjoyed watching it.  Some of the global warming stuff feels a little dated and heavy-handed although a very important message for kids.

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6. Oceans– again no narrative and more like a documentary you’d see on PBS or Animal Planet but I love the ocean so it was very interesting.  I just like the one’s with a little bit more story added in.  Like Earth it feels a little dated and preachy at times.

african cats5. African Cats– this one has amazing images but the narration is a little corny and it can get kind of brutal at times with lions hunting and eating zebras and antelope.  It could be upsetting for preschool age children.  It’s also a little bit too long.

monkey kingdom4. Monkey Kingdom– a very sweet story of Maya and her little monkey baby.  I liked Tina Fey and it will provide a good learning opportunity when kids see the different social classes within the monkey tribe.  Maya is on the bottom of the class structure so she is kept from doing many things and life is harder.  It is the movie which seemed the most staged to me especially the birthday party but I still enjoyed it.

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3. Bears– this is the most child-friendly of the films with a bear and her cubs trying to get food, catch fish (basically the bear necessities!).  There is a wolf that gives a few tense moments but nothing compared to African Cats.  It’s not as slow moving as the more traditional films (Earth, Oceans, Wings of Life etc).  It has a narrative kids will like and the bears are really cute.

Chimpanzee2. Chimpanzee– this is a cool movie because you can tell the outcome surprised the filmmakers which is the grandest part of nature.  They are ready to close up shop when the mother chimpanzee dies and out of the blue another male chimpanzee decides to care for the little chimp.  Even Jane Goodall is amazed at what happens.  She says it is highly unusual for male chimps.  It could be staged but it doesn’t feel so.  It is such a huge part of the movie and there are so many interviews and stories that I believe it happened.  What they had to go through to make this movie is unbelievable and to hear Goodall talk about the experience gave an authenticity that none of the other Disneynature films have.  I sometimes wish they would use a little bit more science but I understand they are trying to tell stories and inspire kids.

crimsonwing1.  Crimson Wing- I found out after watching this movie it wasn’t released in theaters!!!  Shocking because it was my favorite by a fairly wide margin.  I was totally invested in the story of the flamingos in Tanzania.  It was such a different environment I have never heard of before with the pink lake with algae, salt flats and beautiful flamingos.  The little birds were so cute and as some of them struggled with the salt shackles I got upset.  It is set up like a mystery.  The mystery of the lake, flamingos and everything else.  I liked that and it really got to me! I wanted the cameramen to help the poor little birds, but I know why they couldn’t.  It was all so new and different and even though they didn’t give names to the birds there was a narrative.  It was good vs evil with the evil Macaques  preying on the weak and lonely.  It was so different, beautiful, inspiring and absorbing.  The score on Crimson Wing was also the best out of all the Disneynature films.

Here’s a video I did of the ranking

So that is the Disneynature films!  Have you seen any of them? What do you think?  Which are your favorites?  Please put in the comments section.

Disneynature 2- Earth

earthAfter reviewing Monkey Kingdom, Disney’s most recent Disneynature effort I am going back and starting at the beginning with their first film Earth.

Unlike Monkey Kingdom which tells a single narrative of Maya, Earth tells 3 stories but doesn’t give names or that kind of thing.  It’s more of a traditional nature documentary.

As the poster might imply Earth follows animals from different parts of the earth, mainly polar bears, humback whales and elephants, for a year.  It was filmed along with the Planet Earth project which aired on the Discovery Channel.

earth2It starts out in the Arctic with some adorable polar bears and 2 new cubs.  She must find food for herself and the cubs and the ice is melting.  The Papa polar bear is lost trying to get food.

earth3Then we go to Africa and follow a herd of elephants.  They have cute little baby elephants and have to find water and keep the babies safe from lions.  It’s pretty intense really when lions corner a lone elephant and all attack it.

earth5The last set is the whales who must travel 4000 miles to find new feeding grounds with all kinds of challenges.

In between these 3 main stories we get smaller stories of birds, sea lions, dolphins, caribou and possibly the worlds cutest animal penguins.

earth4Watching Earth is a pretty amazing experience and it did fill me with awe at the Earth God has created.  It’s so diverse and beautiful.  However, this film does not sugarcoat the realities of these species lives.  I was surprised how much preying and attacks they did.  Some kids might be upset seeing a wolf kill a caribou or what happens with the polar bear Dad or the elephant that gets attacked.  It depends on the kid but I would have probably found that upsetting.

If you hate nature documentaries and find them boring than this is not the one that will convert you.  It does drag in sections and with James Earl Jones doing the narration it feels very old school nature documentary.  I didn’t mind it but it’s not for everyone. It certainly is a natural choice with his iconic voice especially when we see lions.

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Some of the details felt a little bit dated to me like the time lapse photography.  I think that was really mind blowing in 2007 but it doesn’t hold the same grip in 2015 and they use the technique a lot.  Some of their global warming science also is a little bit dated; although, certainly a good message for kids to hear.

I think there are some kids that will absolutely love this, mainly for the visual beauty and not the storytelling.  Same with adults actually.  If you don’t require a plot and just like seeing all these animals and learning about them than you’ll enjoy it.  If that sounds really dull to you it will be.  Simple as that.   And like I said some of the scenes might be upsetting to small or sensitive children.

As with all Disneynature movies the ending showing how they got shots including a collision with a tree while riding a gyrocopter type device was pretty amazing.  There’s scenes where lions and bears try to follow them and the crew looks scared.  I’d be scared!  They certainly have guts at Disneynature!

Here’s the trailer.

Disneynature 1: Monkey Kingdom

monkey kingdomFor my Disneynature reviews I am going to review the current film Monkey Kingdom and then go back and review the previous films, so it will be a little bit out of synch but it makes the  most sense to me.

This weekend Disneynature releases Monkey Kingdom about the toque macaques (or monkeys) of Polonnaruwa Sri Lanka.  The lead monkey is named Maya and is at the bottom of the monkey class divisions.

monkey kingdom mayaThe monkey clan is quite the totalitarian regime with a strict hierarchy led by Raja and a trio of sisters who boss everyone around and take all the good warm sleeping spots.

monkey kingdom3Monkey Kingdom follows the clan for entire year and has a lot of monkey eating, grooming, and sleeping.  The variety of food the monkeys eat surprised me a little bit and how rigid the social structure seemed to be (if you believe the movie at least which I have no other knowledge about monkeys to say otherwise).

There is a point where they even swim to get food!  Who knew that monkeys could swim! We also get glimpses of other animals both predators and friendly folks like elephants and squirrels. They even branch into human world and the big city for a stretch which is a lot of fun.

Tina Fey is the narrator and she does an okay job.  I’m not normally her  biggest fan but it works for the cute monkeys.  Normally we expect someone with gravitas for such narration but I liked her motherly warmth for Maya’s story.

Here is the trailer to give you a better idea.

Monkey Kingdom is an engaging story that is simple enough for kids to understand and shouldn’t bore their parents.  Plus it is a cute way to explain complex social orders and the way we treat those of other classes through the examples of the monkeys.  It also may give kids an appreciation for the effort it really takes to do the basics of provide food and shelter.  Plus, the monkeys are just so darn cute (and they do give us a ‘hey, hey, we’re the monkeys’ musical number).

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Director Mark Linfield and cinematographers Martyn Colbeck and Gavin Thurston give us a lush beautiful look into the monkey habitat and the film could be appreciated on silence just for the gorgeous earth visuals.

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As with all the Disneynature films Disney will donate a portion of proceeds to charitable causes.  For Monkey Kingdom they will go to Conservation International.

Overall Grade- B (wasn’t anything super exciting to worthy an A but a solid effort).