It’s no secret that I like environmental-awareness movies (my review of The Lorax shows that), but Earth Day was not a special event in the film world until three years ago. Disneynature, a new movie-making department of Walt Disney Pictures that focuses on creating nature-based documentaries, released Earth on Earth Day (April 22, 2009). The film followed three families — polar bears, elephants and blue whales — offering a variety of visuals and locations. The diverse film did what great nature documentaries do: tell a story with striking images.
Disney followed Earth with showcasing the tales of the deep with Oceans in 2010 and the story of the felines of the savanna with African Cats in 2011. Not only does Disneynature use superstars to narrate the films (James Earl Jones, Pierce Brosnan and Samuel L. Jackson, to name a few), they donate a portion of ticket sales to conservation organizations that are closely related to each film. For example, a portion of ticket sales for Chimpanzee, opening April 20, 2012, will go to the Jane Goodall Institute.
Chimpanzee, narrated by Tim Allen, will follow Oscar, a young chimp who is separated from his mother. Chimpanzee, however, will have something the other Disneynature films have yet to experience: competition. Warner Brothers’ To The Arctic, a nature doc featuring a family of polar bears, also opens April 20. With Meryl Streep narrating, Warner Bros. is trying its hand at environmentally-aware success.
No matter who comes out on top in the chimps vs. bears brawl at the box office, both films will educate and protect habitats and creatures. As said earlier, Chimpanzee will donate part of its proceeds to the Jane Goodall Institute. To The Arctic, part of the nonprofit One World One Ocean Campaign, is partnering with Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund for the Arctic Home project, which is working to save the polar bears’ habitat. With nature docs becoming more and more popular, conservation and environmental awareness will continue to improve. Education through entertainment is what separates these works of art from a boring 9th grade biology video.