Disneynature’s documentary Chimpanzee is a film about chimpanzees, yes. But it is also a movie about love, survival and, most importantly, the wonder of nature. The story of Chimpanzee is not the story the directors set out to tell, nor is it a story that anyone in Hollywood could have ever scripted. Instead it is an incredible story of a little chimp beating all odds and nature surprising us all once again.
The star of the film is an adorable baby chimp named Oscar who’s story is told through the narration of Tim Allen. Deep in the African jungle, Oscar and his tribe were descretly shadowed by scientists and filmmakers to bring you his story as it unfolded before them. Through anthropomorphism Oscar and his family come to life on the screen for the audience to fall in love with.
From the opening scene the audience is captivated by the cuddly baby chimp with whom we immediately identified and empathized with thanks to the clever use of scripting and soundtrack. I must admit Chimpanzee is the first Disneynature film I have watched, although I keep saying one of these days I will get around to seeing African Cats. Although I have faith in Disney’s film making abilities, and thought the trailer looked cute, I was worried the movie would be straight-up, documentary boring. Sorry for doubting you Disney, I am happy to admit I was wrong. This is not just a documentary, it is a story. An unbelievable story. A story with laughter, tears and yes, ultimately a happy ending. (It is after all Disney.)
Honored to walk the red carpet for the film’s premiere along side Jane Goodall (wow), and then sit in the same theater to experience the movie I was blown away by a flood of emotions throughout and after the movie. Like any good movie, the characters are well-developed and defined in their roles as hero, Oscar; devoted mother, Isha; leader of the pack, Freddy; and villain Scar. Beautiful cinematography added to the beauty and wonder as the story unfolded, and telephoto lenses allow the audience to feel as if the chimps were looking directly into the camera playing along in their roles.
Without giving away the story, there are two moments within the movie that are pinnacle to the plot line and portray nature being nature. The first, a hunt for food and the second a fight between the rivaling tribes. As the mother of a four year old, I watched these scenes with my daughter in mind. To answer the question all mothers wonder, yes, I feel that this movie is both appropriated for children and one that they will enjoy. The directors were careful in both scenes to allude to the outcome without depicting graphic detail. In fact, after the movie director Alastair Fothergill asked our group of 20 moms if we felt the hunting scene was too much. We all agreed it was not. (I feared it would be as I watched it, but then just before it was to go there – it stopped.)
Also in the theater was a friend of mine with her seven-year-old son. When I asked him his favorite part he enthusiastically replied, “The fight scene. I thought it was funny.” And mom confirmed that he laughed during the height of the action. In contrast, director Mark Linfield told us that his three year old was concerned for Oscar’s loss, but was quickly reassured, as we all where, as the story progressed. Both reactions reassure this mom that the movie kid-friendly.
With a running time of 78 minutes, Chimpanzee is short enough that it is a good length to hold the attention of small children and yet long enough to tell the story.
Chimpanzee opens in theaters April 20, 2012, with a portion of the proceeds from the first week to benefit Jane Goodall’s foundation to support chimpanzees. I highly recommend this film for adults and children alike, and if you are going to see it, you might as well go the first week to be part of the movement to help save the chimps for generations to come.
See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzees!
Disclosure – I was invited to a Chimpanzee premiere blogger event, however, all thoughts and opinions are my own.