By Dr. Zaius
Tuesday, December 20th, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Disneynature’s Growing Up Wild Digital HD | VOD
Directed and produced by Keith Scholey and Mark Linfield
Narrated by Daveed Diggs
Disneynature | 77 minutes
Release date: December 8th, 2016
Back in 2008, Walt Disney Studios launched Disneynature, a unit of their studios to produce nature documentaries. They have released 8 films on a wide variety of animals, narrated by big name stars such as Meryl Streep and Samuel L. Jackson. Just arriving for the holidays is Growing Up Wild, covering five animal families ranging three continents. The documentary is narrated by Daveed Diggs (Black-ish/The Get Down).
My wife and I snuggled up with our 6-year old daughter and 2-year old cat to watch this film, and most importantly, my daughter absolutely loved it. Of course, she spent the early part of the film saying various forms of “Awww” at the cute baby animals… okay, so did we. But soon she was getting interested and inquisitive, and that right there gives it a huge thumbs up. When a first grader starts telling you about books in her classroom about monkeys, because you’re watching a documentary about monkeys, you know the filmmakers are doing something right, and Disneynature earned a fan.
The five animal clans followed are Alaskan brown bears, African plains cheetahs and lions, Sri Lankan macaques, and chimpanzees from the African rainforest. We watch these animals in stages from bracing the dangers of their first years in adverse geographic conditions, to avoiding other predatory dangers, finding food, and learning to hunt. The brown bears for instance wake up from hibernation in dens in the Alaskan mountains, and avoid avalanche conditions to make it to grassland where they can load up on food. But they must avoid powerful male bears, who stalk and try to lure the cubs away. Sitting with my 6-year old, I was afraid how graphic they would get, if at all, and while they don’t sugarcoat the truth about wild animals, gorehounds need not apply… this is DISNEYnature after all. There was a conversation about “what are the lions doing?” that ended with “eating the zebra baby.”
The photography is so beautiful and the animals are really adorable throughout. The Sri Lankan macaques for instance have a strict social order, and look down on those who can’t keep up with the food gathering. One poor guy was left behind, but then adopted by a large male in the group. There was a collective sigh of relief from my family. Also, it’s very educational. The macaques for instance are proficient swimmers who routinely swim underwater for food while storing the fruit and plants in the cheek pouches. Watching them bounce around the trees, our daughter said,”We have a book in school called, Hang On Monkey.” She also made connections to The Lion King, and the Disney Junior show Lion Guard when they showed hyenas going after the cheetah cubs, and lions battling buffaloes on the plains.
Growing Up Wild was a “wildly” entertaining nature documentary that can and should be enjoyed with the whole family. It captivated the mind of the 6-year-old for over an hour, and kept her parents invested. The film is available on Amazon for a $4.99 rental.
Life is an adventure – especially for a newborn animal who has so much to learn. “Growing Up Wild” takes audiences to the wildest corners of the planet to tell the tales of five courageous animals as they tackle the very first challenges of their young lives. With a little guidance from sage family members, each must figure out how and where to find food, while learning to recognize the very real threat of danger. From their first steps of exploring their world to their final steps into independence, “Growing Up Wild” reveals the triumphs and setbacks of five young lives in which instinct, parental lessons, and trial & error ultimately define their destinies. Featuring the stunning imagery and iconic storytelling that makes Disneynature’s big-screen adventures an inspiring movie-going experience, “Growing Up Wild”, brings home a special look at how similar and different these young lives can be.