DisneyNature, The Walt Disney Company,
Tina Fey (Narrator)
Disney has now established a tradition of bringing us a new nature feature on Earth Day every year. This is the new one for this year, Monkey Kingdom. This follows a group of monkeys through a season, losing their home to a meaner tribe and attempting to win it back along with all their other trials and tribulations. Tina Fey is the narrator telling us the story of the action in this exciting nature film.
Walt Disney was one of the cleverest movie producers of his time. He was the first to recognize the power of Television and rushed to create content (and cut and reuse existing content) to fill up a Sunday evening time slot for the newly formed ABC network that was hurting for content. Walt’s biggest dream was Disneyland, and the Disneyland show was born advertising Walt’s new destination, helping ABC, and making Disney very popular in the process and raising funds to pay for the new park. One of the lands was “Adventureland” and Walt and the crew came up with the idea of creating stories of a wild animal of some sort and giving it human qualities and emotions and making it a “good show”. Films like “Charlie the Lonesome Cougar” came about and brought down some harsh criticism for making up a story about a wild animal and dissing Mother Nature in the process, so Walt set out some of his best photographers and the brought us the “Tru Life Adventures” that were actually very well done and tried to show nature in its natural glory without humanizing the animals. Now I am not naive enough to believe that these photographers did not stage some of these scenes to make a better story, but for the most part they did film hours and hours of footage to put together a one hour program. DisneyNature was to be the natural followup to these films. With the success of some of the IMAX films and the Penguin stories that we all came to know and love, it seemed like a good marriage for Disney. With better technology for not only getting the shots, but also displaying the stunning scenery on the huge screens in today’s theaters, it seems like a spectacular grand idea for the always “green” Disney Company to bring out on Earth Day, and it was pretty well received for the big splash in the first year or so. Lately it seems it’s been languishing in obscurity, and I’m not sure they’re faring well in the box office. I think this whole bit is about this one point. I think they are missing the point and bringing back the old Human animals idea which is sort of, in my humble opinion, against the very essence of what DisneyNature was supposed to be. This is a classic example of how far it has slipped back into the fiction category. Don’t get me wrong, this film is very, very beautiful and the photography is spectacular and well worth the 4 stars I am giving this film. My problem though is with the narration. They have really gone off the deep end with explaining in the “storytelling” what the monkeys are thinking, how they are feeling, emotions they may or may not be showing and the plans and war strategies that they are contemplating. I look at my dogs, and I want to say “Oh look how bored he is, or look how sad he is, or look how he wants us to forgive him. I WANT to think my dog has a whole strategy in his head, but he probably doesn’t think like a human. When I think he is showing remorse or guilt, perhaps he is just aware that I’m not in a good mood and somehow he’s involved in my mood and the likelihood of me giving him a nice treat is very slim, so he’s trying to do what has worked before in changing my mood so he can get something to eat. Maybe he can’t even reason to that level but is just doing what dogs do. I really think a group of monkeys do have a way of life that works for them, and I do think the make choices to some degree, but I don’t think the plan strategy for all this stuff. They proceed to have Tina Fey tell us how the royal born monkeys get the best seats and due to their lack of experience in the streets, they have no experiences dealing with the dangers like the street monkeys do. There are a host of examples all the way through where the monkeys have cute names and human-like personalities, and I think this detracts from the beauty and hard work of the cinematographers to bring such stunning images to the screen. You might want to consider turning down the sound and watching the movie in silence. Still, it’s a must see story for the images if not the hokey narration.
P.S. This review has to have had the highest number of spelling corrections of any I’ve done so far. It seems I cannot spell monkeys without spelling it Monkees. I guess I am a child of the 60’s after all.
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