I’ve got animal loving boys. Big animal loving boys. Zacharie donates his birthday money to rescued birds of prey, I paid extra to get him backstage to meet the Wild Kratts, and he likes playing hide and seek with nature when we go camping. We planned an entire vacation around Zacharie’s desire to see a real life Florida panther.
My son is exactly the kind of passionate advocate animals of this planet need. So we watch all the shows about all the animals. Yes, it started with Wild Kratts, but it’s morphed into everything from Bondi Vet to Planet Earth II.
And that’s where Disneynature’s Born In China comes in. The film is the latest annual Earth Day offering by Disney to celebrate the animals of our planet. It follows a monkey, a panda, a herd of chiru, and a family of snow leopards through a year of their life in the varying regions of China.
Disclosure: I’m a skeptic. I have a tendency to seek out BS and I think I’ve found it in this film. When it comes to describing China, the soaring script borders on propaganda. John Krasinski gives special awe to the text trying to describe China as a vast unspoiled landscape of awesome nature.
Sure, that might be part of China, but the east coast is dominated by choking pollution and overpopulation. It seems the government is looking to change the messaging and the script is there to sell the story.
And it kind of works. The rugged landscapes shown in the film appear as awesome as our own Rocky Mountains or northern tundra and plains. But still, it was gnawing at me that this was government spin.
Then comes the story: it feels very dumbed down. The animals are given names and Krasinki’s narration has a sing song style to it trying to will humour from every interaction. Since we had just binged the Planet Earth II series in the past few weeks, we were very much in the mood for animal documentaries, but the Disney version lacked the punch of the BBC series.
And it also felt derivative. The footage from Born in China and Sir David Attenborough‘s Planet Earth series feel very familiar, with the Planet Earth storytelling far surpassing the Disney edition.
As the final credits rolled on Born In China, we learned about the crew who made the movies. How they would hike into the mountain passes to get these shots. How the would camp through snow and sleet to get stunning time lapses of the valleys. THAT is a movie I’d watch. A story about the people who care so much about telling the stories of these animals and what they put themselves through to get that story.
Maybe I’m so fascinated by those people because I could see my son up there one day, camping in a tree trying to tell the world the story of the greatest gifts the world gives us – animals.