Born in China – Movie Review
Rating: B (Good)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios
Nobody is going to mistake the Disneynature series as being strongly educational, especially when compared to other nature documentaries. Even its inspiration, the True-Life Adventures, sought more to provide educational facts about animals. However, films like Born in China serve a necessary purpose in allowing children to experience these animals up close in a manner that still shows the dangers of their natural habitat. The narration may threaten to get too cutesy, but these are swiftly paced and pleasant for all audiences. They don’t beat a day at the zoo or even Disney’s Animal Kingdom, for that matter, but the Disneynature films do their job with the right level of respect for the environment.
Most Disneynature films keep the focus primarily on a specific animal they provide a name sake to. Born in China takes a different approach by telling stories about three animals and their search to survive through the changing seasons. The pandas and monkeys will probably be the audience favourites and they provide the necessary “Aww” factor, but the snow leopard is a splendor to watch, too. The animals are instantly endearing and the story the filmmakers craft for them do not belittle what they might be feeling in those moments. All of these plots are given equal attention by director Chuan Lu.
Born in China might be the most beautifully photographed of the Disneynature films, with some incredible shots of the landscapes and environments of the Chinese wilderness. The crew captures some amazing angles, though the end credits reveal they were a lot closer than we might think. The entire film gives an immersive experience as the camera swoops over the hills and near the trees, placing us directly in the middle of the action. Even the best zoos can’t capture the feeling of being right along with the animals as they attempt to survive or try to catch their potentially tasty prey.
As is tradition, a celebrity has been brought in to provide a narration. Disneynature scripts tend to overemphasize the cuddly nature of these animals and John Krasinski’s narration continues that aspect of these films. He gives the animals names and context for their apparent thoughts. It is fairly obvious the footage is edited to fit into a specific narrative created by the filmmakers, but Krasinski’s narration doesn’t descend too much into cuteness like earlier Disneynature narrations from John C. Reilly and Tim Allen’s. These documentaries are produced primarily for a child audience, but Born in China doesn’t sugarcoat the harsh environments as much as previous entries in this series.
It is nice Disney continues to produce the Disneynature films. These films give money to good causes as well as introduce children to some amazing animals. They are hardly the most thematically rich nature documentaries, but they are a necessary good deed and a calm break from other fare that is usually released in multiplexes. Next year will see the release of Dolphins, which should provide plenty more charming adventures. This is an annual Earth Day tradition people should welcome more.