Making the Grades
Right on cue, Disneynature releases another movie for Earth Day—a feat that would be even more impressive if they could find a way to lessen the environmental impact of the garbage created at the movie’s screenings.
This time the subject matter is a little chimpanzee named Oscar who lives with his mother and their troop in the Taï National Park in the Ivory Coast. While many of the studio’s past movies (Earth, Oceans and African Cats) are masterful feats of cinematography, Chimpanzee introduces an unbelievably charming main character. Watching him learn to crack nuts, climb trees and retrieve bugs out of an old log for his dinner reminds viewers of a human infant’s antics. But that should come as no surprise. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, humans and chimpanzees share 95 to 98 percent of the same DNA, making chimps more closely related biologically to humans than gorillas.
As the credits roll, audiences get a glimpse of the challenges the directors, Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, and their camera crew endured to capture hours of intimate and up-close footage of the animals in a natural setting. The resulting documentary is an educational peek into the everyday interactions of the chimpanzees. But according to Fothergill, the project was not without surprises for the filmmakers (check video below)...
For families with young children, the moviemakers have artfully concealed the harshest realities of animals in the wild. (The stalking and killing of a monkey for dinner as well as other moments of death and peril are mitigated by brevity and the angle of the camera shots.) Still the death of Oscar’s mother like so many other Disney orphan stories may be disturbing for some children. Luckily, as with any fairytale, this film manages a happy ending thanks to the most unexpected occurrence.
Narration by Tim Allen along with beautiful cinematography, strong editing and a musical score used as storytelling devices will keep most audience members captivated for the 79 minute run-time. And with a portion of the opening weekend proceeds ($.20 per ticket) going to the Jane Goodall Institute, the studio helps audiences make a modest contribution to the survival of the animals on screen.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Chimpanzee.
Do films such as this one give audiences a better understanding of the animals or environments that are depicted? Can this kind of knowledge help contribute to the protection and preservation of endangered species or habitats?
What similarities did you find between Oscar and human babies? How do the animals use tools to help them in their everyday activities? Are there other creatures that also use tools?
Home Video Viewing Alternatives
Here are some ideas for home video titles that are related to Chimpanzee.
An inquisitive monkey charms audiences in Curious George. Another orphan finds a caring family among primates in the animated film Tarzan. Disneynature follows other animal families in African Cats, Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos and Oceans.