Earth, a collaborative effort by Disney Studios and the BBC, offers viewers some stunning visuals of the world where we live. However, if you’re a fan of the television series “Planet Earth”, you’ll likely recognize some of this footage that appears to have been recycled from that program along with a line or two from a Disney classic.
The documentary focuses on the migratory journeys of several different species during a one-year cycle of the Earth’s rotation around the sun. In the cold Arctic snows, a polar bear and her cubs poke their noses out of a snow bank and make their way to the water’s edge in search of dinner. A humpback whale and her calf leave the warm waters of the tropics in search of better feeding grounds thousands of miles away and a herd of elephant parents and babies make an arduous journey to a watering hole on the African continent. These “stars”, along with several other groups of mammals and birds, depict the resilience and struggles faced by members of the animal kingdom around the planet.
Narrated by James Earl Jones, (Patrick Stewart voices the English version) the film also contains some great musical scores to accompany the gorgeous cinematography. However, younger audiences may find it difficult to engage in a movie without any talking characters or a specific storyline. Still, with fairly sanitized hunting encounters and only a brief mating dance (which is rejected), the film offers few concerns that parents might have to explain later.
The production also steers clear of an oppressive environmental message although it does address some of the problems and dangers faced by the animals as a result of global warming. And maybe that is what I found a little disappointing about this first feature-length installment of Disney Nature. While I’m not interested in paying for yet another heavy-handed guilt trip about my ecological footprint, I’m also not sure animal antics alone (even these beautifully filmed ones) contain a strong enough argument about my responsibility to the planet to justify the environmental impact of my trip to the theatre.