Hot Take: Disneynature’s latest Earth Day contribution that is as adorable as you can expect any documentary about snow leopards, pandas, antelopes and monkeys to be. Warning: It goes for the feels!
Almost every year, Disneynature produces a documentary that coincides with Earth Day. This year’s offering is Born in China featuring narration by John Krasinksi and noticeably lacking any commentary about the effect of climate change on the habitat of the animals we follow. Instead, the stories are humanized and emotional. The beautifully shot and slickly edited documentary contains a number of incredible shots promoting family values and the instinctiveness of familial love.
The documentary of animals indigenous to China (hence the title) contains four main stories featuring Dawa the Snow Leopard, a protective mother of two cubs dealing with the harsh conditions of the Chinese mountains, Tao Tao the Golden Monkey, a young boy who feels like an outsider after his family introduces a baby sister to the clan and looks to acceptance from another group of monkeys known as the Lost Boys, Ya Ya the Panda and her baby daughter Mei Mei who have a story but are so adorably cute, I don’t really remember what the story was other than wondering why pandas look like humans in bear costumes and a final vignette showing the migration of the chiru, a Tibetan antelope.
Chiru aside, the leopards, monkeys and pandas equally share screen time as the story rotates between the three. It’s likely you’ll have a favorite tale but the real star is the incredible cinematography and intimacy and access the documentarians provide. John Krasinski does his best to add drama and emotion to the story with his narration but the footage outweighs the narrative which actually isn’t a terrible thing. You’ll be hard pressed to find something more joyful than close-up shots of a golden monkey doing backflips or more cute than a mother panda cuddling with her daughter. Not just in this documentary but anywhere. There are some real sights to see which includes the Chinese landscapes which frame all of the animal action in Born in China.
Score another victory for Disneynature in their documentary series that was sorely missed last Earth Day. However, Born in China was worth the wait. There will now be two Disney movies which are triggered whenever I hear someone utter, “Circle of life.”
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- Cuteness Overload
The documentarians delivered a ton of impressive footage of these majestic animals in action. Even the outtake footage that rolls with the credits is impressive and actually contains some of the funniest footage in the film. All of it is beyond cute though and a testament to the beauty of life and nature.
- Some Real Emotion Mixed In With the Manufactured Moments
It’s hard not to get attached to the main characters. It’s also difficult to watch Dawa struggle to find food for her starving cubs. Despite an injury, Dawa takes on a suicide mission to try and score dinner by attacking a herd of yak. It’s a life-and-death battle for both sides.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Ducking the Environmental Issues
Some of the challenges faced by these species has to do with environmental changes including those brought on by global warming. The documentary strays away from any of those topics with only a brief mention during one of the three stories. The human narrative works as a story but the tale isn’t complete without the fact that the environment needs to be protected so that these creatures are not endangered.