Oh, the places you'll go, courtesy of Earth, Disneynature's first foray into environmental filmmaking that has been rolling out across the globe since 2007 and now finally reaches the States.
Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield's breathtaking documentary goes to impressive lengths to capture the animals, vegetables, and minerals occupying the four corners of our planet. With time-lapse photography and miraculous aerial shots taken from hot air balloons, the filmmakers display what Earth narrator James Earl Jones calls the rhythm of the seasons on the third rock from the sun. (Stay through the end credits for insightful footage of the directors on land, in the air, and under the sea.) Article continues below
Jones mixes humor with educational trivia about the earth's unique environments during his narration as the documentary tracks polar bear cubs in the arctic and junior elephants in arid South Africa. The baby animals are adorable -- reminding us time and again that Disney produces this documentary – but the film also embraces the consequences of wilderness life, so parents should be warned. Hungry cheetahs hunt weaker animals. A papa polar bear starves to death when he fails to find food. Adults may smile when the voice of Mufasa discusses the circle of life, but the sight of an actual lion king sinking its claws into an overmatched elephant could have young ones cowering in their seats.
Overall, Earth entertains as much as it educates. Its messages aren't earth-shattering. Other documentaries, from An Inconvenient Truth and Arctic Tale to March of the Penguins, have covered a lot of this ground before. But they are lessons that bear repeating, and the spectacular cinematography already has me looking forward to Disneynature's Oceans, promised for 2010.