Disney’s nature documentaries have been earning the studio laurels and much publicity for over half a century, and their commitment to excellence is sustained in Chimpanzee, another in the latest series of Disneynature features. Like their True-Life Adventure Perri from the 1950s, a story with characters has been constructed around the nature footage shot in the intense rainforests of the Ivory Coast for Chimpanzee, and it’s a story that certainly holds the attention for the relatively brief running time of the film (78 minutes).
Chimpanzee (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 78 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: August 21 2012
Review Date: August 17, 2012
Life in the dense tropical rainforest in Africa can be undeniably cruel, and this film focuses on the story of Oscar, a two year old chimp living among a relatively small group of thirty-five chimpanzees in a section of the forest that boasts a huge grove of nut trees as well as generous supplies of berries and figs among other fruits. Oscar’s group is led by a large male named Freddy, and this group is under the constant evolving threat of a larger group of chimps (one hundred fifty or so) led by the brutal and battered Scar who are invading this territory due to their area’s lack of food and their larger numbers which would seem to indicate odds in their favor for success. The skirmishes that occur between these two rival groups will change Oscar’s world forever.
Director Alastair Fothergill is one of the geniuses behind the astonishing nature footage in Planet Earth among other celebrated projects, so it comes as no surprise that the images here are astonishing in their beauty and power. Whether it’s capturing the dreamy morning mist over the forest or a river of vicious army ants undulating on the ground in ever-increasing waves, the images alone make this a movie worth savoring. The touching story of Oscar and his struggle for survival with its astonishing twists and turns is merely icing on the cake. Time lapse photography is used on occasion to further startle and amaze with the forest’s shocking density of flora and fauna, and some shots of a grove of phosphorescent mushrooms simply take the breath away.
Tim Allen narrates the tale, perhaps in a too knowing and storybookish fashion when the images alone tell such a better tale, and giving all of the animals character names makes them easy to refer to but does cutsey the movie up more than it needed to be. Though there is death and destruction in the story being told, the movie is completely safe for all members of the family. There’s no blood in evidence (even in a sequence when the chimps attack another species of monkey to use them for food), and the attacks between the chimpanzee groups are more quick cuts and pans through the trees than any up-close-and-personal interactions between the combatants. The film ends with a coda for a few months later after the events of the film proper are concluded, but stay tuned to the end credits where fascinating behind-the-scenes images are presented. They’re in the bonus features, too, but they do offer a taste of the great information contained in the documentaries on the making of the movie.
The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. As sharp, clear, and colorful as anything on Planet Earth or Blue Planet, this is a beautiful looking documentary feature. The greens of the forest are lush but without ever going electric or out of control. Amazing details are there to see in close-ups so vivid that you can count the wrinkles in the faces or hairs on the heads of these threatened-for-extinction creatures. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix begins somewhat tentatively, but by the halfway point the sounds of the jungle are thoroughly present all around you in this exciting presentation. Not only do ambient sounds turn up in the split surround channels, but a fierce storm which strikes places the viewer in the midst of it all with great use of the fronts, rears, and LFE channel. Tim Allen’s narration is easy to understand and has been placed in the center channel.
“On Location: The Making of Chimpanzee” is no puff piece but an excellent 39-minute overview of this three year journey to bring the film in. The documentary is divided into seven featurettes which can be viewed individually or can be played together to form the full running time, but either way, the information shows the herculean effort it took to make this film possible, trekking two hours through near-impenetrable jungles to get to the chimps each day, undergoing massive amounts of bee stings, ant bites, and other creepy crawlies to get seconds of footage in the finished film, and all manner of surprises that awaited the production team each day on the job. It’s in 1080p.
“See Chimpanzee; Save Chimpanzees” is a 3 ¼-minute featurette with director Mark Linfield, wildlife expert Jane Goodall, and other members of the staff discussing the threat of extinction these creatures face. It’s in 1080p.
“Rise” music video is performed by the McClain Sisters who composed the song to be sung over the closing credits. It runs 4 ¼ minutes in 1080p.
The McClain Sisters speak for 1 ¼ minutes about writing the song and how the movie provided such inspiration for their creating the music. It's also in 1080p.
“Disney’s Conservation Legacy” is a 1 ¾-minute puff piece on Disney’s ongoing efforts at conservation offering a percentage of the film’s profits to organizations dedicated to conservation. It’s in 1080i.
“Disney’s Friends for Change” feature the McClain Sisters again in a plea for more concern about keeping the planet safe for all plants and animals. It runs ¾ minute in 1080i.
The disc offers promo trailers for Cinderella, Finding Nemo 3D, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3, and Secret of the Wings.
The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.
4/5 (not an average)
Chimpanzee is a narrative nature documentary that will entertain every member of the family. The reference quality photography and exciting soundtrack that puts you in the midst of this tropical rainforest are memorable, and the story of the film’s making is as interesting as the movie itself. Recommended!