Disneynature’s newest film, Born in China, opened in theaters everywhere this past weekend! My kids and I have loved every Disneynature movie, and we were excited to hear about this latest production. No compensation was received for sharing this information. All activities, photos, and information about the movie has been provided by Disney. Thoughts are my own.
Did you know? Moviegoers who see Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure film “Born in China” during its opening week (April 21-27, 2017) will benefit the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Based on opening-week attendance, Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the WWF to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China.
China’s unique way of looking at nature is central to the story of “Born in China.”
“It is a story of life and death,” says director Lu Chuan. “In China, death is not the end of life. It’s another beginning. Wildlife has many beginnings, and we wanted to explore that in the movie. I want to help audiences around the world better understand this philosophy.”
According to Lu Chuan, directing a movie like “Born in China” initially called for a different approach. “For a feature film, you use your imagination and create everything from a blank page,” he says. “Disneynature films are character-driven stories, but the characters are the animals. So the story comes from the footage and is inspired by the lives these animals lead.”
“We shot so much footage,” said nature filmmaker Phil Chapman. “I’ve never worked on a project that had such an extreme shooting ratio. But as we sat and went through the rushes, watching and cataloging everything, these dramatic and touching stories began to emerge.”
Says Lu Chuan, “The footage was just great. I realized a nature movie is not so different from a feature film. I wanted to make a special movie—not just for audiences, but also for myself. I wanted to show how these animals are metaphors. They give birth, like we do. They do their best to raise their cubs, like we do. They succeed and they fail. And when they fail, consequences can be dire. Their drive to do what is best for their families resonates with all of us.”
Meet the Animals
Born in China features several different animals and their unique and touching stories. I love how the movie is built around the stories that unfolded naturally as filmmakers watched animals in their native habitat over an extended period of time. This is true “reality TV” at it’s finest!
From the moment “Born in China” was envisioned for the big screen, filmmakers knew pandas would be a central character in the film. “You can’t really do a nature movie set in China without featuring giant pandas,” says producer Phil Chapman.
Revered in China, the panda is endangered—there are only 1,864 living in the wild according to a 2014 census. Filmmakers captured stunning imagery of a mother panda and her cub as they interacted in the Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve, which is located in the Sichuan province in central China.
To ensure that the filmmakers would not endanger the animals by habituating them to humans, filmmakers were required to don “panda suits”—black and white garments made to look and smell like pandas—that allowed them to blend in with the subjects they were filming.
Filmmakers ventured to the Zhalong wetlands and Yancheng Coastal wetlands to film the cranes—beautiful birds with snow-white plumage, dramatic black markings and iconic red crowns. The film spotlights the migration of the bird, its ever-changing habitat and the distance it travels as the seasons change.
According to cinematographer Paul Stewart, getting up close to the birds was easier than he expected. “They are very nervous birds,” says Stewart. “When we wanted to get close to film the birds with their chicks, we were very cautious because we didn’t want to disturb a rare species like this. We were delighted that they accepted our presence and allowed us a rare glimpse of their lives with their chicks.”
GOLDEN SNUB-NOSED MONKEYS
Filmmakers initially planned to feature the first year of a monkey’s life. After capturing hours of footage of newborn monkeys, searching for the right, compelling story, filmmakers noticed a youngster who had recently welcomed a new baby sister.
“TaoTao’s life is turned upside down when his family turns its collective back on this young monkey—who previously was the center of attention,” says producer Roy Conli. “He no longer understands how he fits into his family or his troop.”
Fewer than 75,000 chiru remain on the planet, due to generations of poaching.
Every spring, thousands of female chiru bid adieu to the males and make an epic journey en route to the legendary Zhouonai Lake in the remote uplands of the Qinghai Plateau. There, they welcome new calves. Mothers and newborns bond and practice essential skills—like walking—before making the long trek home. “They take on what is perhaps the most difficult migration of any animal anywhere to give birth by this lake,” says field director Ben Wallis. “Nobody knows why, exactly, but the tradition is breathtaking to witness.”
China’s Qinghai Plateau, the highest mountain plateau on Earth, is home to the stunning and elusive show leopard. Experts estimate that there as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in Central Asia’s high mountains—though their hard-to-reach habitat and phenomenal ability to disappear make it difficult to gauge.
The film features a snow leopard mother—likely a first-time mom—struggling to take care of her cubs—and herself. “Dawa is an experienced hunter, but still has very little success, especially after being driven into a new territory by rival snow leopards,” says Leith. “One of the biggest myths of the wild world is that life is somehow easier for
predators. It’s not. Life is just as tough, maybe even tougher than it is for the prey.
Born in China Activity Packet and Educators Guide
These printable activity packets are not only entertaining and a great tie in to the movie for kids, but they are educational and encourage kids to dig deeper and learn about the animals and the environment that they see in Born in China. Simply click either of the images below to download the full-sized PDF and print at home.
Connect with Disneynature and Born in China:
- Like Disneynature on Facebook: https://Facebook.com/Disneynature
- Follow Disneynature on Twitter: https://Twitter.com/Disneynature
- Follow Disneynature on Tumbler: https://disneynature.tumblr.com/
- Follow Disneynature on Instagram: https://instagram.com/disneynature
- Visit the official BORN IN CHINA website: https://nature.disney.com/born-in-china
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