The first documentary from Disney's Disneynature imprint follows three animal families as they cross the globe seeking food and safety. Titled “Earth,” the documentary is ostensibly a year in the life of planet Earth. With spectacular vistas and panoramic views, the film delivers. But the focus is on specific animals facing threats -- a polar bear family facing a shrinking ice cap, an elephant and her calf seeking water, and a humpback whale and its calf migrating 4,000 miles seeking food.
The film was made by the same filmmakers who made the Discovery Channel “Planet Earth” miniseries, and viewers will notice some footage has been recycled from that miniseries. Still, its big-screen presentation offers a new perspective. James Earl Jones narrates the tale, and keeps audiences engaged, though nothing in the script is as magnificent as the images on the screen. For a G-rated film, it's unflinching -- all of the film's “stars” do not survive, and predator facing off with prey is presented in a straightforward fashion. The film does, thankfully, cut away from what would be more gruesome moments. There's perhaps more anthropomorphizing than you'd get in a standard nature documentary -- using the terms “dad” and “mom” for animal parents, for example -- but for the most part the filmmakers are simply showing nature as it is. Viewers will be caught up in the stories of these animals while growing to appreciate the world in which they live. While there's not that much new in “Earth,” it is a stunning film to look at, with eye-catching photography throughout. The ecological message is present but not heavy-handed, and could serve as a way to begin a dialogue with younger viewers about the Earth and its denizens.