Disney’s new movie, Earth, is The Lion King without the sing-along.
The documentary, which arrives in Washington Regal theaters on Earth Day, April 22, is a crash course in life across the planet. It starts at the North Pole, then heads south, covering everything from polar bears to great white sharks to baboons in less than two hours.
The film required 2,000 field hours in 42 countries, and the result is jaw-dropping aerial views of thousands of migrating caribou, up-close shots of polar-bear cubs taking their first steps, and time-lapse photography of seasons changing around the globe. The flashing green lights of the aurora australis in the Antarctic skies and the schools of fish swarming around giant sailfish are so unreal that they seem animated.
And like any good Disney movie, it’s got drama.
There’s humor: A male bird of paradise prepares for a mating “date” by clearing away all the twigs and scrubbing a branch with a leaf. There’s danger: A group of walruses attack a weakened polar bear after he goes after their cubs. And heartbreak: A baby elephant gets lost from the pack in a dust storm in the Kalahari desert. He finally finds their tracks but follows them in the wrong direction.
In general, the planet is a rosy place in Earth. The camera cuts away just before you can see the blood and gore of a wolf tearing apart a caribou calf. Global warming and human influences are never mentioned. And as the narrator says at the end of the film, “Sometimes it’s just paradise.” But then again, this is the same studio that brought you Bambi.
“The movie does have a happy ending,” director Alastair Fothergill said after a screening at E Street Cinema Tuesday night. “But every Disney movie has to have a happy ending.”