I love nature documentaries. I really really do. I don’t know why exactly. Perhaps I find them soothing. Perhaps, despite my grades in certain classes in school, I actually really enjoy learning. For whatever reason, this love of nature docs made the chance to see Disney Nature’s latest outing, Born in China, seem like a great way to spend my Earth Day. Armed with a predisposition for the love of baby pandas, we headed to the theater, ready for an overload of cuteness. So is this Chinese themed wilderness trip worth exploring, or are you better off with a copy of Kung Fu Panda? Read on to find out.
Director Chuan Lu, utilizing the voice of John Krasinski, quickly sets the scene of Chinese nature being a sort of mythological stories as well as the idea of life, death and rebirth and from here we are introduced to the major players of the film. In reality, this is mostly done with the use of adorable baby animals. Mei Mei, a baby panda is really a show stealer and watching her grow to be able to leave her mother is both very moving yet also quite heartbreaking. Despite this, Mei Mei provided many of the “Aww” moments and hearty chuckles as she rolled down a hill after being spooked by a falling leaf. How can you not love these animals?!
Another show stopper here is Tao Tao, a Golden snub-nosed monkey who quickly finds that he loses the affection of his parents when his baby sister is born. He leaves the nest and joins a group of ill mannered male monkeys who enjoy breaking branches and not having a care in the world. By the end of the film, we see see Tao Tao forced to grow up and protect his sister as the harsh reality of the world sets in.
Speaking of harsh realities. No one knows this better than Dawa, a snow leopard who easily wins the most devastating story of the film as she tries desperately to obtain food for her cubs, only to come up short through the harsh winter. Dawa’s story shows us that life is not always easy and doesn’t always have a happy ending, and while her pain is certainly family friendly in what we see, it was deeply depressing to watch, despite the cuteness of every other story around her.
We never really get to know the Chiru, or Tibetan antelope, by name, but I will point out that watching the males strut to win the affection of the females made me laugh hysterically. I can’t even describe it. It’s just hilarious. I wish real males did this, because that would make flirting a laugh worthy event every single time.
Born in China is adorable. There is 100% no denying that. As a fan of Nature Docs though, I found that so much attention was put on the cuteness and telling these stories of these animals, which really felt like characters, that the actual documentary part seemed very lacking. What I mean to say is that one of my favorite parts of a Nature Doc is the piece where we learn fascinating tidbits about nature’s rarest creatures, but I didn’t feel like I got that here. Sure, we got a lot of footage, but I left the theater not really feeling as though I’d learned very much, and that’s a shame, because while the stories were super cute and fun, I would have loved to walk away with a bit more knowledge.
The flip side of this, however, is that the lightness of this film makes it extremely family friendly and perhaps a great starting point if you are looking to get the kiddos interested in this sort of film. And despite my want of more facts, one can’t deny that Born in China is visually stunning and, because we really get to know these animals, incredibly touching. All that said, if you’re looking for a way to celebrate Earth Day with the family, I fully endorse Born in China. If you’re looking to really learn about the animals of our awesome planet, head on over to Planet Earth or any other BBC Nature show.
Will you be checking out Born in China? If yes, tell me what you think of it! If not, tell me what amazing thing you did on Earth Day instead! I want to hear about all the things in the comments!