Chimpanzee Blu-ray Review

The name Disney is synonymous with children’s features, feature length cartoons, a fruitful partnership with Pixar… but who would have known that they would find a way to “Disney-fy” the nature-documentary genre? Most people probably don’t know (I didn’t until doing research for this review) but Disney actually produced an acclaimed nature documentary series called TRUE-LIFE ADVENTURES (1948-1960). So in many ways Disneynature is a return to their roots. But for those of us who didn’t grow up with during the early days of Disney, the first few Disneynature films felt more like low-rent television mini-series than feature films.

Oscar learning to use tools

CHIMPANZEE is the most recent release from Disneynature and it is a different animal all together. In fact, it follows one of my favorite creatures, the lovable near-human but terrifyingly wild chimpanzee. Shot over three years in the African rainforests, CHIMPANZEE focuses on the young life of one baby chimpanzee named Oscar. Oscar is very young when we join him, living with his mother and learning about the hierarchy within his clan. It’s a simple story being told here, but no less intriguing or engaging for that simplicity.

Chimpanzee; Oscar rests

Oscar is born during a rough time for his group. There is a rival family of chimps who have been challenging his clan for the right to control a small area that is rich with food. As Oscar grows and learns about his family, how to eat and use simple tools, who to respect and who to avoid, we are given a glimpse of a simple truth about ourselves in a world where material possessions are given far more value than the loved ones from/to whom we get/give so much.

Oscar and his mother enjoy fruit

One of the reasons chimps are such engaging creatures for human beings is that they seem to be innocent, cute little human analogs. In fact, most of the movie is presented in this way, all but just a few moments that cross into the truly wild nature of these creatures and what they are capable of… but the vast majority of the film is a lovingly crafted, beautifully presented, and technically flawless documentary feature. Part of this prowess comes simply from the Disney brand but the rest comes together because of the love of the filmmakers. You get a good sense of this watching the extra features (see below) but even watching the movie you just can’t imagine how much time and effort must have been put into getting this amazing footage.

Another beautiful view of the rainforest.

Narration for CHIMPANZEE is provided by Tim Allen, who really excels at voice work and is nicely matched with this feature. My only frustration with the film is in its G-rating. It actually reminds me of the old cartoon features – how there was always a dark moment that added a grain of truth and sorrow. Think Bambi’s mother being killed by the hunter… there are just a few moments that I personally think were a bit over a G-rating. But overall, CHIMPANZEE is a very nice film and something the entire family will enjoy. And, if you found yourself turned off by the social messages overtly presented in Disneynature’s first two films EARTH (2009) and OCEANS (2010), I’m happy to tell you this film lacks that in-your-face message. If you like documentaries or films about nature, I highly recommend this one.


Video: (1080p, 1.78:1 Widescreen) CHIMPANZEE’s picture is absolutely breathtaking, giving some of the most beautiful shots of African rain forest you’ve ever seen. Breathtaking.

Audio: (English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Original Theatrical Mix) The sound is beautiful and engaging (and sometimes scary) even if you don’t have a great sound system all throughout CHIMPANZEE. You feel like you are inside the forest alongside our primate friends.

Oscar learns how to open nuts

On Location: The Making of CHIMPANZEE (38:54) This 7 part featurette gives tons of background and behind-the-scenes information on the 3 year shoot that turned into CHIMPANZEE. This is the way that ‘making-of’ featurettes should be put together on every Blu-ray. Fantastic.

The filmmakers on location

See CHIMPANZEE, Save Chimpanzees (03:13) A short message from the filmmakers lauding Disney’s commitment to donate proceeds from the ticket-sales, Blu-ray and DVD sales of CHIMPANZEE to preserve African rain forest for the chimps.

“Rise” Music Video by McClain Sisters (04:18) This song, featured in CHIMPANZEE, is given the full HD treatment on this Blu-ray. The mix on television is not strong, though it is a pretty song.

Behind The Scenes of “Rise” (01:17) McClain Sisters talk about their involvement in CHIMPANZEE. Short enough to be bearable, too short to give us anything of import.

Disney’s Conservation Legacy (01:48) A Disney commercial talking about all the good they have done to help conservation efforts. It feels weird on the Blu-ray for CHIMPANZEE.

Disney’s Friends For Change (00:47) McClain Sisters are back in this quick commercial asking kids and families to join Disney’s online effort. This has nothing to do with CHIMPANZEE other than serving as another chance to spotlight the tie-in Disney record.


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