Go Ape For Disney’s ‘Chimpanzee’

Megan Cross and Tazi Phillips, Global Animal

Fall in love with Oscar, a three-year old chimp, in Disney’s new movie, Chimpanzee. This beautifully photographed True Life Adventure will transport moviegoers into the Tai Forest on Africa’s Ivory Coast, and into the lives of baby Oscar and his mother, Isha.

Actor Tim Allen narrates Oscar’s daily adventures, and his attempts to learn the ins and outs of survival and the ever entertaining practice of nut cracking. However, not everything is carefree in the life of this adorable chimp, as a rival chimp troop, led by a burly-looking Scar, encroaches on their territory.

The rivalry for territory between Oscar’s family and Scar’s group turns tragic when Oscar and his mother are permanently separated. Too young to survive on his own without his mother, Oscar’s survival seems unlikely.

A malnourished Oscar approaches Freddy, his group’s leader, who allows Oscar to ride on his back, a profound moment where the elder male undertakes the care of the orphan. A rare occurrence among chimpanzee groups in the wild, the film crew stumbled upon this unique relationship, and watched it unfold.  “It was just amazing and very touching to see this big, normally gruff male pour his love and devotion into caring for Oscar,” said producer and director Mark Linfield.

A story that begins with a heartbreaking loss, turns into the remarkable bond between Oscar and Freddy and the individual triumph of an orphaned chimpanzee.

Disney ChimpanzeeAlthough the film is just 78 minutes, directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield and their talented crew spent three years making the film. “I have made wildlife films on almost every animal on the planet, in almost every habitat on the planet,” states Fothergill, “and there is no doubt in my mind that by far the most challenging is working with Chimpanzee’s in the rainforest.” The footage shot by the filmmakers is extraordinary, capturing the sights and sounds of the African rain forest along with the incredible personalities of the chimpanzees.

“I have always wanted to make a film about chimpanzees and I don’t think there could be a more fascinating wildlife subject,” Linfield says. “They can be playful and tender, cunning, loving, competitive, curious and simply full of fun. They’re just like us, or we’re just like them, however you want to think of it, and when they look out at us from the big screen, it’s impossible not to feel an extraordinary connection and be completely engaged.”

While the film effectively captures the intelligence, social bonds, and ingenuity of chimpanzees, it sometimes lacks the educational information that could ultimately help save these wild primates. 100 years ago, one million chimpanzees lived in the rain forests of equatorial Africa. Only one tenth of that population survives today, mainly due to habitat loss and illegal hunting. Some estimations indicate that great ape populations will decline by 80 percent within the next 30 to 40 years. “Disneynature movies are made to entertain audiences,” says Don Hahn, executive producer, “but there’s also a subtext to them, which is if we’re going to be caretakers of this planet and share it with all the other animals that inhabit this place, we need to be aware of their lives.”

In an interview with Global Animal, Jane Goodall explained some of the things she hopes people will take away from the film. “Learn more and be more aware, and realize the interconnectedness of everything, so that in saving chimps you must save the rainforest. Saving the rainforest you slow down climate change. All these things are interconnected.” She adds, “If we’re not raising new generations to be better stewards than we’d be, then we might as well give up. One of the most important things we can do is encourage young people to develop the right attitudes.”

For every moviegoer who sees Chimpanzee during opening week, Disneynature will make a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) to help protect chimpanzees and their habitats. So go in the first week, or donate to the Jane Goodall Institute.

Love triumphs in this true tale the whole family will enjoy. A heartwarming, beautiful story we can highly recommend.

We give Chimpanzee a 4 out of 5 paw rating.

Chimpanzee opens in theaters this Friday, April 20, just in time for Earth Day.

Watch the full trailer here.