Sunday, May 03, 2009


Yesterday we took the girls to the movie theater to see the DisneyNature film earth. Wow, was it good. I loved the 11 episode BBC/Discovery Channel Planet Earth from 2007, and wasn't sure how it could be improved.

But Disney went through all the BBC/Discovery Channel footage, recut and edited it, hired James Earl Jones to narrate, and stuck it on the big screen, complete with an introduction to DisneyNature by Walt himself! I like the whole DisneyNature concept, and I also liked how they turned the iconic Cinderella's Castle image into a snowy mountain for the credits. The movie was good.

But it was a gamble, taking the girls. Ellie still prefers animation to live action kids shows, and this is a 90 minute nature documentary. Ada is . . . two. So I wasn't sure they'd be able to sit through the whole thing.

Also, I'd read the Newsweek article "Where the Wild Things Die," about "why the new movie Earth might terrify your kids." The goal of the film, according to co-director Mark Linfield, "was to portray the wild kingdom honestly without having to "Disney-ify" the film." There was death in the movie, certainly, though nothing explicit and no blood. We saw a polar bear fail in hunt after hunt, then lie down in the snow while the narrator explains that he's too exhausted to continue and can't survive without food. We see a seal tail disappearing into a shark's mouth. We see a cheetah catch and embrace her prey.

But I decided that I'm OK with that. I don't want my kids to see blood, guts, gore, and unnecessary violence. But I also don't see the benefit in pretending that death doesn't happen, that predators don't eat . . . prey. After all, my kids know that chicken nuggets are made from chickens. I also figured that I could convince Ada that, "It's OK, the mommy will find the baby" where necessary, like when the baby elephant wandered blindly away from the herd after a sandstorm.

Ada loved the movie. And she really got it, too. She was most anxious when baby animals were in danger (adult victims she was less concerned about) but she didn't cry and was easily reassured. She narrated the whole film to me, right along with James Earl Jones. And she LOVED the fun parts, like the ducklings learning to fly ("They're bouncing!") and the camera flying dizzyingly over waterfalls. I say that she "got" it all, even the disturbing parts, without much additional help from me. But she did ask about dinosaurs during the rain forest part. I'm wondering when she saw Jurassic Park without me knowing about it?

Ellie was OK for the first half, but the second 45 minutes were a a bit more of a chore for all of us. (Except for Ada who was engrossed in the film.) Ellie wanted to talk, walk around, leave, anything but stay in her seat. Eventually even food bribery failed. But we made it through to the end without being shushed by our (not near) neighbors. Hey, rated G matinee on a weekend? You have to expect some child activity in the theater, right?

We talked about the movie afterward, and the girls shared their most memorable moments. I don't think either of them are scarred. Though Ada was up inexplicably between 3:30 and 4:30 this morning. She wasn't crying or anxious, just . . . awake. Perhaps she was still processing.

Leaving First Watch after brunch today, Ada was lagging a bit behind. "What are you doing?" I asked her. Then I watched more carefully. She held her arms stiff by her sides, and was doing an odd little prance. "I penguin!" she explained. She was a penguin all the way to the car. Too cute.

I'm so glad we went! (Paul would have enjoyed a stiff drink afterward, as he was very involved with Ellie throughout.)


brooke said...

that's a great recommendation. when it gets to the $1.50 i'll have to go.. and i have some friends with a 2 year old who says things like 'mama's baby is in her uterus' and "peace out!" when you give her knuckles, so it sounds like it would be right up her alley. yep yep, i must see about taking cmd and her parents with me when i go.

RobMonroe said...

A stiff drink sounds like it was called for. :o) Glad the movie was good and that the experience was okay. You're right about the timing of the showing and expectations of others around you, in my opinion.

I hate when people give me dirty looks at Chik-Fil-A at lunch when Abby lets out a hearty "WHOO!" when I say we're going to play. C'mon people, it's a toddler at lunch in a fast food joint. I'm not taking her to The Melting Pot and ruining your dinner, okay!?

Sarahlynn said...

Brooke, we practiced by watching the "Pole to Pole" episode of the BBC/Discovery Planet Earth series, which we still had recorded. But there are nice video clips and previews on the DisneyNature site, too, if your friends want to try out the idea on their daughter first. They sound like neat people!

Rob, yeah, seriously!

Amanda said...

I want to see this - may have to borrow a small child.

Sarahlynn said...

Amanda, no small child necessary! (That's just extra fun.) The movie is just rated G because it's a nature documentary, not because it's specifically target to little ones. :) But I totally would have gone without the kids.