New to Disney+ this week are the fun-filled animal documentaries “Elephant” and “Dolphin Reef.” Part of the Disneynature series that have made films such as “Penguins” and “Chimpanzee” these two films are fun, brightly filmed adventures following animals as they face the tribulations of life and nature.
“Elephant” follows a family of African elephants in Zimbabwe on their journey over thousands of miles from their riverside home across the Kalahari Desert in search of food and water until the dry season ends. Led by their Matriarch Gaia, the elephants face countless dangers at every turn; from the blistering heat, starvation and even a pride of menacing lions.
Narrated by Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, the story attached to the film lacks the fun comedic attitude of “Penguins” released by DisneyNature last year. But, it makes up for it in its rich photography, compelling story devices and the sheer beauty of capturing these endangered animals in such an intimate setting. The only weak part of the film might be Markle’s narration, which can be a little over indulgent in its campiness but does not detract too much from the story.
Meanwhile “Dolphin Reef” released alongside “Elephants” takes a look at an underwater world, teeming with colorful life. The film follows a young dolphin named Echo as he learns to fend for himself in the ocean and meets new animal friends along the way. This film does a great job of combining the animal footage with a fictional narrative that draws an emotional connection between the audience and animals that don’t normally emote very much.
This film is very well narrated by actress Natalie Portman, who brings a lot of character to the film similar to a gentle mother telling a bedtime story. This film covered a wide spectrum of sea creatures, from Echo the dolphin, to a nasty little sea shrimp and a beautiful humpback whale and her calf.
Both films are incredibly family-friendly, hiding but not ignoring the brutal conditions these animals live in. Instead, the movies highlight how these animals can persevere and overcome the harsh reality of nature. The footage is beautiful and makes a great introduction for kids to learn about these animals and their habitats. For an older crowd hoping to see something with more intellectual substance, Disney has released alongside both films “In the Footsteps of Elephants” and “Diving with Dolphins.” Both are full-length films on the making of “Elephant” and “Dolphin Reef” respectively.
Both films are a pleasant way to make you feel a little more connected with nature while we’re spending our time inside, and a great way to keep the kids occupied and educated.