Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Jeff Wilson
Traditionally speaking, I’ve always enjoyed watching the movies that Disneynature has come out with over the past decade. I applaud a company that goes across the world and shows us a side of nature that most of us would never have access to. Whether it’s the jungles of Africa or the depths of the oceans, this is a significant feat to accomplish and aligns with Disney’s more environmental goals and less with their financial one. With Penguins, Disneynature ventures to Antarctica to document the life of Adelie penguins in their natural habitat. While not my favorite Disneynature film of all time, Disneynature: Penguins still successfully showcases a world few of us will ever see and promotes the idea that our environment is important and we must take care of it.
The film follows an Adelie penguin named Steve as he ventures through his life in Antarctica in a period of a little more than a year. The story chronicles Steve’s life as he goes from trying to find a mate, to raising young chicks in Antarctica, to the various environmental and predatory issues that Steve and his new family face on a daily basis and how they manage to survive them. Much like the other Disneynature movies, the premise of the movie is generally palatable and easy to identify with. Since the main character is a small, comical bird, it’s easy to root for him and hope for the best for him and his family. It may be tough to resonate with the characters in some of the other Disneynature films that feature animals that can kill us like bears and lions, but Disneynature’s shift in the last few years to smaller, more adorable creatures seems to make the audience relate more to the story and the animals. One of the things I wasn’t expecting from this movie was just how dark it was going to be and it shows just how raw and real the dangers of the wild are. Nature is deadly at its very core and everyday millions of animals are hunted and killed by other to help the more dominant species survive. While I understand that concept, it’s really emphasized by some of the thematic choices of the film. Specifically, the score is legitimately frightening during scenes where Steve and his family are being hunted by seals and whales. While I understand the decision to go with a more serious score in an otherwise lighthearted and fun movie, I don’t necessarily believe it was required to prove the point of the scene. This is one of the Disneynature movies where it really feels like there are real consequences to the lives of these animals, and the score heightens it to a point where maybe it doesn’t need to go. Some people may appreciate this dark turn, but the film may have gone too far to accomplish this. As someone who really enjoyed Monkey Kingdom from a few years ago, Penguins doesn’t quite match that level, but still provides 76 minutes of entertainment while also showcasing why we can and should do more to protect the world and the environment around us.
Overall, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with a documentary on animals that most people find adorable, and Disneynature: Penguins finds its stride and accomplishes everything it sets out to. Considering this is Disneynature’s first attempt at filming in a climate as harsh as Antarctica’s it’s easy to see that they had plenty of material to work with and can easily make the audience relate to the subject matter as well as the animals featured in the film. Hopefully these animals have a home in the future, but if you look at what DIsneynature does for their habitats and what we can do to make their lives better, I am confident these animals will be fine and that Disneynature will show us more animals and habitats like this in the future.
Overall Score: 7.5/10