“Who knew that China looked like that?!” That was a common refrain at the conclusion of the screening of Born in China, the new Disneynature film debuting in theaters nationwide this weekend that tells the story of four different animal families. The film is gorgeous, and captures how incredibly stunning the exotic landscape of China is, and how different it is from what we imagine. Here’s my Born in China movie review and educator’s guide, which you can find at the end of the post.
The stars of this show are families of pandas, snow leopards, snub-nose monkeys, and chiru (Tibetan antelopes). All have baby animals who were, in fact, born in China. And they’re adorable. They all have some moments that elicit “awwwww”s and tug at the heartstrings.
The story is different from previous DisneyNature films like Bears and Chimpanzee, which focus on just one family. With four families that never interact with each other, there’s much more going on in Born in China. That may keep some kids a bit more interested, but, perhaps because of the reduction in screen time for each family, I didn’t feel quite as attached to them as I did the stars of prior Disneynature films.
John Krasinski is easy to like as a narrator and he does a great job of adding to and enhancing but not distracting from what’s on the screen.
The script he reads refers to the mother panda as a “helicopter mom” and I admit I thought “stop judging the poor panda mother! She’s doing her best!” but more so, I wondered if it that was true. Was this panda more protective than other pandas, or is that just typical maternal panda behavior? I’ll never know. But I did relate to the story of her getting ready for her child to launch into the big world solo.
There were some other questions raised in the film that also go unanswered. A family of snow leopards inserts themselves into another family’s territory due to lack of food, but the reason for the scarcity is never addressed. Was it pollution, which is a huge issue in China? Or human development encroaching on their prior home? Or something else? It didn’t need to be heavy-handed, but even a brief mention of reason would have likely given humans something to think about regarding our impact on these animals’ lives.
Thankfully, the educator’s guide below answered some of the other questions I had about the animals themselves.
Some of my very favorite scenes were the outtakes that they showed during the credits. Seeing how the monkeys interacted with the film equipment was both interesting and humorous. That same is true of the footage that showed one cinematographer’s determination and optimism about getting the perfect shot despite horrific weather conditions.
Parents should know that, while the movie is rated G and isn’t gory, nature can be a bit disturbing to little ones. A hawk sweeps up a baby monkey, animals attack each other, and a mother dies.
Disneynature developed an educator’s guide for Born in China. While it is best for grades two through six, but it has valuable information about China for all ages. It’s perfect for parents wanting to capitalize on their child’s interest in the animals and setting of the movie. It covers a wide variety of topics, from information about the specific animals to how scientists use technology to learn more about them to how they adapt to high altitudes to the Silk Road and much more. You can download the educator’s guide here:
Born In China Educator’s Guide.
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