Narrated by John Krasinski (“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” NBC’s “The Office,” “Amazon’s “Jack Ryan”), Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure film “Born In China” takes an epic journey into the wilds of China where few people have ever ventured. Following the stories of three animal families, the film transports audiences to some of the most extreme environments on Earth to witness some of the most intimate moments ever captured in a nature film. A doting panda bear mother guides her growing baby as she begins to explore and seek independence. A two-year-old golden monkey who feels displaced by his new baby sister joins up with a group of free-spirited outcasts. And a mother snow leopard—an elusive animal rarely caught on camera—faces the very real drama of raising her two cubs in one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet. Featuring stunning, never-before-seen imagery, the film navigates China’s vast terrain—from the frigid mountains to the heart of the bamboo forest—on the wings of red-crowned cranes, seamlessly tying the extraordinary tales together. Opening in U.S. theaters on Earth Day 2017, “Born in China” is directed by accomplished Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan, and produced by Disney’s Roy Conli and renowned nature filmmakers Brian Leith and Phil Chapman.
PANDA – Revered in China, the panda is endangered—there are only 1,864 living in the wild according to a 2014 census. Filmmakers captured stunning imagery of a mother panda and her cub as they interacted in the Sichuan Wolong National Nature Reserve, which is located in the Sichuan province in central China. “YaYa is a first-time mom,” says Chapman. “She doesn’t know for sure how to raise this rambunctious little cub. But from the moment she’s born, Mom falls in love with her— hook, line and sinker. Big time. She has the cuddliest, cutest, sweetest, most beautiful little ball of fluff on the planet as her first baby—she can’t possibly stop fussing over her—loving, cuddling, licking and smothering MeiMei with love.”
RED-CROWNED CRANES – With an array of animals coming together in “Born in China,” director Lu Chuan wanted to tie it together in a magical, mythical manner. Enter the red-crowned crane. “Thecrane is a symbolic, spiritual animal,” says the director. “There is an ancient belief that the crane delivers the soul to a new place. It completes the circle of life.” Filmmakers ventured to the Zhalong wetlands and Yancheng Coastal wetlands to film the cranes—beautiful birds with snow-white plumage, dramatic black markings and iconic red crowns. The film spotlights the migration of the bird, its ever-changing habitat and the distance it travels as the seasons change. According to cinematographer Paul Stewart, getting up close to the birds was easier than he expected. “They are very nervous birds,” says Stewart. “When we wanted to get close to film the birds with their chicks, we were very cautious because we didn’t want to disturb a rare species like this.
We were delighted that they accepted our presence and allowed us a rare glimpse of their lives with their chicks.”
SNOW LEOPARD – China’s Qinghai Plateau, the highest mountain plateau on Earth, is home to the stunning and elusive show leopard. Experts estimate that there as few as 4,000 snow leopards left in Central Asia’s high mountains—though their hard-to-reach habitat and phenomenal ability to disappear make it difficult to gauge. The film features a snow leopard mother—likely a first-time mom—struggling to take care of her cubs—and herself.
CHIRU – The migration of these revered creatures washes across the mountain plains of Western China like an ocean tide. Every spring, thousands of female chiru bid adieu to the males and make an epic journey en route to the legendary Zhouonai Lake in the remote uplands of the Qinghai Plateau. There, they welcome new calves. Mothers and newborns bond and practice essential skills—like walking—before making the long trek home. “They take on what is perhaps the most difficult migration of any animal anywhere to give birth by this lake,” says field director Ben Wallis. “Nobody knows why, exactly, but the tradition is breathtaking to witness.”
Fewer than 75,000 chiru remain on the planet, due to generations of poaching, which inspired director Lu Chuan to make the award-winning film “Mountain Patrol” in 2004. “It’s a story about a Tibetan mountain patrol team who protect chiru from the illegal poachers,” says the director.
GOLDEN SNUB-NOSED MONKEYS – In the mountain valleys of central China, near the Yangtze River in the Shennongjia Forest, thousands of golden snub-nosed monkeys can be spotted—they swing branch to branch in deciduous broadleaf trees, snack on lichens and insects, and raise their families within well-organized troops. “These particular animals live in dense social groups,” says producer Brian Leith. “We were able to identify family groups quite early and get to know individuals.” Filmmakers initially planned to feature the first year of a monkey’s life. After capturing hours of footage of newborn monkeys, searching for the right, compelling story, filmmakers noticed a youngster who had recently welcomed a new baby sister. “TaoTao’s life is turned upside down when his family turns its collective back on this young monkey—who previously was the center of attention,” says producer Roy Conli. “He no longer understands how he fits into his family or his troop.” Ultimately, filmmakers found that TaoTao’s story was almost an extension of the panda’s story. “He illustrates what happens to a youngster in the wild when Mom stops fussing so much,” says producer Phil Chapman.
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