The perfect balance of humor, heart and adventure
In a cinematic adventure through the wild terrain of China, Born in China in theaters nationwide now is Disneynature’s 7th True Life Adventure film. The film is the perfect balance of humor, heart and adventure narrated by none other than funny man John Krazinski. Krazinski has the vocal ability to express humor and emotion in a delicately intricate way throughout the storytelling in the film. However, the film would not have been possible without the perfect working relationship of accomplished Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan, producer Disney’s Roy Conli and renowned nature filmmakers Brian Leith and Phil Chapman. I recently had the opportunity to attend a round table interview with Roy Conli and I’m so excited to share what I learned.
Roy Conli, who also produced Disney’s 50th animated film “Tangled” and 2014’s Oscar-winning animated feature “Big Hero 6,” is also the producer for Born in China. During our round table interview, Roy Conli was warm and welcoming and expressed a great amount of gratitude for the opportunity to work on such a beautiful film: “It is terrific to be exploring new boundaries with Disneynature,” he says. “I am honored to be part of such an incredibly talented international team of filmmakers carrying on a legacy that dates back to Walt Disney himself and his True Life Adventures created more than 60 years ago. These films are driven by actual events and observations from the field by some of the world’s greatest natural history cinematographers. Working with Lu Chuan, one of the most talented directors and storytellers in cinema today, has been a dream. What we have crafted is both epic and intimate. The balance of humor, heart and adventure is truly stunning. What a great gift to share with audiences around the world.”
The Unsung Heroes
Conli went on to tell us that the cinematographers are really the unsung heroes of the film because they spent a large portion of their lives alone while adapting to some of the harshest environments on Earth. He said that Born in China took approximately 2 years of filming to capture over 400 hours of footage. The Snow Leopards – the most illusive and most well camouflaged animals of the film were located in the harshest of all the terrains of the animals featured in Born in China. The location of shooting was so remote, it even took 10 days to get to the location. Located 16,000 feet above sea level, the first shot of the big cats didn’t even take place until the 90th day. Can you imagine that?
Whereas the biggest challenge with filming the monkey’s was that all they wanted to do was play. Play with the cameras and play with the cinematographers! It was difficult to capture them in their natural state when they had such playful personalities. On the other hand, the biggest challenge while filming the Panda’s was that they had to stay far away from protective momma. The cinematographers even wore panda suits and panda scent (yuck!) to blend in.
The “Pinocchio Factor”
To create the film’s natural story line, the cinematographers would journal the animals behavior and send them to the filmmakers. The filmmakers received “rushes” to begin crafting the stories. Roy Conli was so inspired by the natural story line of the film and it’s ability to display a uplifting emotional relevance with it’s parallel to the human familiar structure and how the overall message reflect our everyday lives. Conli is hoping that Born in China will help kids understand the natural world and it’ll inspire, educate and entertain them. To Roy Conli, he bases every film that he creates on a “Pinocchio Factor”, a test he created for himself after his favorite childhood movie. To Conli, if a film has the ability to give you a good scare and take you through a emotional roller coaster, then the movie is good.
Born in China is open in U.S. theaters on April 21, 2017. Moviegoers who see Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure film “Born in China” during its opening week (April 21-27, 2017) will benefit the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Based on opening-week attendance, Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the WWF to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China.
Panda Fun Facts
- China is the only place in the world where giant pandas live in the wild.
- Giant pandas—often referred to as just pandas—live in central China in sections of the Sichuan, Shaannxi and Gansu provinces at elevations ranging from 5,000-10,000 feet. The temperate forests they live in produce 30-40 inches of precipitation each year—which is good for bamboo.
- China has 67 protected reserves to help save existing panda habitat
- Giant pandas are black and white. One theory is that the distinct coloring helps them spot each other when it comes to mating. Another is that the coloring serves as camouflage–particularly when the animal is up in trees.
- Giant pandas stand between 5’2” and 6’2”. Males weigh 190-275 pounds, while females weigh 155-220 pounds.
- Pandas live about 14-20 years in the wild.
- The gestation period for pandas ranges from 3-5 months. The average female produces 5-8 cubs in her lifetime. She can start reproducing at 4-5 years old.
- Cubs weigh 3-5 ounces at birth—about the size of a stick of butter. Mom is 900 times bigger. Cubs are born pink, hairless and blind. They don’t venture far from mom till they’re about six months old—though they nurse till they’re eight- to nine months old.
- Pandas leave their mothers for good at about age 3.
- Giant pandas are bears—but they don’t hibernate. They do, however, spend a lot of time resting and sleeping—when they’re not eating.
- Pandas eat up to 40 pounds of bamboo every day. They have a pseudo thumb—or modified wrist bone—to help grip the bamboo. They also occasionally eat meat.
- Neighbors to the panda include dwarf blue sheep, multi-colored pheasants, crested ibis, golden snub-nosed monkeys and goat antelopes. Predators of young pandas include jackals, leopards and yellow-throated marten.
- Pandas live a solitary lifestyle, but they do communicate with each other with sounds and scent. They make goat-like cries and squeaks. To signal nearby giant pandas, they’ll rub a waxy substance on trees that’s secreted from scent glands at the base of their tails.
- Giant pandas will scratch tree bark with their massive claws as a visual sign of where they’ve been—it’s like they’re writing a quick note to their friends.