As we stay indoors and maintain our distance, finding things to watch and enjoy can become challenging. Disney+ is here to help, releasing two new documentaries as part of the Disneynature Family. Read more below about each new movie.
“Elephant,” narrated by Megan, The Duchess of Sussex, follows African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo as their herd make an epic journey hundreds of miles across the vast Kalahari Desert. Led by their great matriarch, Gaia, the family faces brutal heat, dwindling resources and persistent predators, as they follow in their ancestor’s footsteps on a quest to reach a lush, green paradise.
About the movie:
Shani and her family are among the last elephants on earth to make these lengthy migrations. She’s mother to wide-eyed, one-year-old Jomo, who has yet to experience a migration, and at 40 years old, she is next in line as herd matriarch, a position currently held by her older sister Gaia.
Gaia’s herd is among countless species — from hippopotamus to lechwe to baboons — that rely upon the life-giving water that flows from the mountains and transforms the heart of the desert into a green oasis known as the Okavango delta. But the season’s end is near and soon there will be a mass exodus.
Nothing on Earth is more precious to life than water. And perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than the Kalahari desert in southern Africa, one of the driest places on the planet. The water is receding and paradise will soon turn to dust as the delta becomes a series of vanishing pools.
Gaia instinctively knows she must lead the herd directly into the baking Kalahari desert, before the remaining water holes dry up. The herd’s success will depend on her experience and wisdom, which has been handed down over many generations. Just as the saying “an elephant never forgets” implies, these massive mammals have a deep connection to their past.
Gaia will take her family down ancient elephant paths, networks of lines and circles — the circles being water holes the family will desperately need to cross the vast desert.
Along the way, they’ll seek nourishment from sources such as moisture-rich mopane leaves and baobab tree trunks filled with rainwater.
As they near their destination, the herd must cross the mighty Zambezi river to reach the safe haven for which they’ve been searching. They must enter the shallows, where
crocodiles prey upon elephant calves like Jomo, and fight a ferocious current that could draw them into the world’s greatest waterfall, Victoria Falls.
Fortunately, the herd has the strength and stamina to succeed and can rest while enjoying unlimited water and all the palm nuts they can shake from the trees. But within a few short months, food is scarce and the water begins its voyage back to the Okavango delta. The family must traverse the wilds of Africa, yet again.
The march back to the delta will be no easy task, as the Angolan flood waters are early this year and the herd will need to make quick time. However, the emotional bonds between elephants are as strong as those between humans and the strength of family has gotten them this far. Together, Gaia, Shani, Jomo and family dare to take the shortest route … through lion country.
From the studio behind “Born In China” and “Chimpanzee,” “Elephant” premieres on Disney+ April 3, 2020.
Narrated by Natalie Portman, Disneynature’s “Dolphin Reef” features Echo, a young Pacific bottlenose dolphin who’s more interested in exploring his coral reef home, and its intriguing inhabitants, than learning to survive in it. But lessons from family — and close encounters with some of the ocean’s greatest predators — may encourage Echo to master his vital role in the marine community after all.
About the movie:
Echo doesn’t comprehend that soon he will play a vital role in both his own survival and the survival of the colorful, living, breathing city that he and his family call home. The reef is an intricately balanced ecosystem in which each citizen contributes: from the millions of plants and creatures which inhabit the coral to the gardener fish that feed upon its lush growth to the predators — like Echo — that keep the fish population in check.
At three years old, Echo has relied solely on his mother, Kumu, to feed and protect him. Now he’s weaned off mother’s milk and it’s time to catch his own meals and develop the essential skills needed to thrive in his underwater world. However, the teachings of his mother tend to go unnoticed by Echo, who’s distracted by more enjoyable pursuits.
Echo often can be found balancing a shell upon his rostrom or investigating the many fascinating residents of the reef, such as the fastidious peacock mantis shrimp or the bumphead parrotfish, with a face only a mother could love. He’s particularly distracted by a 40-foot humpback whale and her newborn calf, who create a massive wake that’s hard to resist.
As Echo gains more independence, he discovers that even a giant creature like the humpback whale has something to fear in the deep blue. The pod must sleep with one eye open — which, in fact, they do — with the ocean’s greatest hunter, the orca, nearby. These black-and-white behemoths prey upon bottlenose dolphins and whale calves.
Even as predators themselves, the ocean contains numerous dangers for Echo and his family. They must also be wary of creatures such as the giant stingray, with its razor-sharp venomous tail, and the shark that even reef sharks fear: the tiger shark.
But there’s power in numbers and Echo and his pod rely upon one another for safety and comfort. They’re a close-knit community, which communicates in a complex language of squeaks and clicks, and conveys reassurance through physical contact. The key to their survival is teamwork.
Kumu is determined to make Echo a contributing member of the team and has been encouraging him to use echolocation, a highly sophisticated sonar, to find fish buried in the sand. Now it’s time for a master class. Mother and son set out on a journey to the pod’s favorite group hunting grounds, the legendary muddy shallows, where she’ll teach Echo her high-speed technique for corralling fish.
If Echo can master this skill, he’ll become both self-sufficient and a valued member of the pod – a community that’s vital to the success of the reef and the health of our oceans worldwide.
From the studio behind “Born in China” and “Chimpanzee,” “Dolphin Reef” premieres on Disney+ April 3, 2020.