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Chimpanzee, Blu-ray Review by John Delia






By John Delia

Like all Disney nature films Chimpanzee inspires, reveals, teaches and entertains.  This touching documentary takes you on a journey of unexpected drama and life-changing situations.  I like the way director Alastair Fothergill never stops shooting till he gets the best that the viewer can enjoy.

The documentary that took nearly 30 years to plan and 3 years to shoot follows Oscar a newborn chimpanzee that sees the jungle for the first time.  Growing among his clan his mother teaches him to deal with getting food, the jungle and to get along with others in a habitat filled with danger.  It’s an interesting world to Oscar, but in order for him to survive, his ever-moving family must keep the territory free of predators and still find enough food to feed everyone.

With food getting scarce Freddy, the leader of Oscar’s group, decides to cross over into another Chimp clan’s territory.  During a skirmish with Scar, leader of the opposing tribe, Oscar suffers a loss.  When Chimps are left with out care, they often die.  In a special miracle, however, Oscar gets a second chance.

The documentary plays out in dramatic fashion showing how the baby chimp has to survive in a wild that’s unforgiving.  Fothergill takes his camera deep into the country of the Republic of Uganda focusing on the dense forest and how it shapes the lives of this special group of animals.  Often inspiring, the film shows how they cope with the tough conditions and protect each other from harm at the risk of their own lives.

Alastair Fothergill and his camera crew deep in the jungle

Beautifully captured by principal photographer Martyn Colbeck in High Definition he shows every leaf and life in sharp detail.  Lowering his camera to the earth he shows the billions of insects that cover the jungle floor, especially the fire ants that swallow up foliage and small animals on their life long trek to nowhere.  Under extreme conditions, Colbeck gets within feet of the Chimps while crawling through mud and muck just to get a shot.  His dedication to the project is shown throughout the production, but best during the filming of a 20 second opening sequence.  He achieved the shot while being attacked by stinging bees during the two-day film shoot. (See the footage in the Bonus Feature “The Forest of Bees”).

The Blu-ray 2- Disc Combo Pack has many very good special features including:


  • “See ‘Chimpanzee,’ Save Chimpanzees” – This feature tells about the important project of conservation of the Chimpanzees.  With only one-fifth the original population of a million Chimpanzees in 1960 left in the wild, the program talks about how you can assist to save the Chimps and help to reclaim the forest that has been over harvested. The feature also includes an interview with Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace.
  • The aforementioned feature coupled with “Disney’s Friends for Change” highlights how kids and families can make an important impact on the world of people and animals in a positive way.
  • Then take a look at “Disney’s Conservation Legacy” that takes a look at the conservation efforts that Disney sponsors worldwide.

Everything on the DVD, plus …

ON LOCATION: THE MAKING OF “CHIMPANZEE” is a series of exciting short features that delve further into the incredible lengths the filmmakers went to tell the story of Oscar and his chimpanzee family.

  • 30 Years in the Making- is a short story about how the story came about by a team of researchers who went into the Ivory Coast some 30 years ago to follow and observe Chimpanzees.
  • The Heart of the “Chimpanzee”- Shows through film footage the relationship of Oscar and Freddy.
  • Piece of the Puzzle- Documents a day in the life of the cameramen who face mud, muck, and dangerous terrain in order to get only minutes of film footage.
  • Don’t Blame the Tool- shows how the Chimpanzees find and prepare their food using rocks for tools to crack open hard-shelled nuts among other things.
  • Scar’s Army- Here we get a closer look at the Army of 150 Chimps that rule the forest. It’s an interesting sociological study of the Chimp community.
  • Camp Invaders- I love this feature that focuses on the insects of the jungle including hordes of ants and other creatures.
  • Forest of Bees- In this special feature we follow the camera crew who has to fend off swarms of bees to get a special shot for the opening of the film.
  • “Rise” Music Video- This music video features the McClain Sisters who wrote and sung the inspirational song that plays during the closing credits.
  • Behind the Scenes of “Rise” features the shoot that the McClain Sisters were involved in for the music video.


  • “See ‘Chimpanzee,’ Save Chimpanzees”
  • Disney’s Friends for Change
  • Disney’s Conservation Legacy
  • “Rise” Music Video
  • ON LOCATION: THE MAKING OF “CHIMPANZEE” includes: 30 Years in the Making and The Heart of the “Chimpanzee”


The camerawork that took three years to make Chimpanzee is astonishing and very creative.  Clear and bright in High Definition, the movie gives the feel that you are on location with the photographers.  The 1.78:1 aspect ratio makes the film fit nicely on my widescreen HD television with no distracting bars.


The HD sound on both the DVD and the Blu-ray is excellent from the sounds of the insects to the rustle of the trees.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Another great Disneynature film with inspiration. (A)

Disneynature Will Donate a Portion of First-Week Sales to the Jane Goodall Institute Through the “See ‘Chimpanzee,’ Save Chimpanzees” Conservation Program

Specifications and additional film information:

  • Narration by: Tim Allen
  • Directed by: Alastair Fothergill
  • Photographed by: Martyn Colbeck
  • MPAA Rating: G
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Running Time: 1 hr 28 min
  • Street Date: August 21, 2012
  • Original Theatrical Release Date: April 20, 2012
  • Languages: English/French/Spanish
  • Format: Blu-ray and DVD
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Audio: Blu-ray- English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, DVD- English/French/Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Video: Blu-ray- 1080p HD Widescreen, DVD- Widescreen enhanced for 16X9 Televisions
  • Subtitles: English SDH/French/Spanish
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Distributed by: Walt Disney Home Entertainment



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