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"Oceans"- "Disney Nature" - {Blu-ray}
Chris Pandolfi
Studio: Disney
Release Date:
Special Features:

See below


Let us reflect that, while environmental improvements have been made, more work needs to be done. Three scenes late in Disneynature's "Oceans" demonstrate this with chilling sincerity. The first shows a number of hapless exotic sea creatures struggling to free themselves from the snare of gigantic fishing nets. They were not meant to get caught - the blue tuna were, a species endangered due to overfishing. The second scene is comprised of satellite imagery, which to the naked eye reveals nothing out of the ordinary. But with the help of scanning technologies, we're able to see black tendrils of pollution flowing out to sea from populated coastlines. The third shows an island of trash, mostly plastics, floating listlessly in the water. A sunken shopping cart seems to genuinely confuse a nearby sea lion, and it might even have affected its ability to survive.***

One of this movie's strengths is that it doesn't gloss over these unpleasant details, nor does it spare the audience of unfortunate realities - where there are sea lions, there are also hungry sharks and orcas, and where there are newborn sea turtles, there are also dive-bombing birds. At the same time, it doesn't bombard you with them; if anything, it's a celebration of sea life, a reminder that, in spite of humanity's interference, life does indeed go on.***

It's above all a magnificently written and beautifully photographed expose of ocean life. This is the second Disneynature documentary, the first being last year's "Earth," the reedited and redubbed version of the BBC and Discovery Channel miniseries "Planet Earth." Despite its breathtaking imagery and entertaining narration, it felt terribly condensed, and the plight of the various animal families seemed manufactured, almost like ... well, almost like a Disney film. "Oceans" wisely avoids this issue by not applying human traits to the animals; this time around, they're not characters in a story so much as subjects being observed. If the filmmakers were to spend all their time following two or three animal groups over a given period of time, the movie would fail to show just how immensely diverse marine life truly is.***

Over the course of four years, directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud captured footage from over fifty locations, revealing all manner of aquatic creatures both above and below the ocean surface. Some are gruff and ugly, like the rockfish. Some are surprisingly beautiful, like the blanket octopus, whose long, flowing tentacles give the appearance of a scarf lost in a current. Some are adorable, like the otters that freely float on their backs in the open waters off Monterey Bay. Some are bizarre, like the dragonfish, which can only survive in the waters of the China Sea. Some are naturally acrobatic, like the school of sardines able to form perfect cones and spheres. Some are frightening, like spider crabs that attack one another in multitudes so vast, we cannot see the ocean floor when the camera pulls up for a wide shot.***

The film is narrated by Pierce Brosnan, who sounds not like a stuffy nature show host but like a man telling a story he genuinely finds fascinating. His voice has an appealing warmth to it, a soothing and clam quality that seems to be saying, "It's all right - that's what we call the circle of life." Indeed, it isn't easy watching a shark make a meal out of a sea lion. It is, however, amusing to watch sea lions sunbathing lazily on the beach, getting comfortable with seemingly no effort at all. It's also heartwarming to see a mother walrus swimming with her calf. In documentaries such as this, one must take the bad with the good. This is especially true for younger audiences, who may not be aware of what happens out in the wild.***

It's appropriate, then, that the filmmakers should include something about how we as a species affect our oceans. Show children the trash floating in the water, and the pollution running off from our rivers, and the animals caught in the fishing nets. This is what we have done and continue to do. It may only be a small sampling, but at least it makes them aware of it. And yet, there's no sense that the filmmakers are shaming or condemning us; if anything, they continuously try to instill a sense of optimism that we can, in fact, take steps to reverse the damage we've caused. I like this approach. We need to love our planet, but we don't need to feel guilty about who we are.***

"Oceans" is not merely entertaining and wonderfully shot. It's also insightful, and it effectively covers a wide range of topics in the space of just over 100 minutes. Despite its G rating, it doesn't pander to its young audience by making the animals overly sentimental; it simply presents them as they are, good and bad alike. It also has a point that it wants to argue, namely that we must know about our oceans if we're to protect them.

Special Features:

* "Make a Wave" Disney's Friends for Change music video featuring Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato *

Disney & Nature: Preserving The World We Share *

Deeper In The Ocean - Select videos from Living Menus and Filmmaker Annotations *

DVD exclusive*

* Living Menus - A fully interactive experience *Blu-ray exclusive*

* Filmmaker Annotations *Blu-ray exclusive*

Final Words:

This Dvd works nicely as a standalone piece, but it might do better as the first step in an ongoing quest for knowledge. Isn't it great when a movie can do more than entertain, when it can actually inspire people to educate themselves and take part in something important?***


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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