Disneynature's 'Born in China' Wildlife & World Wildlife Fund Partnership #BorninChina

Disneynature’s BORN IN CHINA is now in theaters. I hope you make time to see it since during its opening week (April 21-27, 2017) you can benefit the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). How?

Learn About the Wildlife in Disneynature's Born in China

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.

And once you see the wild pandas and snow leopards in BORN IN CHINA, you'll be glad you did. They are such amazing animals. Besides the wild pandas and snow leopards featured in the film, there so many others. So I wanted to share some behind the scene information about all wildlife you'll see in BORN IN CHINA.

The Wildlife in Disneynature's Born in China

Producer Brian Leith says,

“This collection of animals is so distinctly China — a side of China that we just don’t see. To be able to bring these animals to the big screen in this way is a massive achievement—they live in some pretty remote areas that aren’t easily accessed. This production was a huge undertaking, and we’re delighted to share a bit of what we experienced in this broad and beautiful part of the world.”


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.

“The crane 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.

The cinematographer fully appreciated the importance of his subjects.

“The red-crowned crane has a huge cultural significance in China,” says Stewart. “It represents faithfulness, longevity. It was so important in this feature to showcase the real animal that has impressed and inspired people in China for thousands of years.”


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.

“It’s a very relatable story,” says producer Phil Chapman. “Anyone with kids will tell you that you can’t bear the thought of them facing the knocks of the real world—especially when they’re young and small and inexperienced. It’s a lifetime journey of letting go.”

To ensure that the filmmakers would not endanger the animals by habituating them to humans, filmmakers were required to don “panda suits”—black and white garments made to look and smell like pandas—that allowed them to blend in with the subjects they were filming.


The Wildlife in Disneynature's Born in China

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.

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.”

Filmmakers captured moments in the golden snub-nosed monkey’s life rarely—if ever—seen on film before. But it wasn’t easy. Crew members had to make their way through the dense forest each day, which was both time-consuming and physically demanding.


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.”

“The chiru are extremely shy because they’ve been hunted for generations,” says producer Phil Chapman. “They’re terrified of humans. So Rolf [Steinmann] would curl up inside the bunkers, called ‘hides.’ He’d spend three or four days at a time in there with food, water and no room to stretch out—the hides were no larger than two by three feet. It was terribly cold at night. He just had to wait. It was a real patience game.”

Naturally, for a movie titled “Born in China,” one of the key goals of the chiru effort was to capture the birth of a calf. Steinmann’s patience eventually paid off, resulting in breathtaking imagery of new life entering a very cold, but very beautiful world.


The Wildlife in Disneynature's Born in China

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.

“It was incredibly ambitious to commit to filming snow leopards,” admits producer Brian Leith. “We loved the idea of showcasing them on the big screen — but they’re extremely difficult to find, and even harder to film. Many films featuring these animals have been attempted, so we went into it knowing it was a huge risk.”

In order to film the mysterious and majestic animals, filmmakers flew into Beijing and spent eight days driving to the location. For humans, breathing adequate oxygen is not necessarily a given. Filmmakers prepped extensively to ensure that proper medical assistance and emergency evacuation operations were in place prior to tackling the shoot.

“We’re telling the story of Dawa, a mother snow leopard who has to fight to provide for her cubs,” says producer Roy Conli. “The environment where she lives is harsh and unforgiving, generating a lot of drama in the film.”

Dawa’s story is emotional and dramatic, and like each of the film’s animal families, it’s memorable. That, says Lu Chuan, is the goal behind the film. “It’s really special,” says the director. “People will laugh—they might cry—but they will leave with a full heart.”

Disneynature BORN IN CHINA poster

Narrated by John Krasinski, Disneynature's new True Life Adventure film “BORN IN CHINA” takes you on an epic journey into the wilds of China, where few people have ever ventured.


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.

To learn more bout BORN IN CHINA,visit - www.nature.disney.com/born-in-china

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