Thank you to Zev Behar, for his invaluable contributions to this coverage.
Greetings, Disney fans! Early this week, we were on-site to cover the New York premiere for Disneynature’s latest feature film, Penguins! The film is absolutely wonderful and it was a delight to be at the event covering this great film. At the special screening, we got to speak with the film’s producer and co-directors, and it is our pleasure to share the coverage of our discussions with the filmmakers of Penguins and what they had to say about the creation of the new Disneynature movie.
Some of the team spotted at the event were producer Roy Conli; who spoke to The Mickey Mindset about the process of creating a Disneynature film, and what sets Disneynature apart from being a ‘nature documentary studio’. Having been a twenty-six year veteran at The Walt Disney Company, Conli understands that all movies, whether it be his animation forte or new films like these nature movies, it’s always about the story at the forefront of the movie. “We don’t call these ‘nature documentaries–we call them true-life adventures” Conli explained. “This is done in the spirit of Walt [Disney]. Having worked at the studio for twenty-six years, it’s an honor to be able to do that and carry on the spirit of Walt in our films.”
Penguins was a project long in the making. In fact, the team held off for a bit of time in response to the success of the recent March of the Penguins documentaries, but there’s a big difference between that film and Disney’s penguin movie, and that is the penguins themselves. Penguins focuses on Adelie penguins, where March featured Emporer Penguins. Not only are these penguins different in size, but their personalities often present major differences because of lifestyle, and the filmmakers believed there was a great story waiting to be told that hadn’t been told in cinema just yet.
Co-directors Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson agreed that the Adelie penguin would make for a fascinating film subject and after years of pitching the idea to Disneynature, they finally had the opportunity to showcase a story that even larger penguin films, like March of the Penguins, could not, just because of the difference in subject matter. Both are hardly newcomers to such projects, with Fothergill having worked on previous Disneynature docs, including Chimpanzee and Bears, and Wilson worked on a variety of projects–including the BBC doc, Planet Earth. Their experience has gone a long way in crafting this film together. Fothergill says that “Disneynature has certainly been a journey, and for me, I believe this is the most ‘Disney’ film we’ve ever done, certainly being the peak of what we’ve ever done”.
Conservation always is at the heart of each Disneynature project, and Penguins was no exception. Producer Roy Conli explained that what continues to champion Walt’s own legacy was his work as a conservationist, and that was one of the most important philosophies of Disneynature from the start. For this particular film, Disneynature is partnering with the Global Penguin Society, which has two major components to study and protect penguins, and also a major clean-up initiative to clean and preserve penguin habitats that are being affected by pollution and fisheries. On-site at the premiere was president of the Global Penguin Society, Pablo (Papi) Borboroglu, who spoke to us about the wonderful collaboration between Disneynature and his conservation organization. As Disneynature films near the completion of production, the studio will seek to partner with organizations that support the mission of protecting/assisting the animals featured in the film(s). “The critical thing is that there are eighteen species of penguins and over half are considered threatened” Borboroglu explains, “the main threats are pollution, fisheries, and climate change in the ocean, but they also face threats on land like human disturbance”. Borboroglu explains that the work in conservation is heavily focused on changing the behavior of people, and through ambitious films like Disneynature’s Penguins, he hopes that audiences will be inspired to make a change in the environment and secure the safety of penguins around the world.
The best part about seeing Disneynature’s Penguins during its first week in theaters? A percentage of the box office earnings will go directly to the Global Penguin Society to ensure the protection of penguins worldwide. Elsewhere, the funds will help support Disney’s own conservation initiatives, such as the Disney Conservation Fund, and of course, the ability to make more Disneynature films that support other wonderful humanitarian causes.
We had a great time talking to the wonderful film crew behind this ambitious new project, and can’t wait to see what other great stories Disneynature is waiting to tell next! Disneynature’s Penguins is now playing in theaters nationwide in IMAX and standard formats.