Earlier today, we headed over to the Walt Disney lot in Burbank, where Disney President and CEO Robert Iger and Disney Chairman Dick Cook made the exciting announcement that The Walt Disney Studios is launching Disneynature, a prestigious new production banner that will literally go to the ends of the earth to produce major big screen nature documentaries.
In the great tradition established by Walt Disney himself, Disneynature will offer spectacular entertainment about the world in which we live. The significance of the new banner goes beyond the studio, with The Walt Disney Company embracing this new initiative around the world through a number of its businesses, including publications, licensing, parks and educational outreach. Disney veteran Jean-Francois Camilleri, who has served as senior vice president and general manager for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures France, will head the new unit. Disneynature will be based in France, where Camilleri and his team will oversee the initiation, development and acquisition of high quality feature projects.
Among the first films to be released domestically under the new label will be Earth, from award-winning British producer/director Alastair Fothergill, whose credits include the landmark Planet Earth series for the BBC and The Discovery Channel and The Blue Planet. Earth, which is produced by BBC Worldwide and Greenlight Media and co-directed by Mark Linfield, will take us on a tour of our home planet as we've never seen it before. It will be narrated by renowned actor James Earl Jones and will premiere theatrically on Earth Day, April 22, 2009. The film will also be released under the Disneynature banner in Latin America.
"We love balancing heritage and innovation and Disneynature is a perfect example of this. We are placing the legacy of Disney's 'True-Life Adventures' in the hands of great modern filmmakers using dazzling technology," said Robert A. Iger, president and CEO, The Walt Disney Company. "Disneynature is a concept we look forward to building across the company and across the globe for years to come. And, we hope these films will contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of the beauty and fragility of our natural world."
Dick Cook added, "Our goal is for Disneynature to offer event films that will appeal to everyone who is captivated by the grandeur of nature and the wonder of great filmmaking. Thanks to today's state-of-the-art creative tools, filmmakers have an unlimited ability to tell nature's limitless stories. These stories are as engrossing as any works of fiction and are of a scale and scope that can only be fully appreciated on a big screen. At Disneynature, the sky is truly the limit."
"Nature invents the most beautiful stories. Our role at Disneynature will be to tell these stories with passion and enthusiasm to the largest public possible around the world," said Camilleri. "By working with the best wildlife directors, we will offer nature as never seen before, help the audience to discover the incredible beauty of our world but also understand the challenges for the future generations."
Alastair Fothergill added, "This is especially exciting because, thanks to the wide-ranging appeal of Disney, we can expect Earth, as well as Chimpanzee and Big Cats, to be seen by the broadest possible audience Disney has been an inspiration to wildlife documentarians for generations and it's a genuine thrill to advance this extraordinary legacy under this new label."
Among the other Disneynature projects currently in development or production are:
- The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos -- Co-directed by Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward, and produced by Paul Webster (Kudos Pictures), this film will take viewers to the isolated shores of Lake Natron in northern Tanzania for a birds-eye view of the mysterious lives of flamingos. Worldwide roll-out begins December 2008
- Oceans -- Nearly three-quarters of the earth's surface is covered by oceans. French co-directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud have set out to capture the full expanse of these waters that have played such a crucial and constant role in the history and sustenance of man. The deep and abundant oceans are places of great mysteries and dangers that this film will dare to explore. Domestic release 2010
- Orangutans: One Minute to Midnight -- Directed by Charlie Hamilton James and produced by Frederic Fougea, this film tells the true story of a six-year-old male orangutan and his little sister, who must take an incredible journey to find a home and a family. Worldwide release 2010.
- Big Cats -- Audiences will get to meet three mothers -- a lioness, a leopard and a cheetah -- as they explore their world on the great plains of Africa. Co-directed by Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill and produced by Alix Tidmarsh, this film will show how these magnificent animals survive on their power and their cunning, while they protect and teach their cubs the ways of the wild. Worldwide release 2011.
- Naked Beauty: A Love Story that Feeds the Earth -- In this film, nature is ready for its close-up ... a very close-up, as exacting macro photography takes us to the realm of flowers and their pollinators. Acclaimed filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg introduces us to a bat, a hummingbird, a butterfly and a bumblebee, demonstrating their intricate interdependence and how life on earth depends on the success of these determined, diminutive creatures. Naked Beauty is produced by Blacklight Films and Alix Tidmarsh. Worldwide release 2011.
- Chimpanzee -- Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield co-direct this intimate look at the world of chimpanzees, with Christophe Boesch, head of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, serving as principal consultant and Alix Tidmarsh as producer. To be shot over three years in the tropical jungles of the Ivory Coast and Uganda, Chimpanzee will help us better understand this exceptionally intelligent species. Worldwide release 2012.
For more updates on the newest production banner of The Walt Disney