Since its inception in 2008, Walt Disney Studios’ Disneynature have annually showcased their latest documentary regarding wildlife and/or nature around the time Earth Day comes around. Each film, which is reminiscent of Disney’s “True Life Adventures” film series from the 1950s, focuses on a different aspect regarding the animal kingdom and the environment they live in.
Disneynature’s latest film “Monkey Kingdom” is a precious fly-on-the-wall look as the filmmakers follows the adventures of Maya and Kip, a mother and her newborn son as they struggle to get along with their fellow monkey brethren living in South Asia’s ancient ruins. Things get a little complicated when they are forced to be relocated when their home at Castle Rock is invaded by neighboring monkeys. As Maya and the rest of her family use their intelligence to survive within unfamiliar territory, they must work together to take back their turf.
Narrated by Tina Fey, “Monkey Kingdom” does benefit at times in having Fey provide some cute and funny insights to what Maya, Kip and the rest of monkeys are thinking. The story is pretty basic and nothing groundbreaking. However, the way the storytelling of “Monkey Kingdom” is utilized makes the story of Maya and Kip play out like a live-action animated feature without dialogue. There is no doubt that the documentary is shot beautifully, but there are times where it feels like some of the different aspects of the documentary felt staged. It’s hard to believe that a pact of monkeys would raid a house for snacks without any humans coming in to interfere.
The video presentation for “Money Kingdom” is absolutely gorgeous. It highlights some beautiful and bright colors, along with some impressive details whenever there is a close-up in the documentary. Everything from the fur and leaves to the dirt and branches are visually clear and crisp. One thing that will remain constant in regards to the Disneynature films is that the cinematography will always be breathtaking.
There is not a ton of special features for “Monkey Kingdom,” but it does cover some ground as far as how the filmmakers were able to capture the footage for the documentary. “Tales from the Kingdom” and “On the Set of ‘Monkey Kingdom’” goes behind the scenes with the crew who used ten cameras to shoot the film and utilized the help of primatologists Jane Goodall and Wolfgang Dittus. “Monkey Kingdom: A Conservation Story” is an overview of the ancient city in the film that is populated by the macaques courtesy of EVP Conservative International Disneynature Ambassador Dr. M. Sanjayan. Rounding out the special features is “A Special Thank You” from Disneynature films and a music video of “It’s Our World” sung by Jacquie Lee.
Disneynature is not disguising what “Monkey Kingdom” truly is: a cute and entertaining peak into the world of the macaques from Sri Lanka. The video quality of the movie is completely flawless with the small and short selection of special features focusing on the making of the movie.