Disneynature’s BORN IN CHINA Review “Each Life Lived is Just One Beat in the Larger Rhythm”

BORN IN CHINA is Disneynature’s tenth nature documentary. BORN IN CHINA follows representatives from four species of animals native to China. As with Disneynature’s BEARS, BORN IN CHINA is not especially violent in a graphic sense, but this is a nature documentary, so there is violence, though no gore.  Continue reading for our full BORN IN CHINA review, and, don’t worry, as always, this is a spoiler-free BORN IN CHINA review.

born in china

BORN IN CHINA documents five seasons in the lives of a snow leopard (Dawa); a golden snub-nosed monkey (Tao Tao – the only other named monkey is Rooster, the leader of the “Lost Boys”); a giant panda (YaYa) and her baby (MeiMei – pronounced my my); a herd of chiru antelopes; and red-crowned cranes. John Krasinski narrates this Lu Chuan documentary. As with BEARS, the animals are anthropomorphized, given names and emotions and motivations that are familiar and understandable by humans. The different species do not interact at all (in the movie). The snow leopard and chiru stories are told mostly from the point of view of the parent animals; the monkey story is told mostly from the point of view of a young monkey; and the panda story is told from both points of view.

Born In China

Pandas YaYa and MeiMei, photo by Ben Wallis © Disney

The storylines are well written, crafted from hours and hours of footage, to highlight the life cycles of the animals. Dawa’s story (the snow leopard) includes hunting to feed her cubs, defending her territory, enduring the hardships of living at 14,000 meters in China’s mountains, and more. YaYa represents the ultimate “helicopter mom,” protecting her defenseless baby MeiMei, as she grows and takes the first steps toward independence. Tao Tao feels the sting of rejection when his baby sister is born and explores bachelorhood among other family-less golden monkeys. We follow the Chiru antelope through their separation by gender, when the females migrate away from the males to give birth and raise the baby antelopes until their strong enough to migrate back to the males.

Born In China

Chiru, photo by Ben Wallis © Disney

Besides showing these rare animals in their native habitats, BORN IN CHINA also shows viewers areas of China that they might never have seen otherwise, with scenes across all four seasons of the year. The waterfall scene is breathtaking! Filming five different animal species in their various habitats means we see much more of China that we would have if they’d followed just one species, like they did in BEARS.

Born In China

BORN IN CHINA, photo by Richard Lanciault © Disney

The red-crowned cranes appear at two pivotal moments, a metaphor for what isn’t shown on screen. These scenes may require some explanation for younger children. These poetic moments are highlights, I suppose, given the beauty of the cranes in flight. Other highlights include watching a goshawk in flight (if you haven’t heard of goshawks or seen their incredible flying skills, prepare to be amazed) and, for the first time ever, viewers get to see a Chiru antelope giving birth. One of my favorite lines references the duality and desperation of life in the wild: “One mother’s heroic rescue of her baby is another mother’s tragic failure to feed hers.” Be sure to watch the end-credits for footage of baby animals, plus some shots of the photographers at work, with some interactions with their subjects.

Born In China

Red-Crowned Cranes, photo by Ben Wallis © Disney

BORN IN CHINA was my second Disneynature film and their MST3K-style of narrating movies of wild animals is educational, entertaining, and engaging. Listen for Disney references (like the one I named above), too. This is a good film for families, with plenty of humor in the narration (leading to plenty of giggling from the children in my audience). Disneynature’s BORN IN CHINA is in theaters now, and a portion of proceeds during opening week (April 21-27, 2017) will be donated to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China.

Born In China

Snow Leopard – Dawa’s cub, photo by Ben Wallis © Disney

For more information about BORN IN CHINA, click here for an educator guide and activity pages. For more family entertainment news and reviews, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagramtwitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.