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Want the full picture when it comes to Disney's "Morning Light" ? Then see the movie AND pick up its companion book

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Want the full picture when it comes to Disney's "Morning Light" ? Then see the movie AND pick up its companion book

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This past weekend, I found myself 90 miles from home in Hingham, MA.

Photo by Jim Hill

Why had I driven down to the South Shore? Because I was trying to find a theater here in New England that was screening "Morning Light." Which went into extremely limited release this past Friday.

Photo by Jim Hill

As it turns out, historic Loring Hall was one of only three venues in this entire region that was playing this new Walt Disney Pictures release. Which -- given Hingham's long ties to the sea -- seemed like an appropriate place to watch a true-life documentary about competitive sailing. Which is why I drove on down on Saturday to catch a matinee of this movie.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Luckily, "Morning Light" was worth the trip down from New Hampshire. Though this film may be short on actual drama, it's still loaded with enough lush visuals to make you wish that you could sign up to crew in the next Transpac.

For those of you who don't know: The Transpacific Yacht Race is this biennial competition that's considered by many to be one of the most challenging sporting events in the world. It starts just off the coast of Long Beach, CA and then sends sailors out across 2,500 miles of open ocean. With their ultimate goal being the buoy that floats just off the coast of Diamond Head.

The starting line-up for the 2007 Transpac.
Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Given that the Transpac can challenge the abilities of even the most experienced sailors, Roy E. Disney and Leslie DeMeuse wondered if there might be a movie in recruiting a group of young people to take part in this race. To be specific, assembling and then training the youngest crew ever to compete in Transpac.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Starting with a pool of over 500 hopefuls, Disney & DeMeuse then winnowed that group down to 30 possible crew members. Who -- after a round of face-to-face interviews -- were then thinned to 15 extremely strong candidates for the 11 open positions on their boat. Who were now put through six months of extensive training in safety & sailing ...

Robbie Haines supervises a swim test for would-be members of the "Morning Light" crew
Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... before these young men & women themselves selected who the skipper of the "Morning Light" would be (i.e. 21-year-old Jeremy Wilmot of Sydney, Australia). With Wilnot then going on to hand-pick the members of his Transpac team.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Which -- in the tradition of reality television -- makes it sound as if "Morning Light" has all the necessary elements for this really juicy drama. The only problem is that Roy & Leslie selected this really great group of kids. All hard working, even-tempered and not a one of them over the age of 23. And even though they spend a good portion of this motion picture bunking in the exact same building where MTV's "The Real World Hawaii " was shot in, there are no on-camera fights, no behind-the-scenes back-biting and bitching. Which makes "Morning Light" this-perfectly-pleasant-to-watch-but-not-exactly-emotionally-engrossing motion picture.

Copyright 2008 Disney Editions. All Rights Reserved

To be honest, I learned more about the 2007 Transpacific Yacht Race and what the crew of the "Morning Light" actually went through by reading this film's companion volume, "What the Sea Teaches Us: The Crew of the Morning Light " (Disney Editions, October 2008). Leave it to the ever-reliable Jeff Kurtti to unearth the real story here. How the light winds that the sailors encountered off-shore made this one of the most challenging Transpac races in memory.

Kurtti gives you the skinny on how Disney & DeMeuse actually made their movie, with cinematographer Rick Deppe on board the Morning Light while a separate film crew raced alongside that yacht aboard a 125-foot catamaran, the Cheyenne. Jeff even gets Leslie to admit that this true-life documentary didn't come together the way that she & Roy had originally planned.

"We were expecting a little more action, maybe a few more screw-ups at least for our cameras. But there were no problems at all."

But to Roy E. Disney's way of thinking, none of that mattered. "We (weren't) making a film about sailboat racing. ('Morning Light' is a) story about a group of young adults sailing across an ocean, the obstacles they encounter and the bonds they form. It’s a story about becoming more than the sum of the parts ... We watched these kids grow up in the course of the year we spent with them. It really changes their lives. It changed ours along the way, too."

You wanna get the full effect when it comes to "Morning Light" ? My advice is to see the movie AND pick up the companion book. That way, you can take in the bigger picture (i.e. the history of the Transpac, what the 2007 race was actually like) as well as better appreciate the close-up view of this event that Roy & Leslie provide.

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  • I have sailed the Great Lakes and done open ocean sailing in the N. Atlantic. I currently own a Nonsuch 36', "Cool Change". We are located in Muskegon, M. The DVD and book are incredible! I just retired from 49 years of teaching and coaching. Leadership, accountability, positive production, and a selfless attitude are what make teamwork successful. Congratulations to all who had anything to do with Morning Light and What the Sea Teaches Us!

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