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Disneynature’s “Oceans” takes an in-depth look at the depths

Disneynature’s “Oceans” takes an in-depth look at the depths

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Summing up Disneynature’s “Oceans” is really kind of a challenge. Given that this seven-years-in-the-making, four-years-of-principal-photography production literally circles the globe. Taking you from the North Pole down to the South Pole as well as making stops in all five of the world’s oceans as this epic documentary celebrates the beauty and mystery of the sea.

“But what are the true highlights of this Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud film?,” you ask. Well, it’s genuinely hard to beat this movie’s penultimate sequence. Where – off the coast of Guadalupe Island, Mexique – a man and a great white swim side-by-side for more than a minute in perfect harmony.

A diver swims along a white shark in DisneyNature film "Oceans"
Copyright 2009 Gatalee Films – Pathe Production – Notro Films
– France 2 Cinema – France 3 Cinema – JMH/TSR.
All Rights Reserved

It’s shots like this that make you realize that – even though you may have seen spectacular underwater photography before (particularly if you caught “The Blue Planet,” that 8-part nature documentary that the BBC produced back in 2001) – you’ve never ever seen anything like Disneynature’s “Oceans.”

Take – for example – the sequence that was shot at the bottom of Melbourne Bay in Australia. Where you’re on the ocean floor as literally tens of thousands of spider crabs come marching across the screen and then prepare to do battle.

The result of a king crab war
Copyright 2009 Gatalee Films – Pathe Production – Notro Films
– France 2 Cinema – France 3 Cinema – JMH/TSR.
All Rights Reserved

“How did the two Jacques ever get a shot like that?,” you query. Well, it’s not just the innovative technology that Perrin & Cluzaud provided their cinematographers with. These Academy Award-winning filmmakers devoted a full two years to preproduction on this documentary. Interviewing fishermen, tanker captains, environmentalists, deep-sea divers and marine biologists as they tried to come up with the best possible ways to illustrate the majesty and the power of the sea.

Out of the 480 hours of footage that was shot, some of the images that the two Jacques have chosen to include in this Disneynature film are really quite sweet. Like that walrus off of Cobburg Island in the Arctic who cuddles her pup just as a human mother might.

A mother walrus hugs her pup
Copyright 2009 Gatalee Films – Pathe Production – Notro Films
– France 2 Cinema – France 3 Cinema – JMH/TSR.
All Rights Reserved

Or better yet – that footage that was shot in the Antarctic. Which shows a female Weddell seal coaxing her baby to come under the ice for the very first time.

A female Weddell seal gently coaxes her baby into the water for it's fist swim
Copyright 2009 Gatalee Films – Pathe Production – Notro Films
– France 2 Cinema – France 3 Cinema – JMH/TSR.
All Rights Reserved

Mind you, Perrin & Cluzaud don’t shy away from showing the crueler side to the sea. There’s one sequence in “Oceans” that’s almost certain to upset the smaller kids in the audience. Which first shows this nest full of green sea turtles hatching. And then – as these hatchlings scramble across the hot sand, desperate to reach the relative safety of the water – dozens of them are picked off by the hungry seabirds that wheel overhead.

A baby turtle gazes at the vast expanse of beach it has to travel to get from its nest to the sea
Copyright 2009 Gatalee Films – Pathe Production – Notro Films
– France 2 Cinema – France 3 Cinema – JMH/TSR.
All Rights Reserved

But – in the end -- the two Jacques bring a sense of balance to “Oceans.” As Pierce Brosnan (i.e. the film’s narrator) repeatedly reminds us, while the world’s five oceans are loaded with incredible beauty & bounty …

A school of fish dances beneath the sea
Copyright 2009 Gatalee Films – Pathe Production – Notro Films
– France 2 Cinema – France 3 Cinema – JMH/TSR.
All Rights Reserved

… they are also incredibly fragile. Especially when you consider all of the trash & chemical waste that mankind has poured into them over the past 100 years or so. Which is why we all now must make an effort to protect and preserve the seas as well as all the creatures who live there.

Dolphins play amongst the waves
Copyright 2009 Gatalee Films – Pathe Production – Notro Films
– France 2 Cinema – France 3 Cinema – JMH/TSR.
All Rights Reserved

Thanks to Don Hahn & Kirk Wise’s input (these two WDAS veterans acted as executive producers on “Oceans.” Which means that Hahn & Wise worked with Perrin & Cluzaud to help shape the storyline of this documentary. Finding that slim narrative thread that connects all of this spectacular imagery), “Oceans” never once gets heavy handed. It's a wonderfully informative and entertaining follow-up to the first film in the Disneynature series, "Earth." Which is why -- if you're looking for a fun way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day (which happens to be today) -- you might want to consider taking your family to see this in-depth look at the depths.

If you do, make sure to stay through the closing credits. Not to hear Joe Jonas & Demi Lovato perform “Oceans” ‘ theme song, “Make a Wave,” mind you. But because the credit sequence reveals how those undersea cinematographers actually pulled off some of this documentary's more impossible-looking shots.

A diver hangs out with an enormous sperm whale
Copyright 2009 Gatalee Films – Pathe Production – Notro Films
– France 2 Cinema – France 3 Cinema – JMH/TSR.
All Rights Reserved

For further information on Disneynature’s “Oceans,” please click on this link.

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  • I was a little disappointed with Earth last year. It was mostly a rehash of scenes I had already seen in Planet Earth. Still, I'll try to catch Oceans eventually.

  • I had been interested in seeing Disney's "Earth" until, as Tolkoto mentioned above, I found out it was cobbled together from BBC's "Planet Earth". Therefore I am a bit leery about seeing Disney's "Oceans", as I suspect that this series of films coming out annually under the new Disneynature banner would probably be better without the meddling of today's Disney mindset. Out of curiosity I clicked on the link Jim provided to "Make a Wave", the song that apparently plays over the end titles of "Oceans", and it was every bit as mindnumbingly insipid as I'd figured it would be. Why do the execs at Disney feel the need to dumb down a nature documentary with a silly pop song sung by two pop singers who sound indistinguishable from all of the other idiotic young pop singers today?

    I wish that "Oceans" was not being distributed by Disney, as I've enjoyed the previous two French nature docs I've seen from Jacques Perrin: "Winged Migration" which he produced, and "Microcosmos" which he narrated. Both are fascinating films and I'm sure that "Oceans" is too, but I really don't like the fact that there will likely be some insipid influence from contemporary Disney and their merry Marketeers. Still, I may go see this film regardless, as I know that the nature footage will be spectaular. I'll just leave before the idiot pop song at the end...

  • This is without a doubt the worst documentary I have ever watched. The images were amazing but because they tried to somehow have a story-line with a nature documentary it dumbed it down instead of being educational and insightful. I mean for a few scenes the narration just described what we were seeing "a crab walks across the sea floor". Really??? Its like they didn't even do the research to describe why some creatures were doing certain actions. Also the editing of the clips together was all over the place. It would jump from a scene of dolphins jumping out of the water then to an octopus swimming then to birds flying in the sky without saying anything.

    Disney really needs to hire professionals or at least someone with knowledge of their subjects before trying to put out another documentary.

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