April is Earth Month and this year Disneynature has released two new films on Disney+. Elephant and Dolphin Reef both tell new stories found in nature of families of animals. Elephant, narrated by Meghan Markle, tells the story of an African elephant Shani and her spirited son Jomo. Together, with their herd, they make an epic journey in the pursuit of food and water. Along the way, the herd faces many dangers that include a lack of water and natural predators. Through the course of Elephant, Shani and Jomo’s story shows both the beauty and peril that they face as they make their yearly trek.
The story told in Elephant of Jomo and his mother Shani shows what a year is like in the life of the herd. It effectively shows the challenges and dangers the herd faces as they make their trek across the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa and back. It has a fairly familiar structure for a Disneynature film which is ok because it works. Throughout the course of the film a real fondness grows for Jomo and his family. While elephants don’t seem to portray emotion as much as some other animals, there is still a journey that is taken and followed.
Elephant is filmed in one of the most epic and beautiful landscapes on Earth. This can be very hard to translate to the screen. Thankfully, the Disneynature team really did a fantastic job capturing the scope and beauty of Africa and the elephant family that lives there. There are some absolutely stunning scenes shown in this film, some of them at night. The accompanying audio was a nice compliment to the video that added to the story and didn’t detract. Together this made for a very enjoyable viewing experience. While it is fine to watch this on an iPad, I would suggest watching it on as big of HD TV with accompanying surround sound as possible. It really will add to the experience.
Meghan Markle is the narrator for Disneynature’s Elephant. Her voice is easy to understand as she verbalizes what is going on with Jomo and the rest of the elephant herd. Her performance was polished and really had nothing wrong with it. However, I think I would have preferred someone with a little more animation and a little less polish as a narrator. The polish of the presentation didn’t necessarily mesh with the elephants who most certainly weren’t polished at all.
The music that accompanies a Disneynature film really is as important as the narrator in the storytelling process. The soundtrack to Elephant is a wonderful and vibrant accompaniment to Jomo’s story. The music fits with the elephants themselves and also with the Kalahari Desert where they reside. At times it is reminiscent of The Lion King. It really is beautiful and is a soundtrack I look forward to listening to on its own.
Disneynature continues to do a beautiful job introducing viewers to the stories of different animal families around the world. Elephant is a family-friendly film that all ages will be able to watch together. There are moments that are a little exciting but nothing that should be too much for younger ones. To go back to The Lion King connection, that movie (either version) is more intense than Elephant is. There are some absolutely incredible moments in this film that are stunning. The story has heart, purpose, and risk to it. It is a wonderful look at a year in the life of a herd of elephants. My main critiques for this film comes to Markle being overly polished and so the narration didn’t connect quite as much with me. I also had the realization about halfway through the film that Disneynature films are a little bit predictable. However, as I have reflected on it more this is because the “circle of life” is a constant in the world. The cycles that animals live in really are similar for many different species. With that thought, I have to give Elephant a hat tip for making me think a little bit more about the Earth and the animals that inhabit it during this Earth Month.
Elephant is an enjoyable new Disneynature film that is definitely worth watching on Disney+. It isn’t the best Disneynature film to come out but it definitely isn’t anywhere near the worst either. Take a look at it and then share what you thought of it with me!