Theatrical Review: AFRICAN CATS
Every year, around Earth Day, DisneyNature releases wildlife documentaries for general audiences. These documentaries follow migration trends, survival stories of animals in the wild, or just how the Earth is so vast and full of life. This year is no different, with the release of AFRICAN CATS, DisneyNature sets the benchmark for cinematic excellence. Honestly, I wish Disney would release more movies like these every year. These groups of movies don’t break box office numbers or set general audiences or children flocking to their local theaters, but they do spark the imagination and leaves an audience full of wonder.
AFRICAN CATS tells the story of two families, one a pride of lions called the River Pride who is protected by mighty but aged lion called Fang. His pride is full of lionesses and their cubs, one of which is Layla, the most experienced of hunters; like Fang, she is aged but seeks out to protect her only cub, Mara. Their pride is threatened by a neighboring lion pride led by the powerful Kali and his sons. The other family in the story is a small coalition of cheetahs made up of matriarch Sita and her newborn cubs. Sita is a single mother and she will stop at nothing to protect her family from scavengers and the unforgiving elements of the African savanna.
Finding food for a growing family is hard to do when the wildebeest make their annual migration. The landscape is severely changed and these families must adapt to survive the season. What is interesting about this film is that it captures these images of survival so well. We are sympathetic to these animals and watch as they try to find food and water. But the harshness of Mother Nature doesn’t provide for Hollywood endings, some of the subjects we follow don’t make it, but the ones that do survive provide us the joy of overcoming certain death. They live for another day, but for how long?
Remarkably, this film is so engaging and full of humor. Images of a protective mother carrying her newborn cub with her teeth across the savanna are just so darling and precious. Narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, AFRICAN CATS is a story of survival and family. It is simply breathtaking to watch what filmmakers Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey have captured in the majestic Maasai Mara National Reserve. Seeing families of African cats, bonding, playing, and taking care of each other shows us that we are not too different from wildlife after all.
I really do have to hand it to Disney for making movies like these every year. They don’t rake in the dollars like other Disney films, but they provide a valuable service to general moviegoers and children - showing that there are another animals out there that are not Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. Giving audiences a film that is both educational and entertaining is a rarity in today’s landscape of children’s films and documentaries, both genres not usually mutually exclusive. AFRICAN CATS delivers the real-life LION KING. A film full of astonishment, humor, and the circle of life.