Disneynature’s documentary <em>Chimpanzee</em> chronicles the travails of 3-year-old chimp Oscar.

Disneynature’s documentary Chimpanzee chronicles the travails of 3-year-old chimp Oscar.


A film directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield.

Folks of a certain age will remember hunkering down before The Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday nights, projecting a collective grandfatherly persona on Walt Disney, our tour guide to humble nature-film tidbits. In some way, seminal shows such as that whetted young appetites to know the world beyond cozy American or human-centric realities. Fast-forward to the vastly more evolved and adventurous nature film culture, and the folks at Disneynature, working with the Jane Goodall Institute, have helped put the impressive and uncommonly animal-kingdom–sensitive Chimpanzee into theaters everywhere.

One upshot: Our young protagonist, Oscar the chimpanzee, is one of the more lovable and endearing big-screen characters of the year. Not only is Chimpanzee beautifully shot — in Ivory Coast and Uganda over three years — and ambitiously integrated into the secret society and world of chimpanzees, but the filmmakers’ efforts were rewarded with that kind of serendipitous “plot” turn of which documentary filmmakers dream. Mild plot spoiler alert: Amid the warring factions and fracases of territorial chimpanzees, Oscar becomes an orphan (speaking of Disneyana, can you say Bambi?) but is taken under the wing and virtually adopted by the chief male of the pack, a rare occurrence in the wild, let alone laid out for cameras to capture.

Narrator-wise, Tim Allen is our surrogate for the avuncular Walt, and a bit annoying at times, with a winking text heavy on the anthropomorphizing of animal life. But it’s no matter. What we get from Chimpanzee is a powerful, and, of course, highly edited taste of planetary life in a jungle far removed from our own.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

You Solve It,’ City Tells County on Library Money Shortage

To avoid financial shortfall, city sends ball back to county's court.

Vigil for Victims in Palestine Held at Courthouse

Community gathers to protest injustice.

Stoker to Be Sworn into EPA Job

Former Santa Barbara County supervisor confirms his appointment as regional head of Environmental Protection Agency.

Live Stream of Channel Island Falcons Makes History

Webcam follows wild peregrine falcon family on the Channel Islands.

Sonos Informs Employees of Potential Layoffs

'Restructuring' could affect 96; how many in Santa Barbara unknown.