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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this stunning nature documentary portrays how animals around the world are born, live, and, yes, die. Although there aren't any grisly shots of predators ripping apart their prey, there are disturbing scenes in which animals are chased and attacked. In a few cases, the predators win; you see them grip their catch with their teeth, but then the scene quickly changes. Other than those possibly upsetting scenes -- plus another in which an animal dies of starvation and exhaustion -- the film is appropriate (and educational) for kids of all ages. It's worth noting that the movie uses footage from the acclaimed TV series Planet Earth, so if you've seen that, you've seen the images included here.
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What's the story?
EARTH is a gorgeously photographed documentary that follows animals on all seven continents throughout one year's "circle of life." Re-combining footage from the BBC production Planet Earth (shown on the Discovery Channel in the U.S.), British wildlife documentarians Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield focus on a few key animal families -- polar bears, humpback whales, and elephants -- that have to overcome exhausting, dangerous obstacles to survive each season. From the birds of paradise strutting their feathers in the tropics to the lone lynx in the coniferous forest, Earth shows how seasonal changes affect birth, life, and death on our planet.
Is it any good?
In its worldwide scope, the fim is stunningly epic -- a cinematographic masterpiece of the natural world. From the polar bear cubs and Adelie penguins adorably navigating their icy terrain to the Demoiselle cranes soaring above the Himalayas, there are countless breathtaking scenes. With James Earl Jones' rich, familiar baritone narrating the action (and yes, he does actually say "circle of life" as a wink to Lion King fans), even young kids will sit still to watch the drama of Earth unfold.
Knowing its audience, Disney and the filmmakers purposefully cut out anything grisly. There's no When Animals Attack-style compilation of bloody maulings in the wild. But there are several poignantly implied deaths, as well as one overt one. In one particularly heartbreaking scene, a caribou calf tries valiantly to outrun a hungry wolf (the odds are even, Jones explains, because caribou run faster than wolves), but the calf loses his footing, and the wolf catches him in a single stride. But for every sorrow there is also a triumph -- like when the exhausted, dehydrated elephant herd finally reaches the Okafago delta and can at last drink and frolic in the water. If we humans don't take care of our planet, the film suggests, there won't be enough water for the elephants -- or ice for the polar bears or trees for the birds -- and that's a lesson we could all use.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the circle of life. Some of the animal death scenes may be upsetting, but they're also part of nature. How do kids feel about seeing some animals attack others? Does it make them feel differently about the predators?
Were the animals overly humanized, or was it clear that animals aren't exactly like people?
Families can also talk about how the planet's creatures are all interconnected. How does the changing climate in one part of the world affect animals across the globe?
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