Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins Movie Poster Image

Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins



Prequel is a gem, but more intense than series.
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 76 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The movie offers an excellent opportunity for families to learn about the ups and downs of life in the wild.

Violence & scariness

Three prominent characters are killed during the movie, and the footage is both graphic and emotional. One meerkat is hit by a truck, a second is fatally wounded by a hawk (the injury isn't shown, but the death is), and a baby perishes from a snake bite after a drawn-out scene showing her struggling to breathe and crying for help. Meerkats also wage fairly violent battles against a rival gang.

Sexy stuff

Two scenes show meerkats mating (which looks more like cuddling than anything suggestive), and the narrator mentions adults' desires to find partners and start a family.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this documentary prequel to the popular series Meerkat Manor isn't for the faint of heart, as it features upsetting scenes of meerkats being hunted and killed by predators and, in one case, being run over by a truck. In one emotional sequence, a baby meerkat is bitten by a cobra and suffers a sad, slow, labored death. Despite the voice-over narration, kids may be confused by the animal family's infighting. They may also have questions about the mating scenes (though they look more like cuddling than anything else) and resulting litters of pups. Overall, it's pretty intense for very young viewers, but for grade-school kids, it's a great introduction to the realities of life in the wild -- though you'll want to be ready to field queries about nature's "survival of the fittest."

What's the story?

Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, MEERKAT MANOR: THE STORY BEGINS is a prequel to Animal Planet's popular series Meerkat Manor and chronicles the rise of family matriarch Flower. It opens with underground scenes of Flower and her siblings not long after their birth and follows the future Whiskers family leader as she takes her first tentative steps into daylight, learns to forage for food, and discovers the wonders of the world around her. Cameras are there as Flower surrenders her home to a rival gang, suffers a haunting loss, finds love (and pays dire consequences for breaking the family's rules regarding romance), and finally steps up to the leadership role that seemed tailor-made for her.

Is it any good?


This story has it all -- family drama, neighborhood strife, illicit romance, emotional reunions, and the particular brand of humor reserved for human interpretations of animal behavior. Whether you're an established fan of the Whiskers clan or a newcomer to the Kalahari meerkat family, Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins is a captivating journey into the wild that will transport you from your living room to the desert to laugh, cry, and struggle alongside these irrepressible foot-tall desert dwellers.

That said, be careful about sharing it with young kids kids, since many scenes feature close-up views of battles between predators and prey, and there's uncensored footage of a few deaths (including one heart-wrenching one in which a baby dies slowly and painfully after a snake bite). Even kids old enough to handle the harsh facts of life in the wild may have follow-up questions about topics like mating rituals and "survival of the fittest," so be prepared. But if your kids are up for it, grab a box of tissues (you'll need them for all the ups and downs) and join them for the amazing journey that is everyday meerkat life.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the way things work in the wild. What daily struggles do the meerkats face? How do they work together to ensure the family's survival? How do their individual roles reflect their personal strengths? How does the movie make them seem more like real "characters" than a group of animals? Does that make what happens to them affect you more? Families can also discuss leadership. Why is it important to have leadership within a group? What happens when leadership dissolves? What qualities define a good leader?

Movie details

DVD/Streaming release date:June 3, 2008
Cast:Judy Morris, Whoopi Goldberg
Director:Christopher Barker
Studio:Weinstein Co.
Run time:76 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Meerkat Manor: The Story Begins was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 10 years old April 9, 2008

Wonderful movie, a great tribute to Flower

This movie was truly a gem. Like the series, this movie was heart-warming and family-friendly. :) Deaths aren't shown, but injuries sometimes are. Meerkat mating is shown, but as stated, it looks more like cuddling than mating. My take on this movie: 10 stars. Aww, I can only give it five? I'll just give it 5 stars times 2. :)
Adult Written byTwilight April 9, 2008
Parent Written bykatc December 30, 2014

More violent than I'd expected

Although a beautiful film about nature, it doesn't pull any punches about how hard it is in the wild. We had to turn it off halfway through when the rival family attacked again, because the sensitive 9 year old said it was just too scary and he detested it. The nearly 6 year old loved it, though, and started crying because we turned it off. We came to an arrangement where we finished the scene, and we'll watch the rest when his brother is away.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?