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Wings of Life
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Disneynature's Earth Day-timed documentary Wings of Life explains the importance of flowers and the earth's greatest pollinators: bees, birds, bats, and butterflies. Narrated by Meryl Streep, the documentary follows the journey of these pollinators, some of whom travel amazing distances to pollinate a very specific flower. There is a teensy bit of wildlife violence (a spider web traps prey, and a few birds fight for the claim on a particular flower), but otherwise nature-loving young viewers will enjoy a look at nature's unsung heroes, and teachers can use the Disney-created educator guide as a tool alongside the feature.
What's the story?
Disneynature has an annual tradition of releasing a nature documentary around Earth Day: WINGS OF NATURE is a film that concentrates on the relationship between flowers and their pollinators, particularly bees, butterflies, birds and bats. Narrated by Meryl Streep, the movie provides a close-up view of pollination -- from the Monarch butterflies who journey thousands of miles north to find the milkweed of the Midwest, to the bucket orchids of the rainforest that expertly manipulate bees to fly away with their pollen sacks, and the bats that feed on cactus fruit in the deserts. This is literally the story of the birds and the bees.
Is it any good?
Like most nature documentaries, this film is visually spectacular. The cinematography captures in breathtaking detail the ways pollinators and their colorful host flowers interact. It shows pregnant and nursing bats drink luscious red cactus fruit in slow motion, and an orchid bee getting trapped in a bucket orchid with perfect precision until the exotic flower's pollen sacks have been attached. Even basic closeups of Monarch butterflies or hungry hummingbirds are startlingly beautiful.
Each coupling between a pollinator and its flower is what Streep's narration calls a "love connection," and the documentary beautifully conveys how the partnership of pollination is pivotal to the environment. However beautiful the visuals, younger kids may lose interest, because the dramatic tension isn't as compelling in this story as it is in other documentaries like African Cats or March of the Penguins, where there are several life-or-death scenarios. Still, you'll never look at a flower quite the same way again after seeing the process of pollination up close and personal in Wings of Life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how documentaries like Wings of Life help teach us about the world around us -- whether it's nature and wildlife or personal stories. Which are more powerful or educational: documentaries or narrative films?
Discuss flowers and how your family can help pollinators in your own backyard or locally through a community garden. What can you do to keep the cycle of pollination going strong?
Disneynature releases a new documentary every year around Earth Day. What do you do in honor of Earth Day? Do you think it's helpful to have a day in which everyone's supposed to think about the environment?
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