“I wanted to go to Africa when I was ten, and that was because of Tarzan,” the soft spoken Jane Goodall told us in in our interview with her after the premiere of Chimpanzee. I was in the back of the room and it was hard to hear the honesty and passion she was speaking. So, I got closer. I listened harder. I sat in wonderment of how passionate she is for Chimps. After being asked how she felt about the film, she tells us, “The crew, film, sound, and the effort that Disney made….the footage that they got, is stunning. And the story that unfolded is magical. If Disney had planned it, they couldn’t have planned such an extraordinary story.”
That’s the truth behind the film. Disney couldn’t have planned such honest and truth behind Oscar and the “adoption” that took place with Freddy, the Alpha Male of the tribe. In fact, the directors tells us that when, Isha, Oscars Mother, disappeared they called Disney and said, “Sorry, guys. We spent most of your money, and you haven’t got a movie.” Little did they know, at that very moment, that a miracle would unfold and they’d get to share that miracle with the world.
Jane Goodall tells us, “Over all these 52 years, I’ve heard of one other story of an alpha male adopting an infant, so it’s very rare. Very rare.” In fact, the directors of the movie, Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill, had similar statements as Jane stating:
My goodness, if we’d written the script exactly as we’d wanted, we wouldn’t have, in our wildest dreams, have that (the adoption) happen, and it’s just such a lovely story, because male chimpanzees are such macho guys. I mean, they are. Their brains are a third as big as ours, but they have three times as much muscle.
Macho guys, eh?
Just the sight of Scar, the Alpha male from the rival Chimpanzee Tribe, gives me the shivers.Speaking of the rival tribe I couldn’t help, but ask the directors, “How did you guys decide who was the rival tribe and who wasn’t? I mean, they’re both chimpanzees, did you all just follow Oscar around and you decided that way?” His answer was surprising to me, because I didn’t think about how much research went INTO the project before the movie even began.
Most chimpanzees in the wild are completely frightened of human beings. So the only chimps that you can work with are what are called habituated chimps, and these are chimps where scientists have spent literally five to ten years getting the chimps used to a human presence. Jane Goodall was one of the very first people to do it. And Christophe Boesch, where we worked in the Tai Forest in Africa, was one of the second.
I never thought of how wild Chimpanzees had to, literally, be prepped for YEARS just to get used to humans. Actually, the directors and film crews were never allowed to be more than seven meters from the chimpanzees. A very good reason for that is that chimpanzees are very susceptible to diseases. So, they had to be extremely careful not to get close enough for them to catch anything that humans might be carrying, not the other way around.
Two Things That Struck Me
It was amazing to have the ability to interview Jane Goodall and Directors, Alastar Fothergill and Mark Linfield, however, I wasn’t positive how I’d feel afterwards. Every single word Jane says is this moving, striking, thought provoking quote. I could, literally, type everything she said into beautiful words and place them on a plaque for my wall, but the last thing she told us was something of simplicity, yet held such reverence.
Just spend a little bit of time each day thinking about the consequences of the choices you make. What you buy. Where did it come from? How was it made? What do you eat? Does it involve cruelty to animals? What you wear. Does it involve child-slave labor or sweat shops? How many miles has it traveled? How was the environment damaged?
If you stop and think of the every day decisions you’re making, it evokes change in your heart.
The making of Chimpanzee has moved the hearts of millions across the globe and the ability to present such a miracle of a story on screen, was a feat that would be difficult to do twice. So, being that the movie was so honest, I expected some kind of wildlife violence. In fact, I expected violence that would, somehow, convince me NOT to take my young children, but it was so far from that. Chimpanzee depicted real life in the African Forest, but it was cautious about showing too much. I left the interview happy when the Directors asked US a question, “Did any of you feel that the meat, the monkey-hunting sequence, was worrying for children?” THAT is a director who takes pride in his films, yet aims to produce movies that are honest, not frightening. I mean, nobody wants to leave the theater with a crying child. I’ve been there. It’s not fun.
Have you seen Chimpanzee? It debuted yesterday and, if you see it opening week, a portion of ticket sales will be donated to the Jane Goodall Institute. For more information visit www.disney.com/chimpanzee.
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