Imagine swinging through the jungle like Tarzan in a forest that’s grown up around the ancient domed structures of a long deserted city, jumping from rock to rock, then munching fresh fruit off the branches of trees. Well, in order to do that, you would have to be a member of a troop of Macaque Monkeys in Sri Lanka.
“Monkey Kingdom” follows a society of monkeys who inhabit just such a deserted ancient city deep in the forest of Sri Lanka ‚Äì real monkeys, not animated! These charming creatures will win your heart within the first few minutes. Due to the skill of the director, Mark Linfield, and his dedicated team including cinematographer Gavin Thurston and editor Andy Netley, the visual environment created is superb. Add the expressive narrative of Tina Fey, and you suddenly realize you are watching a perfectly stylized and colorful 1950s Disney cartoon ‚Äì yet the animals and landscapes are real! Tina Fey’s narration style brings back memories of watching Disney’s “Cinderella” or “Snow White” cartoons as a child.
The filmmakers spent years following this monkey clan, obtaining enough footage to create a heartwarming story about “Maya,” a young female from the lowest societal rank of her community, and her struggle to better her life and that of her baby son “Kip.” Their adventures are crazy, scary, fun and wacky — and relatable, just like a Disney cartoon. The musical score, beautifully composed and matched to the animals’ movements by Harry Gregson-Williams, adds to the lyrical quality of the movie.
I must say that the acting in this film is superb — very natural and subtle. Actors should take note of the genuinely expressive faces and natural body language of the monkeys … just kidding — or am I? And, they do all their own stunts! That must have saved a good amount for the production budget. In reality, the filmmakers had an added degree of difficulty in getting the monkeys to feel comfortable and at home around them before they could shoot such incredible footage.
It’s a little-known fact that Walt Disney in the 1950s felt that the industrialization of the modern world was encroaching on nature — that all too soon the vanishing wilderness would be gone forever. So, he made 13nature films called the “True-Life Adventures” series. Eight won Academy Awards. They were shown in schools for years and were an inspiration to many students. In fact, to educate his animators about animals’ expressions and movements, Walt often brought animals and animal specialists into the studios.
DisneyNature, the production arm of Disney behind this film, was launched on Earth Day 2008 to rekindle Walt Disney’s quest to unite audiences with wildlife and the wilderness. Through opening week donations tied to their first four films, the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund subsidized some major ecological conservation efforts worldwide.
“Monkey Kingdom” is an inspirational story for everyone of any age. Go see it. You will probably recognize some of your own personality traits in these charismatic creatures — and that’s not a bad thing!
Rated G. 81 minutes.
Kathryn Whitney Boole was drawn into the entertainment industry as a kid and never left. It has been the backdrop for many awesome adventures with crazy creative people. She now works as a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her firstname.lastname@example.org.