“Mm. I like pink flavor.”
Narrated by Tina Fey (30 Rock), Monkey Kingdom tells the story of a troop of 50 macaque monkeys who have taken over an abandoned city in Sri Lanka. The opening sequence starts with The Monkees’ theme song, cluing you in that perhaps this is going to be a light-hearted adventure. And indeed it doesn’t disappoint. Taking three years to film Monkey Kingdom is the eighth in the line of Disneynature films. This is a nature film how I enjoy seeing it, with our animal brethren displaying goofy almost human qualities so I can feel closer to them and thus more inclined to want to protect them in the future. This is a Disney movie after all, and so a happy ending is virtually a guarantee. But the journey isn’t going to be filled with spoonfuls of sugar all the way.
Our story focuses on Maya, the lowest female (socially speaking) in the troop. We understand that Maya is the lowest of the low and it seems like maybe we’re not going to truly do more than see how the monkeys who are the top of the totem pole so to speak rule the troop with an iron paw, dictating how everything goes, but it’s not the direction the movie’s going to take.
Things take a turn when it seems they are at their darkest. Maya suffers the heartbreak of losing a potential mate yet months later it turns into the joy of giving birth to a baby of her own, and it is this pairing of Maya and her newborn son Kip which becomes our focus and drives the story for the rest of the documentary. Monkey Kingdom is definitely the circle of life idea brought forth by The Lion King into the real world. Though the documentary is respectful of the deaths which happen be warned they do occur. It may be too sorrowful for some younger viewers (or some blu-ray reviewers who should really stop asking for nature documentaries due to emotional responses to said documentaries.)
But the potential for tears is outweighed by a few things. Number one is the film’s visuals. This is an absolutely gorgeous film. Shot over the course of three years even the monsoon season is shot to make the countryside look beautiful. The visuals are definitely what shine here but the audio definitely holds its own though the soundtrack doesn’t necessarily draw attention to itself aside from the Monkees’ theme and the occasional snippet of a song to punctuate a moment or a montage. That is of course save for one exception, and that is Tina Fey. Her narration is spot on, providing just the right touch of humor balanced with the informative and sometimes somber tones the documentary needs.
It’s a quick trip alongside these primates’ lives, clocking in at just shy of an hour and a half. If you have enjoyed other Disneynature films this one will earn its spot on your shelf. Animal lovers, monkey fanatics and nature documentary enthusiasts will also find lots to appreciate here.
Technical specs are on par if you’re considering a Disney blu-ray since they definitely are one of the leaders when it comes to producing beautifully proficient blu-rays both in visuals and audio. The video is a 1.85:1 1080p HD widescreen transfer, and it is pretty much as technically flawless as you could want. The accompanying audio is a DTS-HD multi-channel Master Audio track, and though the narration is really the only consistent audio element there is, there definitely isn’t a drop in quality where the audio is concerned. Together the audio and visual are better than you could ask for.
Considering special features we have a DVD copy and a digital copy to start us off. Next up there are a music video and a trio of featurettes serving as the selections. One featurette is a behind-the-scenes trip detailing the filming of Monkey Kingdom, another documents Jane Goodall’s visit to the set. The last focuses on the conservation efforts of Conservation International.