Meet the cutest characters you'll see in a Disney movie all year: Mei and her doting mother Ya Ya are giant pandas.
They are one of three animal families featured in Disneynature's "Born in China,” an ambitious film that takes viewers into the wilderness of China where few people have ever visited.
Evening reporter Saint Bryan spoke with producer Roy Conli and wanted to know how long a project like this takes to complete.
“This was probably filmed over a three-year period,” Conli said. “It's huge. We've got individual film crews in every area. Phenomenal, phenomenal artists behind the camera and it's just an amazing process.”
A process not without its challenges: the Golden Snub Nose Monkey spends most of its life high up in the trees and the elusive Snow Leopard lives in one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet ---16,000 feet above sea level.
“They had oxygen on the set,” Conli said. “They had doctors on the set because altitude sickness was something you had to deal with.”
Conli previously won an Oscar for the animated feature "Big Hero 6," but he'd be the first to tell you Disneynature films are a different kind of animal.
For example, the stars have no scripts. Their stories and characters only emerge after hundreds of hours of film are shot.
“The panda is this incredible story about a mother who's a little afraid to let go,” Conli said. “The monkey has this amazing story about being supplanted by his baby sister, and then you see this mother snow leopard who is so protective of her cherished little cubs.”
Conli says these films are an important part of the Disney legacy.
“This harkens back to seventy years of history,” said Conli.
Walt Disney started the True Life Adventures series in 1948, after purchasing film of a fawn for Bambi animators to study.
Between 1948 and 1960, Disney made 13 nature films, winning eight Academy Awards.
“I remember as a kid seeing these films and being inspired and really opening my eyes to what the world is,” Conli said.
Now, a new generation is learning about the world through Disney.
“And to open that to audiences in this country is really kind of exciting,” Conli said.
Born in China is out on DVD and BluRay now.
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