When Walt Disney set out to make the world a happy and better place, he was doing it with not just animated animals but also real fauna and flora in the great outdoors in a series of ‘true-life adventures’ made between the late 1940s to early 1960s, a few of them — such as Nature’s Half Acre, Beaver Valley, and Seal Island — were Oscar winners.
Today, the Walt Disney Company continues to produce these wildlife documentaries under the banner of Disneynature, a label launched in 2008. “What we trying to do [at Disneynature] is to tell stories to families that really touch their hearts and hopefully make them fall in love with these animals,” says producer Roy Conli. “If you love them, you don’t want them to disappear [from the face of the Earth].”
Conli, a 26-year Disney veteran who’d also worked on the studio’s animated films (including The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tangled, and the Oscar-winning Big Hero 6), was in Singapore last month for the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival to showcase Dolphin Reef, about a pod of bottlenose dolphins, and Penguins, a coming-of-age story about an Adélie penguin.
8 DAYS met up with Conli at the Disney’s Sandcrawler office in Buona Vista, where he explained the differences between producing animated features and documentaries, and what it takes to be a wildlife filmmaker.