Skip to content

Born in China

“Once upon a time, in a land far, far away lived a little cub named Paddington Bear…”


Synopsis: The documentary follows wild animal families in China over the course of a year: a panda & her cub, a snow leopard & her two cubs and a golden snub-nosed monkey family.

Thank you, Disneynature for bringing us to the wilds of China to follow snow leopards, monkeys and pandas over the course of a year. A special thank you for all of the baby panda footage. My pupils dilated in the extreme every time that baby Mei Mei was onscreen. How I wished to cubsit her… I would brush her fur, give her a bottle of formula and kiss her little face. Of course I understand that in reality, if Mei Mei’s mom saw me cuddling her cub, she would smack me all the way to Shanghai.

Thank you, Disneynature for giving us an appreciation of the difficult work a snow leopard has in providing for her cubs in the mountainous Qinghai Province near Tibet. Mama kitty, Dawa, has a beautiful mottled ivory and grey coat

Disneynature "Born in China"
Considering the palatability of the nearby human photographers

and enormous paws. Her kittens are, of course, adorable. And hungry. It’s clear how stressed she is, hunkered down on a rocky outcropping, staring out at all of the tasty but uncooperative hoofed animals who wisely keep their distance. Meanwhile, the cubs frisk around her and nibble on her ears. How I wished that I could deliver bags and bags of Meow Mix to their dreary den.

Thank you, Disneynature for inviting us to explore the world of the golden snub-nosed monkey. These cuties are blessed with pale golden hair that cascades over

New intern getting the shot just right

their bodies to keep them warm and fashionable in the mountain forests where they are found. The film pretends that the protagonist monkey, young Tao Tao, is part of a nuclear family of mom, dad and baby sister. But all is not as portrayed! Apparently these monkey dads have harems. But all Disney ever shows is the dad with the mom and mistresses are no where to be seen. But I’m okay with the truncated version because it allows more screen time for Tao Tao’s little sister — a presh baby with big brown eyes and pale downy looking fur.

No thank you, Disney for the ridiculous narration that ranges from sappy to inane. The animal characters express their thoughts in voiceover provided by narrator John Krasinski. Here are some examples… The little monkey frets over being cool enough, making us worry that he is on the path to some sort of monkey version of juvenile delinquency… Mother panda obsesses over her cub like a high strung woman in a Tennessee Williams play. The only animal whose dignity is respected is the snow leopard.When the snow leopard cuts a paw mid-chase, I was relieved that Kraz didn’t shout Ow! Watch out rock — I’ve got to get to dinner!

Panda mom, Ya Ya, is portrayed as a helicopter mom. Baby Mei Mei wants to climb trees, but no, mother holds her back. Don’t you get it, Ya Ya?! the film makers seem to demand. Stop being neurotic and let your cub fling herself down ravines and clamber to the tippy tops of trees! Here’s a thought Disney: Maybe mother Panda knows more about raising panda cubs than you.

The story line –emphasis on story — for little monkey Tao Tao goes like this… His mom and dad have a new baby girl and don’t have much time for him anymore. So Tao Tao joins a gang, ‘The Lost Boys.’ (Gotta get those Disney references in there.) They do all sorts of juvie things like breaking tree limbs and roaming around together. Supposedly there is an adult ringleader who has a bone to pick with Tao Tao’s dad. Huh? Actually, it’s Tao Tao’s dad who seems like the jerk; attacking the old ‘ringleader’ and chasing Tao Tao away from family grooming sessions. Spoiler: Tao Tao rescues his sister from a descending hawk and his father likes him again. Sure…

Snow leopard mama, Dawa, is treated with more respect by the writers. Maybe one of them has a cat and understands that felines will not tolerate being made to look foolish. No wisecracking by Kraz or silly music. Just the footage speaking for itself, as Dawa reveals courage and tenacity while tirelessly hunting to provide for her cubs.

See the movie with a friend so that you can marvel at these wondrous animals. And make fun of the narration together.

P.S. Disney, kids like learning animal facts. Next time do better than a few stray bits of information. Although I was glad to learn that pandas eat over 40 lbs of bamboo a day. Yum!

Movie Overview

Grade: B

Cut to the Chase: Beautiful photography, awesome animals.

Comedy Highlight: When a hoofed animal slips on ice, the voiceover supplies a gag about trying to act cool while falling. “Whoaa…. whoa!”  Funny because it’s so unfunny.

%d bloggers like this: