Disneynature is known for its films in theaters, like Bears or African Cats, however, did you know they release direct-to-DVD films as well? Well, in 2008 they released The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos to Blu-ray and DVD. I had never had the opportunity to view the documentary, even though I’m a huge Disneynature fan, but I was looking around Netflix the other day and found this waiting for me, so I decided to give it a shot.
Narrated by Mariella Frostup, this is the March of the Penguins equivalent for our favorite lawn ornament. By that, I mean the film shows the migration of the florescent bird, their mating process and the birth and journey a baby flamingo takes. Spoiler alert: baby flamingos are freaking adorable. Like, I want a stuffed animal baby flamingo immediately.
Set in Tanzania, on Lake Natron, the film also chronicles the weird phenomenon that encompasses the lake. Every year, the area’s new rain supply quickly evaporates and a salt residue forms an island a top the land. At 130 degrees, it is incredibly hot and not a plausible habitat for other animals, yet the flamingos thrive and create nests for their eggs.
This is where the film turns into a horror film. The babies are adorable, but marabou storks come in a kill the babies. Not in a way where it’s insinuated off camera. Oh no, they show the storks mutilating the babies, breaking their necks and leaving them to die. After the rest of the flamingos leave the salt island to go towards more water, some of the injured babies are left to starve and die. They show one baby flamingo that, I’m not kidding, sighs as they realize their fate. THE BABY KNOWS IT IS BOUND TO DIE! I just can’t deal.
As the flamingos make their long walk to more water, some of the babies start to grow large salt collections around their legs, which accumulate and become close to cement. The stuck-on salt greatly affects their ability to walk, slowing them down and eventually losing themselves from the group. Again, they show one baby trying to catch up with their parents and the rest of the flock, yet its salt shackles clack together like cinderblocks hitting each other and making it trip and fall every third step.
But wait, it gets more depressing. Once they reach the new lush area of Tanzania, they begin to become accustomed to their new surroundings…oh wait, a mongoose comes and attacks, killing one of the baby flamingos. AND THEN, after a beautiful flying montage, they are just calmly walking around, and, hold up, a hyena just murdered another flamingo. I think I am now clinically depressed.
The biggest problem with the film is how graphic it is. While, I completely realize that this is how the Animal Kingdom works, it sure is depressing when you are just trying to enjoy the majesty of these gorgeous birds. The narration also adds to the depression as even when there is a high point happening, the tone in her voice sounds like a crocodile will come out of the water and chop down on hundreds of birds. Her voice makes you expect the worst.
With that said, it still is gorgeous documentary, with their mating process being an interesting and beautiful highlight. It was really neat being able to see an animal that everyone knows as something so basic, yet to see all the facets of its life.
The filmmakers did try a story route, by showcasing a baby flamingo that is separated from its mother early on and must grow up by itself, but it isn’t noticed whatsoever and with or without the story element, the film would’ve still stayed the same.
With that said, I give the film 3 salt legs shackles out of 5. While the movie is visually stunning, the depressing nature of it as a whole detracts from the images presented.
Let me know your thoughts on the film below or on the discussion boards.