Disneynature’s Born in China was one of the best films in the series so far and the end credits gave us some insight into how the footage was obtained. Now for the first time ever, Disneynature invites audiences to join one of the crews on their quest to find and follow a family of snow leopards, one of the toughest animals to see and track in Ghost of the Mountains. This behind-the-scenes documentary allows us to see history in the making as these brave men film a family of snow leopards.
Join Director of Photography Shane Moore, Field Director Ed Anderson, Field Director Ben Wallis, Cameraman Dave Mothershaw, and their Chinese guides, Sonam Chodan and Dondrub Dorje, as they become the first international film crew to document this region. The film starts with their slow journey to the highest elevation in China and adapting to their environment, where they will find the air harder to breath, have average subzero temperatures, constantly changing weather, and need to live off the environment in a tiny house with one power generator.
It takes weeks before they find their first snow leopard, but Disneynature isn’t looking for just any mountain cat. Their task is specifically to find a family, a rare sight as these creatures lead solitary lives. Against the odds, they find a mother with two cubs, but keeping up with her will be a whole new challenge.
One of the most interesting parts about the documentary is that this area is actually inhabited by humans, who are yak herders and are a threat to snow leopards since they are prone to hunting their livestock. The film crew is able to find a solution to their problem that helps the herders find a way to protect their yaks without hurting the snow leopards. It’s a perfect example of how Disney’s approach is with the intention of helping these animals survive for generations to come.
Technical advancements are highlighted to show how the teams were able to safely find and film these majestic animals without becoming involved by using drones and camera traps. The team also employed some tracking techniques that are centuries old, but like the earliest True Life Adventures, the crew often have to hide in plain sight to get the footage necessary to bring Born in China to the screen.
The story of Dawa and her cubs was the one from Born in China that stuck with me the most and I was very eager to see more of her amazing story unfold. However, I have one complaint about Ghost of the Mountains, which is that the film ends before her story does. I was hoping to learn a little more about how the filmmakers reacted to that emotional outcome and sadly, the film avoids even mentioning it.
It’s interesting to see a Disneynature film where humans are just as much a focus as the animals they’re filming, but Ghost of the Mountains is more about the behind-the-scenes process of filming rare animals and less a nature documentary. Fans of the series are encouraged to check it out to gain a deeper appreciation for the monumental task to bring these films to the screen. Now available as a digital exclusive, fans of Born in China will feel like a videographer along for the ride on this amazing adventure.
- Hiding Up High (8:14) – Join Director of Photography Rolf Setinmann in “The no human zone” as he waits for the chiru herds in the highest mountain range in China.
- Disneynature: Get Inspired, Get Involved (1:18) – A pat on the back to fans who have seen Disneynature films in theaters or own them on home video for their contributions to the Disney Conservation Fund.
- Disneynature Dolphins Sneak Peek (1:09) – A trailer for the next Disneynature film, which comes to theaters Earth Day 2018.
Ghost of the Mountains is available in 1080p High Definition through most digital providers. I reviewed this film on an Apple TV through iTunes and the picture presentation looked stunning. Disneynature films are known for their breathtaking cinematography and this one is no exception.
The only audio option is an English 5.1 surround mix. The only subtitle option is English.
I’m very grateful for the chance to see what it took to bring Dawa and her cubs from Born in China to the big screen via this documentary, Ghost of the Mountains. It’s a revealing piece about how brave and adventurous these filmmakers have to be to capture this kind of footage. However, it plays like an extended bonus feature and therefore the feature price tag of $19.99 feels a little steep.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.