Disneynature has taken audiences to every corner of the world since their first film in 2009, Earth. This includes multiple trips to the continent of Africa with films like African Cats, The Crimson Wing, and Chimpanzee. We return to the world’s second largest continent in the newest Disneynature film and the first to have its worldwide premiere on Disney+ with Elephant, streaming worldwide on April 3rd in celebration of Earth Month.
Playful Jomo is a 1-year-old elephant watched over by his mother Shani and the rest of his protective herd. They are led by Gaia, Shani’s 50-year-old older sister and matriarch. They are among the last elephants on earth still able to migrate thousands of miles annually, a journey that takes up to 8-months. As the flood waters leave their home on the Okavango delta, their journey begins.
Gaia uses her decades of memories as she leads the herd along ancient elephant paths through the Kalahari desert. They face challenges along the way, such as a mud bath that turns deadly for the herd’s youngest calf. There are moments that will amaze even the most knowledgeable elephant fan, like when they happen upon the skeletal remains of an elephant and stop to pay their respects in a very touching way.
Their home-away-from-home is an island in the Zambezi River at world famous Victoria Falls. It looks like a palm tree paradise, which it is, and palm seeds germinate best after passing through an elephant. But paradise only lasts so long and the drying of the river is Gaia’s queue that it’s time to head home. Historically, they would return on the same path they came through, but her instincts tell her they will miss the beginning of the flood if they don’t take a shortcut, which cuts right through lion country.
Disneynature films often have a moment that reminds us of the “Circle of Life” message from The Lion King and Elephant is no exception. This time around, there’s quite a bit of nature’s own foreshadowing. While it’s still sad, it doesn’t reach the level of despair viewers may have felt during Born in China.
Elephant is narrated by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, whose passion for pachyderms has extended to volunteer efforts with Elephants Without Borders. Her voice strikes the appropriate lighthearted tone for most of the film and effortlessly becomes somber at the right moments. Meghan’s casting as the narrator came with an agreement that Disneynature and the Disney Conservation Fund make a donation to Elephants Without Borders, so viewers can watch the film knowing they’re helping the largest land mammal ensure a protected future.
Disneynature Elephant tells a beautiful story about a young gentle giant and his family doing whatever is necessary to survive. It’s full of adorable and heartwarming moments that will make families feel closer together while learning something. This April, set aside a family movie night for Disneynature Elephant on Disney+, a perfect way to celebrate Earth Month.
I give Disneynature Elephant 5 out of 5 palm nuts.
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.