Those who know me during my ‘Lion King’ days know that one of my least favorite things about my gig was being in one of the four elephant leges while strolling down the aisle to the stage during the opening number “Circle of Life.” I didn’t know much about elephants other than that experience and Dumbo until I screened Disneynature’s latest documentary – Elephants voiced by Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex.
African elephant Shani and her family are among the last elephants on earth to make a lengthy migration across the African desert plain. She’s mother to wide-eyed, one-year-old Jomo, who has yet to experience a migration, and at 40 years old, she is next in line as herd matriarch, a position currently held by her older sister Gaia.
Elephants are amazingly intelligent, intuitive, yet emotionally present. One of the most heartwarming moments is watching Shani save a young elephant drowning in mud or when Gaia succumbs to the stress of the migration. Watching the heard pay their respects covering Gaia’s face with her ear will break your heart and bring tears to your eyes reminding us all that every living spirit has a limited time on this earth.
As usual, humor is always infused with the dramatic moments like watching elephants frolic in mud, eating pods and even lifting a leg for a little toot here and there (that moment made me literally holler out loud – fart jokes never get old). Listening to the African inspired scores colors each moment with the right about of sentiment and drive appropriate for each single moment.
The march back to the delta proves to be no easy task, as the Angolan flood waters are early this year and the herd will need to make quick time. However, the emotional bonds between elephants are as strong as those between humans and the strength of family has gotten them this far. With mud as a sunscreen, these majestic beings along with their devotion to one another is a lesson every human being could stand to be reminded on daily. Together, Gaia, Shani, Jomo and family dare to take the shortest route … through lion country.
From the studio behind “Born In China” and “Chimpanzee,” Elephant is streaming and available on Disney + NOW.