born in china

How much footage was filmed to create this movie?

Overall for the 75-minute film, we have about 400 hours of footage.

That’s a lot. I was wondering about the editing ’cause I kind of noticed in the climactic save at the end of in the monkey’s story, it seemed like either you were trying to tell something that wasn’t entirely captured there or there was some creative editing.  

Yeah, the editing is basically combing through the footage that we have.  And the shots were actually caught by our camera traps.  We were able to get that footage in a very fortuitous way.  That’s the only way you can get setting up cameras would be very difficult to catch those things.  But the [editing…there’s] definitely a filmic hand at work here.  Chuan is a narrative storyteller and that’s where I say how we approach these is in a narrative way.  But the behavior that you see and the actions that happen are true to life.

born in china

Is there any particularly advanced technology that was used on this film versus the previous DisneyNature films?

That’s a good question.  Indeed, we’ve used camera traps in the past, but, I mean, having that digital outlet, camera technology is changing by leaps and bounds.  And each time you get out there you, we’re toting another company’s camera.  The interesting thing that’s happening now and something that we did for some of the promotion stuff of this those are some virtual reality cameras that are out right now.  And we actually went in and got some panda footage on a virtual reality camera, which is kind of it’s more novel than it is pertinent to what you are on screen.  But technology is great.

But I’ll tell you that no matter what technology you have, it’s having the cinematographers whose lives has been focused on going out into the wild and filming these creatures and understanding [them].   Rolf Steinmann is the guy who did the chiru and he’s the guy at the end of the movie who’s trying to get those great camera lapse shots.  He goes out and digs a three foot by three-foot hole and covers it in twigs and branches and whatever’s around.  And sits there with a camera for days in sub freezing temperatures waiting for those ideal shots.

Shane Moore, who’s up on the…who’s tracked cats all his life, knows that he needs to shoot from downwind not from upwind the cat.  He came, and this is a great story.  Shane is a really fascinating character.  He was hiking one day and came up over an embankment and saw that he was literally maybe 10 meters from the mother.  And had his camera, but backed off because he knew that he was not in the ideal position.  And that the trust that he had built with the animal would be totally decimated if the animal were ever to catch him that close.

So same thing with Justin Maguire, who was the cinematographer on the panda shoots.  They donned panda costumes and smeared themselves with panda scent we’ll call it.  And in order to disguise the fact that they were human.  And were able from 20 meters to get that close to an 800-pound bear and it’s cub.  These guys are so good at what they do and they’re so committed to what they do that it blows me away to this day.

born in china

Well, I want to thank you very much.  I think you’ve answered all of my questions.  And I really like the film.

Oh thank you.  And I’m as proud of this film as any film that I’ve produced.  And I’m so, so excited about it.  And I’m urging everyone to tell your readers to go see it the first weekend because I’m not sure if you’re aware, but DisneyNature donates a portion of those first-week proceeds to conservation groups.  They’ve done this now for all seven films that have come out.  And this time, a portion of those first-week proceeds will be going to the World Wildlife Fund.  And it will be going to snow leopards and pandas and survival of that species.

And the work that they’ve done in the past is so significant.  When they did Chimpanzee, they were able to support 130 acres of new reserve land for chimpanzees.  When they did African Cats, they were able to get 65 thousand acres of plain land in Kenya for reserve.  There’s 40 thousand acres of marine habitat that has been saved in the Bahamas.  And that’s three million trees planted in Brazil in the Amazon Forest.  So get your readers to go out the first weekend because it’s a damn good film and they’re gonna do damn good if they go out.

I hope they do go out and I hope this does save a lot of pandas.

Excellent.  Thank you so much.

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