Disney // 2010 // 89 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // October 24th, 2011
Following Earth and Oceans, DisneyNature's series of big-screen documentaries exploring the natural wonders of our world continues with African Cats (Blu-ray), a visually engaging adventure following two cat families as they strive to survive in Kenya's vast Maasai Mara National Reserve. Boasting incredible high-definition images paired with an appropriate soundtrack and mostly entertaining narration, the film serves as a perfect viewing experience for families eager to discover the grandeur of the wild.
Directed by Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill, African Cats focuses primarily on the power of motherhood in the wilderness. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the film follows two mothers as they raise their cubs and teach them everything there is to know in order to survive on their own. One of the two stories in the movie introduces viewers to Layla, a fearless River Pride lioness who, despite several battle injuries, stops at nothing to protect her daughter Mara from the mighty claws of Kali, a determined lion looking to expand his kingdom.
The second main character is a courageous cheetah named Sita, who goes above and beyond to teach her newborn cubs to hunt for food and protect themselves against angry lions or hungry hyenas. For both Layla and Sita, bonding with their young ones and steering them away from danger count among their top priorities as they grow older, and Disney's African Cats offers audiences a thrilling look at how exactly these mighty cats survive in the treacherous savannah.
The most crucial evidence I can present in this case is the abundance of glorious footage you get to experience in African Cats. The film is a true feast for the eyes, and viewers are treated to fantastic images of incredible animal action. From shots of cheetahs creeping up on and attacking their prey to sequences detailing the interactions between lions or lionesses and their cubs, DisneyNature's latest documentary flourishes with memorable visuals you simply can't help but be impressed by.
While the film would've probably worked just as well with a little less narration, Jackson's commentaries make it easier for the filmmakers to tell a complete story. That said, Jackson occasionally adds a little too much of a dramatic tone to his voice and pronunciation, which older spectators may interpret as a little annoying. The kids, however, will probably love it. Like many other documentaries, African Cats includes both intense and quiet moments, balancing the tension that slowly builds when the cats gear up to hunt or protect themselves against predators with the peace that returns when the mothers play with their cubs or embark on a new journey.
Fothergill and Scholey keep things interesting throughout the movie's 89-minute running time, with both cuteness and scenes generating stronger emotions. In the end, though, all that really matters in African Cats (Blu-ray) is the mesmerizing high-definition footage. Speaking of visuals, Disney's Blu-ray edition of the movie does the photography justice. Presented in a 1.78:1 non-anamorphic 1080p presentation, the film boasts an incredibly clear image quality with solid colors, excellent vibrance and clarity, and decent contrast. Fantastic images really deserve a fantastic technical quality, and African Cats (Blu-ray) has it all. In terms of audio, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track doesn't disappoint either.
The bonus material on this disc lacks appeal. The only interesting extra is a feature called "Filmmakers Annotations," which gives you access to additional information, clips, and interviews while you watch the main feature. Other than that, all you'll find in the special features section are a music video, a short clip promoting the preservation of the savannah, and a quick promotional piece on Disney's commitment to protect our planet.
Loyal fans of animal documentaries will instantly fall in love with African Cats, another compelling DisneyNature project that looks amazing on Blu-ray. Despite the occasionally overbearing narration, this film has plenty of amazing stuff to offer. Plus, it's the perfect Sunday afternoon diversion for both parents and their children.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 89 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Footage