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GenreNature documentary
FoundedApril 21, 2008; 13 years ago (2008-04-21)
HeadquartersParis, France
Key people
Paul Baribault (vice president)[1]
ProductsMotion pictures
OwnerWalt Disney Studios
(The Walt Disney Company)

Disneynature is a French-American independent film studio that specializes in the production of nature documentary films for The Walt Disney Studios. The production company was founded on April 21, 2008, and is headquartered in Paris, France.

The company's nature films are consistently budgeted between $5 million to $10 million, with their distribution and marketing handled by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.[2] The label's event films are released on Earth Day and have a conservation campaign based on the feature of the film with an appropriate conservation charity receiving donations based on tickets sold,[3] at a pace of one per year.[4] The eight Disneynature theatrical films have a gross of $151.6 million at the box office, at an average of $19 million, with Earth the top earner at $32 million.[5]


Disney had a background in making nature films prior to the creation of Disneynature; Bambi (1942) featured forest life and was a hit.[4] From 1948 through 1960, the company produced the True-Life Adventures series, which won several Academy Awards.[2] Outside of film work, Disney parks were involved. Disneyland in 1955 opened the Jungle Cruise ride. Disney's Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, is a theme park crossed with a zoo.[4] Animal Kingdom has contributed to conservation causes by nursing endangered sea turtles back to health, returning white rhinos to Africa and conducting a census of cotton-top tamarins, a monkey species native to Colombia. In addition, since its creation in 1995, the Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund has given over $11 million to 650 conservation projects in 110 countries.[2]

After a long absence from nature documentaries, Disney decided to get back into the market after the French release of March of the Penguins. The film was given U.S. distribution through Warner Independent Pictures in 2005. Made on an $8 million budget, it grossed almost 10 times its budget at the U.S. box office and won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2006.[2] Jean-Francois Camilleri, head of Buena Vista International France at the time, had the company acquire the film for the French market. Buena Vista International France also managed to obtain a 20% ownership stake in the French version of the film. However, Buena Vista Pictures Distribution's bid to distribute the film in the U.S. ultimately failed.[6] Disney CEO Bob Iger, in consideration of Disney's past efforts, felt that Penguins "should have been a Disney film worldwide". This was the impetus behind the creation of Disneynature. The film's 2007 follow-up was Arctic Tale, which only took in $1.8 million worldwide.[2]


Disneynature was announced on April 21, 2008, a day before Earth Day, with a starting slate of seven films. Camilleri was set to head the new division. A multi-film production agreement was made with Alastair Fothergill, BBC's Planet Earth series producer, for three scheduled films: Earth (2009), African Cats (2011) and Chimpanzee (2012).[7] The other announced slate films and their release years were: The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos (2008), Oceans (2010), Orangutans: One Minute to Midnight (2010) and Hidden Beauty: A Love Story that Feeds the Earth (2011).[8] Original announced plans had the division releasing two films per year,[9] which was curtailed by April 2009 due to a nature film's long period needed to film wildlife.[4] No decision was made at that time as to whether or not the studio would donate the films' proceeds to conservation causes.[2]

The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos was the first film produced for Disneynature.[10] The first film released domestically under the new label was Earth, opening on April 22, 2009, in the US.[2] In 2012, a Disneynature TV cable channel was launched in France. It is currently carried by France Telecom.[11]

Animal Planet pick up for a two-year period three Disneynature films, Oceans, African Cats, and The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, in April 2012 from Disney-ABC Domestic Television.[12] In April 2014, Jane Goodall was named Disneynature ambassador.[13]

Disneynature has recently expanded to China with the production of Born in China. The production was made possible due to an expansion of Disney's relationship with Shanghai Media Group starting in 2014.[14] In 2016, the company released its first compilation film, Growing Up Wild, direct-to-video (Blu-ray and DVD) and video on demand.[15][16]

Camilleri resigned his posts with Disney in March 2019. While Helene Etzi was appointed to take over his responsibility as head of Disney's French operations, there was no word on who would helm Disneynature.[17] The unit's first streaming films for Disney+ was Dolphin Reef and Elephant.[1] After Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox's entertainment unit, Disneynature is a sister studio of National Geographic Films, which was owned by 21CF.


Film Market[8] Release date[5] Narrator[16] Budget
Worldwide gross
Production company
The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos Worldwide October 26, 2008 (France)
October 27, 2010 (United States)
Mariella Frostrup[18]
Earth North America and South America April 22, 2009 Patrick Stewart (UK)
James Earl Jones (US)[2]
$47 $109
OceanWorld 3D US 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Marché du Film Marion Cotillard 3D Entertainment[3]
Oceans US April 22, 2010 Jacques Perrin (FR)
Pierce Brosnan (US)
$80.0 $82.7
  • Wings of Life (US, DTV)
  • Pollen (FR)
  • Hidden Beauty: A Love Story That Feeds the Earth (UK)
Worldwide April 16, 2011 Meryl Streep Blacklight Films[8]
African Cats April 22, 2011 Patrick Stewart (UK)[19]
Samuel L. Jackson (US)
$5 $30.9 Big Cats
Chimpanzee April 20, 2012 Tim Allen[20] $5 $34.8 Great Ape Productions
Bears US April 18, 2014 John C. Reilly[21] $5 $21.3 Silverback Films
Monkey Kingdom April 17, 2015[22] Tina Fey $5-10 $17.1
Growing Up Wild[a] December 6, 2016 Daveed Diggs[15]
Born in China Worldwide April 21, 2017 John Krasinski $5-10 $25.1
Ghost of the Mountains US June 30, 2017 Antoine Fuqua
  • Shanghai Media Group
  • Chuan Films
  • Brian Leith Productions
  • Netflix[14]
Expedition China Worldwide December 27, 2017 Maggie Q
Blue (France)
Dolphin Reef (US)[16]
France March 28, 2018 Cécile de France Silverback Films[23]
US April 3, 2020 Natalie Portman, originally to be narrated by Owen Wilson Silverback Films
Penguins April 17, 2019 Ed Helms $7.7 Silverback Films[25]
Elephant Worldwide April 3, 2020 Meghan, Duchess of Sussex Disney+[24]


  1. ^ Growing Up Wild is a direct-to-video nature documentary film released on December 6, 2016, directed by Mark Linfield and Keith Scholey, with narration provided by Daveed Diggs. The film, which is based on clips from African Cats, Monkey Kingdom, Chimpanzee, and Bears, focuses on "growing up".[16]


  1. ^ a b Vlessing, Etan (April 22, 2019). "Natalie Portman to Narrate Disney's 'Dolphin Reef' Movie". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 22, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Eller, Claudia; Dawn C. Chmielewski (April 22, 2008). "Disney gets back to nature". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 30, 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e King, Geoff; Molloy, Claire; Tzioumakis, Yannis (2013). American Independent Cinema: Indie, Indiewood and Beyond. Routledge. pp. 173–175. ISBN 9780415684286. Retrieved June 27, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d Barnes, Brooks (April 10, 2009). "In 'Earth,' Disneynature Balances Cuddliness and Reality". The New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Disneynature Movies at the Box Office - Box Office Mojo". Box Office Mojo.com. IMDb.com, Inc. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  6. ^ Carvajal, Doreen (September 28, 2005). "Compared With Their Filmmakers, the Penguins Have It Easy". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  7. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (April 29, 2008). "Studios envision beast case scenario". The Hollywood Reporter. AP. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "Disney Gets Back To Nature..." (Press release). Walt Disney Studios. April 21, 2008. Retrieved January 6, 2017 – via Blue Sky Disney.
  9. ^ Glaister, Dan (April 23, 2008). "Disney launches unit to make cinematic nature documentaries". The Guardian. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  10. ^ Davies, Caroline (January 10, 2009). "Disney film spotlights threat to spectacular flamingo lake". The Guardian. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  11. ^ "TV Channel: Disney Nature TV". MAVISE. European Audiovisual Observatory. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  12. ^ Whittingham, Clive (April 24, 2012). "Animal Planet picks Disney docs". C21 Media. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  13. ^ Terrero, Nina (April 10, 2014). "Jane Goodall Q&A: Scientist talks Disneynature Ambassador role, more". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c "Disney Expands Relationship With China's Shanghai Media Group". Variety. April 10, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2015.
  15. ^ a b James, Will (December 25, 2016). "Disneynature's 'Growing Up Wild' on Digital HD". GeekDad. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  16. ^ a b c d Hoffman, Jordan (April 17, 2019). "All 13 Disneynature Movies, Ranked". Thrillist. Retrieved May 9, 2019. For some reason, the team nixed the Natalie Portman-narrated Dolphins last year, only a week before its release. (A version was released in France under the name Blue.)
  17. ^ Clarke, Stewart (March 26, 2019). "Disney's French Chief Jean-Francois Camilleri Exiting, Helene Etzi Upped". Variety. Retrieved March 28, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Crimson Wing - Mystery of the Flamingos". www.bbfc.co.uk. British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  19. ^ Hume, Tim (April 30, 2012). "Real-life 'Lion Kings': African big cats caught on film - CNN.com". CNN. Retrieved January 9, 2017.
  20. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (April 20, 2012). "Editorial Review: More than just a furry person". Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 15, 2012. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
  21. ^ Chen, Sandie Angulo (April 17, 2014). "'Bears' movie review: A real-life struggle to survive". Washington Post. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
  22. ^ "Focus Sets Stephen Hawking Pic 'Theory Of Everything' For November; Disneynature Dates 'Monkey Kingdom' For 2015". Deadline Hollywood. April 10, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  23. ^ "'Blue' review". Hollywood Reporter. April 7, 2018. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
  24. ^ a b Vary, Adam B. (March 26, 2020). "Meghan Markle Narrating Disney Plus Nature Documentary 'Elephants'". Variety. Retrieved March 26, 2020.
  25. ^ Kylie Hemmert (February 26, 2019). "Penguins: Ed Helms to Narrate Disneynature's Feature Film". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved February 26, 2019.

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