Asian Sheepshead off Sado, Japan. Photos courtesy of Disneynature
A cast of coral eggs, dugong, bigeye trevally, leaf scorpionfish, and 90 other marine creatures are the stars of Oceans. Last year, Disneynature released Earth, and helped reforest the Amazon. This year, for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the studio releases Oceans in theaters April 22 and donates to protect endangered Caribbean waters. Seven years in the making, the film dives into never-before-seen depths. Says the director, the goal was to achieve oceanographer Jacques Yves Cousteau's ideal of "becoming a fish among fish." But there's more than weird creatures and breathtaking scenes lurking under three-quarters of the earth's surface.
Swimming with Sea Nettles in Monterey Bay.
There's acidification, expanding sea deserts, plastics swallowed by fish and marine birds, warming temps, and dead zones. Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud who made the film, Winged Migration, took 75 excursions to dozens of untouched places in the world's seas to gather 480 hours of footage, developing innovative filming technologies in the process. Amazing moments are caught, like a huge blue whale feasting on a cloud of krill, and while it will wow audiences, it also addresses the damage threatening the oceans. "We found that in many places the sea life we were searching for no longer exist because of things like over-fishing, pollution and over-development," said Cluzaud.
A cloud of krill before being swallowed by the largest creature known to have existed on the Earth gulps them down.
Dr. Sylvia Earle, explorer-in-residence at National Geographic and served as consultant for the film, was even amazed at what was captured in Oceans. Her favorite was a walrus tending her cub, tusks and all.
Watching this film, I felt as if I were in a school of fish, that I was a dolphin or a whale, swimming along with them. It takes me places I've always wanted to go. This is beyond art. This captures the spirit, the very essence of the sea...and it shines a light on the many threats, both natural and manmade, facing the oceans.
Marine Iguana under the Galapagos Islands.
Called the "Jane Goodall of the ocean," Earle has been studying marine life up close since the 1950s, but admits short of us jumping in, "the next best thing is to see Oceans. Even with all the diving that I've done, I've seen things in this film that I've never seen in life." Take her description of a marine iguana feasting:
[The marine iguana] will dive down, holding its lizard breath, 30, 40, 50 feet beneath the surface to chomp on the seaweed. Well, to see it even once is a heart-stopping event. But to see it the way it's documented in 'Oceans' is a miraculous achievement. You're right there with the animal. You're in the lizard's skin, chomping and crunching. You can almost taste the seaweed.
Thousands of crabs off of Melbourne Bay.
The film, narrated by actor and ocean activist Pierce Brosnan, provides compelling facts about the necessity of a healthy ocean: Every breath you take and every drop of water you drink are connected to the sea. It shapes planetary chemistry, drives the carbon cycle and the weather. Most of the oceans are still unexplored. "Go a hundred feet, a thousand feet, ten thousand feet, it's a never-never land," explains Earle. Yet we're losing species at a much faster rate than we're finding them. Destroy the ocean, harm the ocean, you're undermining the integrity of the planet itself."
Giant Cuttlefish off Whyalla, Australia.
Disneynature and The Nature Conservancy partnered to launch the Adopt-a-Coral-Reef program in The Bahamas to establish 790 acres of protected marine areas. The Nature Conservancy manages more than 100 marine conservation projects in 31 countries. Scientists estimate that the coral reefs of the Caribbean could be gone within 50 years without a network of well-managed protection. Earle, a/k/a "Her Deepness," won her TED grant for creating a global network of these "hope spots" to help coral and marine life survive.
Porcupine Fish in waters off Fernadina Island in the Galapagos.
So far, 400,000 tickets have already been sold a week in advance of Oceans' release. Catch the trailer and see the movie between April 22-28 and Disney will make a contribution in your honor for saving The Bahamas' coral reefs, which provide shelter, nurseries and feeding grounds for hundreds of marine species, including dolphins, sea turtles and a vast array of fish. Oceans is a "wildlife opera--says co-director Perrin, "a hymn to the sea and the species concealed within it."
More on oceans:
Oceans of Change: Protecting the Planet's Life Support System
How Will Global Warming Change Our Oceans? A Quick Primer
Global Ocean Temperatures Warmest Since Records Began in 1880 (129 Years Ago!)