The upcoming film Chimpanzee stars Oscar, a 3-year-old playful and curious chimp scampering about the African forest.
When his family is confronted by a rival band of chimpanzees, suddenly the toddler is left to fend for himself. But in an unexpected turn of events, Oscar finds a surprising ally in Freddy, an older alpha male, who adopts the youngster. The rescue of Oscar and the filming of Chimpanzee will in turn help the dwindling chimp population through a partnership with the Jane Goodall Institute.
For this 2012's Earth Day release, Disneynature will donate a portion of tickets during opening week, April 20-26, to the Jane Goodall Institute to fund protection of habitat, care for orphaned chimpanzees and support Roots & Shoots, the organization’s program in 130 places around the world including the U.S., connecting young people and communities in environmental stewardship.
I spoke with Dr. Goodall recently about the film and her more than four decades of work with chimpanzees, stretching from Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania to a rehabilitation center in the Republic of Congo's Tchimpounga Natural Reserve.
“The chimpanzees desperately need help in the wild. So the film will raise a lot of awareness," said Dr. Goodall.
The JGI programs also support the surrounding communities with health, education and training with initiatives from sustainable farming to building fuel-efficient stoves.
"Local people in the wilderness areas are living in abject poverty so they have no options. If they realize we care about them as much as the chimps, they become our partners in protecting the earth and the chimpanzees,” she explained.
Dr. Goodall had grown concerned about the environment while watching chimps rapidly disappear in Africa due to poaching and deforestation.
Currently finishing her next book, the other half of “Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink,” Goodall is focusing on “the world” part, dealing with the environment and its underpinnings.
“We mustn’t be so overwhelmed by all the problems in the world. There’s always something we can do every day -- what we buy, what we eat and how we get from a to z. If we each follow our passion it will make a difference."
And donations help, too. she added.
Chimpanzee is Disneynature's fourth documentary released for Earth Day. Previously, Disney proceeds from Oceans helped preserve coral reef and marine life in the Caribbean and from African Cats, helped save Kenya's savannah.
Funds from Earth, also directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, helped plant more than 2.7 million trees in Brazil’s Atlantic forest.
Dr. Goodall’s gently asks everyone, “Please see Chimpanzee during the first week.”