Tinley Park-born producer continues success with ‘Chimpanzee’
By Don Snider April 20, 2012 6:00AM
Directors: Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield
Stars: Voice of Tim Allen (narrator)
Rated: G for general audiences
Running time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Updated: April 20, 2012 6:11AM
An Oscar for Oscar? A lot of moviegoers thought Uggie, the dog in 2012’s Academy Award-winning film “The Artist,” perhaps should have won a statue for his role.
Well, Oscar, the star in the Disneynature film “Chimpanzee” should captivate audiences just as much. Only Oscar is not acting. He’s shown in real life.
“Chimpanzee” is a nature documentary about a young chimp named Oscar that finds himself alone in an African forest.
Through much of the film the joyously playful Oscar is pulling viewers’ heartstrings.
His mother, Isha, starts to school him in all the tricks of survival as well.
He mimics her in cracking open nuts, first with sticks that break on him, then finally with large stones.
Often he misses the nut and instead hits his own toes. “Owe,” we find, in chimp language is pretty much the same as in human’s.
These heart-tugging early scenes are filmed in what looks like an idyllic jungle in the Ivory Coast of West Africa.
But there’s trouble in paradise.
Chimpanzees live in family groups called troops, headed by an alpha male. In the film, Oscar’s troop leader is named Freddy.
Chimpanzees also are very territorial and when food runs out in their territory, they invade another troop’s area.
A rival gang led by Scar attacks Freddy’s troop. Although Scar’s gang is repelled, Oscar’s mother dies, leaving the youngster all alone.
None of the remaining chimps will accept him. Oscar scavenges for food, but he hasn’t learned enough skills to live on his own.
Oscar finally finds Freddy and tries to tag along behind him, but male chimps don’t normally nurture young ones.
Fortunately Oscar is simply too irresistible. A totally unusual relationship develops and the filmmakers, headed by directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, are there to totally document it.
“Chimpanzee” took four years to film. Its executive producer is Don Hahn, an Academy Award-winning film producer who was born in Tinley Park.
He has an honorary degree from St. Xavier University and attended the Chicago premiere, which was presented in partnership with Lincoln Park Zoo.
Tinley Park Mayor Ed Zabrocki gave him a Don Hahn Day plaque at the April 16 event.
Hahn made his mark as a producer in such Disney animated films as “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.”
He also was the first producer to be nominated for an Oscar for an animated film.
Disneynature was launched in 2008 and the first three films under that label — “Earth,” “Oceans” and “African Cats” — are among the top four highest-grossing feature-length nature films of all time.
The studio has joined forces with the Jane Goodall Institute for the See “Chimpanzee” Save Chimpanzees program.
For every moviegoer who sees “Chimpanzee” during the film’s opening Earth Day week (April 20-26), Disneynature will make a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute to help protect the primates and their habitats.
“Chimpanzee,” like the other Disneynature films, will leave the audience inspired by the techniques that allowed the cameras to go unobtrusively into the animals’ world.
But despite some very intense moments, this movie is intended to be as much of a family entertainment feature as it is a documentary.
Isha’s death, for example is not shown on screen, similar to the passing of the mother in “Bambi.”
With narration by Tim Allen from ABC-TV (Channel 7)’s “Last Man Standing,” infectious original background music by Nicholas Hooper and the adorable Oscar, “Chimpanzee” totally succeeds.
The film has enough humor, drama and awe-inspiring photography to be award-worthy.
Don Snider is a local freelance writer.
◆ Chimpanzees are the mammal considered most like a human.
◆ One can call chimpanzees chimps, but don’t call them monkeys, which are usually smaller and have tails.
◆ Three chimpanzee subspecies are found mainly in the rain forests of western and central Africa. These chimpanzees live mostly in groups called “troops.”
◆ Chimpanzees have a thickset body, with long arms and short legs.
◆ Size: 3 feet tall to 4.5 feet tall.
◆ Weight: 55 pounds to 110 pounds.
◆ Life span: About 40 years to 50 years, although Cheetah, the star of the 1930s “Tarzan” movies, recently died at age 80.
◆ Diet: Primarily fruits and nuts, supplemented by some meat.