A few months ago, my daughters got a special gift from the Disney team in the form of a stuffed panda they’d adopted. They were beyond excited and my 8 year old immediately started calling the panda by the name YaYa. I thought that was pretty strange considering that was also the name they call my grandmother. Turns out, she’d been seeing commercials from the upcoming Disneynature film, Born in China and had already grown an affinity to the “characters” in the film. Then, after I had a chance to preview the film last week, I could see exactly why!
Born in China is a story of the various animals – pandas, monkeys, snow leopards, etc. … all of whom call China their home. It’s not animated in any way (as in, these animals don’t talk lol), but their stories are brilliantly told through narration and dramatic visual expression in a way that you can’t help but fall in love with each of them. Born in China is narrated by John Krasinski (“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” NBC’s “The Office,” “Amazon’s “Jack Ryan”)
Meet the Main Characters of Disneynature’s Born in China
Among other animals in this story, these 3 will take you on an amazing journey through their lives and their stories.
YaYa & MeiMei
Yaya is the quintessential over-protective panda mom. She does her morning chores and returns to her real focus in life, her adorable newborn daughter, MeiMei. Just like most first time moms, it’s all a mystery to her as far as how to raise her rambunctious little baby girl. She’s constantly cuddling, licking, smothering and fussing over MeiMei. Her affection is obvious, as is her desire to keep her as close as possible.
However, like all of our babies, as MeiMei grows, she is determined to find her own independence. As MeiMei tries to learn to do grown up panda things, YaYa struggles watching her seemingly fragile baby roll into rocks, bounce off a tree, and fall down repeatedly. Of course MeiMei is resilient and after each fall, she heads straight back into play. This mom-cub relationship is truly amazing to see unfold!
Fact: Revered in China, the panda is endangered—there are only 1,864 living in the wild according to a 2014 census.
TaoTao’s story is just as compelling as YaYa and Mei-Mei. TaoTao is first introduced as a young, sweet member of his golden snub-nosed monkey family. We notice his attempts for affection from his family go un-reciprocated at the same time we learn that the family had just welcomed a new baby sister, causing TaoTao’s life to turn upside down. Once center of his parent’s attention, TaoTao begins to feel neglected and decides to seek comfort and acceptance elsewhere. He begins to align with a group of mischievous male monkeys, referred to as the “Lost Boys.” These outlaw monkeys live in an environment with no rules or guidance, led by a one-eyed ruffian called Rooster who is not exactly nurturing. Their lives seem like a lot of fun at first, but as the story unfolds, we see exactly what happens when youngsters are left to fend for themselves.
Dawa is a Snow Leopard mom who spends the majority of the film struggling to provide for and protect her cubs. She lives in a harsh and unforgiving environment, which ultimately generates a lot of drama in the film. Despite being an experienced hunter, Dawa faces multiple setbacks and hardships that make it harder and harder for her to take care of her family. You root for her to succeed, but quickly realize that she lives in an unfair world where everyone is justified in trying to protect and care for their own families.
Born in China comes to theaters on Earth Day (April 21st) and it’s really important to go see during its opening week (April 21-27, 2017) as it will benefit the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the WWF to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China based on opening week attendance.