The film is narrated by Tim Allen, known for voicing Buzz Lightyear in the Disney/Pixar Toy Story trilogy, and is directed by Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield. It is also the sixth film to be released under the Disneynature label, following Earth, The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, Oceans, African Cats and Pollen.
Oscar is the nickname given by the narrator to a young chimpanzee in his toddler years. He is part of a close-knit tribe of Chimpanzees. They occupy a forest territory which is rich in native fruits, nuts, and figs, among other things. The chimps hunt small tree monkey, and they also eat ants. Oscar is tended by his mother, nicknamed Eesha, and from her he begins learning many things about how to survive in the jungle. In the chaos of an attempted raid by a rival gang of chimpanzees, led by 'Scar', Eesha is injured and separated from the group and her son. As told by narrator, Eesha is most probably the victim of a nocturnal leopard.
Unaware of his mother's death, Oscar spends much of his time looking for her. He finds trouble in recalling the things she taught him and begins to lose weight quickly. He attempts to find another mother to take care of him; however, none of the females can afford him, having young of their own to raise. As time goes on, Oscar is rejected by nearly every chimp in the group, until the only one left to ask is the tough-skinned leader, 'Freddie'. However, as Oscar follows the leader and imitates him, it is soon revealed that the unlikely duo may work out. The two gradually warm up to each other more and more, until one day Freddie lets Oscar ride on his back, something normally only mother chimps do. In this way, Freddie "adopts" Oscar.
As the rivals prepare for attack, Freddie is forced to take time away from Oscar to organize the other members of the group, and this leaves the young chimp confused. Scar leads a vicious attack, although because of the unity of Freddie's group, they have a rousing success, and Scar and the enemy chimps retreat into the jungle. A few months later, it is revealed that the bond between Freddie and Oscar has continued to grow, and that life in the group is slowly returning to normal.
The film took over four years to film, due to the difficulties of filming at Taï National Park in West Africa during wet season and capturing usable footage of Common chimpanzees, a species that is known to act reclusive to human activity.
Although studies suggest that chimpanzees are capable of committing acts of altruism, Oscar's adoption is the first instance of such an action by the species to be documented on film.
Composer Nicholas Hooper, who also scored African Cats, composed the music of the film. The single "Rise", performed by A.N.T. Farm star China Anne McClain and her sisters, was released on the iTunes Store on March 23, 2012. "That Man" by Caro Emerald, is the first song played is also the last song played in the film.
Chimpanzee had its world premiere at Walt Disney World's Downtown Disney in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Among the attendees, were directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield, producer Don Hahn, and primatologist Jane Goodall.
Similar to past Disneynature releases, a portion of the film's opening week proceeds will be donated to the Jane Goodall Institute for the "See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzees" program to help protect chimpanzees and their habitats. Disney will donate $0.20 of every ticket sold, with $100,000 being the bare minimum. After the film's successful debut, Disney extended the campaign into the second weekend.
Chimpanzee was met with generally positive critical reception; based on 77 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 74% "Certified Fresh" approval rating from critics, with an average score of 6.5/10 and the consensus: "Chimpanzee often anthropomorphizes its subjects, but it's a beautifully filmed, remarkably intimate look at the lives of a family of primates." CinemaScore audiences gave the film a grade "A" rating on an A+ to F scale..
Chimpanzee opened with $3.54 million on its first day of release, which is the best opening figure for any film in the Disneynature series since the 2009 release of Earth. It grossed $10.2 million over the course of three days, the highest opening weekend debut for any nature documentary film.
The film grossed $28,972,764 in North America.
Chimpanzee was released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Blu-ray and DVD on August 21, 2012.
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