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Film / True-Life Adventures

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True-Life Adventures were a series of nature documentaries produced by Walt Disney from 1948 to 1960. Originally starting out as a series of two-reel short subjects, they eventually blossomed into full-length features. In all, the series won eight Academy Awards, and it helped popularize the nature documentary as an enjoyable form of entertainment.

Films in the series:

  • Seal Island (1948) — Filmed in the Pribilof Islands of Alaska, featuring the migration of seals. (Academy Award Winner)
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  • Beaver Valley (1950) — Filmed in the forests of Minnesota, this film explores the life of the beaver. (Academy Award Winner)
  • Natures's Half Acre (1951) — The world of plants and insects through the sesons in an American meadow. (Academy Award Winner)
  • The Olympic Elk (1952) — A film detailing the life of the Olympic elk, filmed at Olympic National Park in Washington.
  • Water Birds (1952) — A film exploring the lives of various birds that make their homes on the high seas. (Academy Award Winner)
  • Bear Country (1953) — A look at the lives of grizzly bears in the natural habitats. (Academy Award Winner)
  • Prowlers of the Everlades (1953) — A look at the beasts that roam Florida's Everglade swamps.
  • The Living Desert (1953) — Filmed in the deserts of the American west, showing the environment, climate and wildlife of locations like Death Valley and Monument Valley. Notably, this was the first feature-length entry in the series, and was the first feature released by Disney's own distribution company, Buena Vista Distribution. (Academy Award Winner)
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  • The Vanishing Prairie (1954) — Filmed in the American prairie, this film explores the lives of the bison and elk that roamed the wild west. (Academy Award Winner)
  • The African Lion (1955) — Filmed in Africa, this film explores the life of the lion and the wild animals of his kingdom.
  • Secrets of Life (1956) — Filmed in America, focusing on the lives of insects and plants and of the cycles of life and death. The last reel of the film was photographed in CinemaScope.
  • Perri (1957) — The one and only "True-Life Fantasy", nature footage filmed in the Uinta National Forest and Jackson Hole, Wyoming is used to tell the story of a squirrel who experiences danger and love in the forest. Based on the book by Felix Salten.
  • White Wilderness (1958) — Filmed in Canada, this feature tells the story of life in the Arctic tundra. This film is notorious for perpetuating the myth that lemmings commit mass suicide. (Academy Award Winner)
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  • Jungle Cat (1960) — The final film in the series. Filmed in the Brazilian rain forest along the Amazon, it focuses on the life of the jaguar.

In 1975, a Compilation Movie titled The Best of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures, containing excerpts from all the entries in the series, was released.


Tropes associated with this series:

  • Beary Funny: The grizzlies in Bear Country are shown to enjoy scratching themselves on trees.
  • Darkest Africa: The origins of the phrase "The Dark Continent" are discussed in The African Lion. The opening narration explains that until Africa's interior was explored, ancient cartographers left it blank on their maps. The accompanying visual is of the continent painted black until a brush paints in the details.
  • Medium Blending: Animated sequences are used to introduce each film, with a brush painting a map of the area the action is set in.
  • Narrative-Driven Nature Documentary: The Ur-Example. While presenting animals in natural situations and paying lip service to the ruthlessness of "Nature's way", it also wasn't above anthropomorphizing the creatures depicted, often reveling in lighter moments and adding wry commentary.
  • Off with His Head!: Secrets of Life shows several ants getting depcapitated in a war between two ant groups.
  • Scenery Porn
  • Spiritual Successor: The independent films released by Disney's specialty label, Disneynature.
    • Perri is one for Bambi, being based on a book by the same author, thus acting as a sort of live-action sequel to it. There is even a guest appearance by the grown-up Bambi (or rather, a live stag identified as such).
  • The Swarm: A swarm of locusts appears in The African Lion. One shot shows the locusts obscuring the entire landscape.
  • Widescreen Shot: The last reel of Secrets of Life was filmed in CinemaScope.

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