Unlike the majority of animal documentaries, Disneynature usually takes a story-led approach to its wildlife films. Their latest, ‘African Cats’, directed by former BBC Natural History Unit stalwarts Alastair Forthergill and Keith Scholey, centres on a pride of Masai Mara lions. In typical anthropomorphic fashion, the filmmakers give the lions names like Fang, Mara and Layla and aim to further tap into our emotions by framing their behaviour within a scripted fiction. This may help younger kids feel some empathy for the creatures on screen, but it’s not so welcome for those of us who prefer to knock back our nature films straight no chaser.
Still, directors Fothergill and Scholey’s ‘Lion King’-style tale is fluidly structured and not without moments of tension and drama. Where ‘African Cats’ falters is in the telling: the dialogue is a stinker and Samuel L Jackson’s voiceover is too earnest and fatherly, as if he’s reading a bedtime story. But hats off to the camera operators who have captured some astonishing wildlife imagery.