The animated roots of wildlife films : animals, people, animation and the origin of Walt Disney's 'True-Life Adventures'
Although Walt Disney's nature films mark a turning point for wildlife film, no satisfactory explanation has been offered as to how Disney managed to come up with such a successful concept. This thesis will examine the history and production of the True-Life Adventures productions to demonstrate that, rather than being mere live-action iterations of Disney's animated films, the Disney nature films had their origins in the studio's travelogue endeavors of the 1940s. The logical consequence of these origins is that the films present the natural world as a cultural entity rather than a scientific one. Analyzing the True-Life Adventures from this perspective allows for a better assessment of how they influenced all later wildlife documentaries. In particular, two innovative strategies were crucial to the success of these films: 1) the Disney gaze and 2) the associated, highly manipulated presentations of the natural world, formatted to tweak the emotions of the human observer. Additionally, because his studio extensively promoted the work of the naturalist-photographers and the scientist-cameramen, Disney can be credited with having commercialized documentary-style film shooting. The fostering of such filmmaking inside his studio's walls helped to popularize the so-named "nature film," laying the foundation for what would one day become a thriving film industry in its own right.