Disney announced two new Disneynature documentaries coming to streaming for the quarantined world soon: one on elephants narrated by Canadian actress and cult escapee Megan Markle, and one on dolphins narrated by Natalie Portman.
If you’re unfamiliar, the Disneynature documentaries are like any other nature documentaries, but with the excellent production value you’d expect from a high-dollar enterprise and a shocking lack of gore. Disneynature documentaries are intended for young audiences, so unlike say, BBC’s Planet Earth, there aren’t sections you’ll need to fast-forward for the queasiest viewers. There’s still drama and a little violence — Spoiler alert! In the chimpanzee Disneynature doc there’s a plotline about a rival chimp trying to eat a little orphan chimp after killing said orphan’s mom — but these are kid-approved, Disney-washed stories.
Disneynature has now produced docs on elephants, chimpanzees, dolphins, bears, flamingos, African cats and orangutans. There’s one narrated by Meryl Streep about plants and pollinators. These are mostly warm and certainly cool animals. These are, I’m afraid, not truly reflective of the hellworld in which we exist. We need Disneynature to start getting a little more real.
So here are five nature documentaries Disney should make to temper kids’ expectations of this planet and the life it produces.
You could make a kid-approved otter documentary that didn’t tell the truth about otters. But why? That does no one any favors. Produce a documentary that shows otters for what they truly are: ultra-violent, necrophiliac rapists. Per Dylan Matthews’ groundbreaking report in 2014, otters kill dogs, seals, monkeys and all manner of other animals for sport and male sea otters’ normal mating process often involves trauma up to death for the female. Apparently sometimes they keep the dead female otter they killed during mating around as a companion, continuing to, uh, attempt to mate with it!
This is the real Earth, folks.
2. Flamboyant cuttlefish
Flamboyant cuttlefish 1) has an incredible species name and b) are hella cute. Look at these little homies strutting on the sea floor, being all flamboyant and whatnot. They scurry around and rarely swim for very long. You’d like a flamboyant cuttlefish in your tank, wouldn’t you?
NO, YOU WOULD NOT.
These things are incredibly toxic, apparently as toxic as the blue-ringed octopus, which carries a poison 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide. So apparently you can’t easily get one for your fish tank because fisheries won’t raise them because they are so deadly. You’re welcome.
As with otters, kids need to be taught that cute things are often the worst. Also, Disney could call this doc Death Crab for Cutie and have Ben Gibbard narrate it.
If the people of Nextdoor were an animal, they’d be geese. Vigilant and loud and protective over stuff that’s not even theirs. There’s a reason the goose plan for quarantine enforcement is so attractive.
A geese documentary would teach the lesson that sometimes there are animals or people who don’t even live in a place who show up and immediately, loudly start policing behavior. And the more you try to ignore them and live your life, the louder they are. Until they leave for the summer. But they’ll be back again before you know it, yelling about nothing.
Ambush predators with super vision who can detect bats’ echolocation and eat butterflies? Hell yeah. Mantises, folks. Let’s teach the kids about the brutal world of insects not with honeybees and carpenter ants and Charlotte’s Web. Let’s get real with mantises.
I actually don’t have a real case as to why a Disneynature documentary on mantises would teach kids they need to know about the real world. I just really like mantises. R.I.P. C. Martin Croker, the only human who could have voiced this.
Carpet beetles are very small (three millimeters long) and quite destructive. We once had an infestation of carpet beetle larvae in my daughter’s bedroom — what a nightmare! Apparently they latched on to our clothes when we were enjoying some lazy time outside and laid eggs in, you guessed it, the carpet. Once you see one tiny little beetle crawling on the rug, you see a thousand. And once you see a thousand, after laying on the carpet playing with your little baby as she learns to roll over and crawl around, you see and feel them EVERYWHERE. And then you have them murdered.
The lesson, of course, is to never go outside, a worthy message in these times.
Let’s include the hide beetle, too. Colonies of hide beetles are used by natural history museums to carefully eat the flesh off of animal carcasses so their skeletons can be displayed. They have tanks of hide beetles just gnawing away at dead bobcats because it’s cheap and effective. Horrific!