If I had a nickel for every reason people should subscribe to Disney+, I would have enough to pay for one month of the popular subscription service. With thousands of titles from most of the Disney-owned properties, the reasons to sign up are just about endless. And that's not even mentioning the abundance of nature documentaries from the Disney Nature brand as well as National Geographic, which the "House of Mouse" now owns following the landmark acquisition of Fox in 2019.
But with so many nature documentaries, it's next to impossible to get through all of the available content before something new is eventually added. It can be overwhelming and stressful, which is not how you want to feel when looking for a nice relaxing documentary. That being said, I've put together a list of 11 stunning nature documentaries you can watch right now on Disney+.
Without any further ado, let's now take a look at some of the best nature documentaries available to stream on Disney+.
Jane Goodall, the English anthropologist mostly known for her work in the field of primatology (the study of primates), is the subject of Brett Morgan's 2017 documentary Jane. Part biography and part nature film, this stunning documentary pulls from over 100 hours of unseen archival footage of a young Jane Goodall as she conducts research during her exploration of Tanzania. The beautifully shot and masterfully restored footage contains some of the most striking and jaw-dropping depictions of the natural world you'll see any in film since. Anyone who has ever had an interest in Goodall's legacy, the natural world, or great documentaries should take note of the new Jane Goodall special being added to the platform in April 2020.
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the most fascinating places in all of Africa. Every year, the delta becomes inundated with water and transforms from barren desert to a wonderland of beauty, life, and plenty of water from the flood river. This spectacle is captured with amazing detail in Brad Bestelink's 2018 documentary The Flood. In this National Geographic produced film, Bestelink showcases the wide range of animals who flock to the Okavango Delta during the annual flood, including elephants, lions, leopards, hippos, and countless others seeking a break from the dry and desolate landscape of the desert. Rich as the delta on which it is based, The Flood is remarkable in every sense of the word.
Stream it Here.
Winged Seduction: Birds Of Paradise
On the island of New Guinea off the coast of Australia lives the elusive and strikingly beautiful birds-of-paradise. All in all, there around 40 different species of birds-of-paradise, each with distinctive sizes, shapes, and behavior. The BBC documentary Planet Earth first introduced millions of people to the birds with their elaborate mating dances, but director Molly Hermann really focused in on the fabled birds with her 2012 documentary Winged Seduction: Birds Of Paradise. Throughout this 45-minute affair, Hermann documents the shape shifting, color shaking, singing, and transformative birds in great detail.
The Crimson Wing: Mystery Of The Flamingos
Every year, Lake Natron in Tanzania becomes the gathering place of over 2 million lesser flamingos who flock to the hot and salty waters to feed on algae and breed thanks to the location's caustic environment gives the birds safety from outside predators. This annual migration was finally captured in Disneynature's first production, the 2008 documentary The Crimson Wing: Mystery Of The Flamingos. Directors Matthew Aeberhand and Leander Ward were able to film capture the essence of life and death in a formidable location that is next to impossible to strive within. In the first of many documentaries that were to come, Disneynature proved that with a lot of resources and dedicated filmmakers, even the most remote areas of the world could be captured.
Released on Earth Day in 2011, the African Cats documentary was directed by the team of Alastair Fothergill and Keith Scholey, who followed a pride of lions and a family of cheetahs across the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson (Patrick Stewart in the UK version), the documentary plays more like a traditional movie with the cats being named and treated like characters as opposed to subjects. This might be a negative for the purists out there, but the addition of a narrative and plot structure add another level of storytelling to this beautiful and intense nature documentary.
Released nearly one year to the date of African Cats, the Chimpanzee documentary from directors Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield follows the life of Oscar, a chimpanzee in the African forests taken in by another chimp after his mom's death. Much like the other Disneynature documentaries, this epic story of survival combines traditional elements of documentaries with those of movies with named characters and a structured plot. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking, Chimpanzee is definitely a great way to spend a couple of hours when looking for an escape to the lush, green jungles of the African rainforest.
Born In China
By the time Disneynature got around to making Born In China, the production company had fine-tuned it's distinct style of documentary filmmaking. As the title suggests, Born In China, which was directed by Lu Chuan, focuses on some of the countries most notable wildlife, including the snow leopard, the golden snub-nosed monkey, and the giant panda, as they fight for their own survival as well as their offspring in the different regions of the massive country. With a great level of detail and diversity, this well-shot and edited documentary is a wonder to take in.
Giants Of The Deep Blue
If you ever wanted to learn more about the different species of whale and dolphin that populate the world's oceans, look no further than Ken Corben's excellent 2018 National Geographic documentary Giants Of The Deep Blue. Throughout this 44-minute documentary, narrator Bill Graves guides the viewer through painstakingly shot footage of the mammals' social behavior and hunting strategies as they navigate the salty waters of the ocean. Shot in all corners of the Earth, Giants Of The Deep Blue details a world that is still foreign to so many of us.
The Disneynature documentaries have taken audiences to places they never thought they would go and see animals they never knew about behaving in ways that may seem beyond imagination. The production company continued that with its eighth release, Monkey Kingdom, the 2015 documentary directed by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill that showcases the extraordinary lives of a family of monkeys who have established themselves inside and around ancient ruins tucked away in the jungles of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka. Filled with shots that look more like a painting than a nature documentary, unbelievable encounters with the local wildlife, and an emotional narrative, Monkey Kingdom is a beautifully crafted love letter to nature. With a score by British composer Harry Gregson-Williams and narration by Tina Fey, Monkey Kingdom is well worth a watch.
Wings Of Life
Sometimes you don't need wild cats, whales, or monkeys to make an interesting and entertaining nature documentary. That is exactly what Louis Schwartzberg did for the 2011 Disneynature documentary Wings Of Life (released as Pollen in France and Hidden Beauty: A Love Story That Feeds The Earth in the United Kingdom). Throughout this mesmerizing deep dive into the lives bees, butterflies, birds, and bats, and their relationship with flowers that allow both the flora and fauna to survive, the documentary showcases why this relationship is key to all life on the surface of the planet. With detailed, high definition shots of all the featured species, it's hard to believe that it was released nearly 10 years ago.
Tree Climbing Lions
There's a common trope of firefighters being called to the rescue a hapless cat stuck in a tree, but no fireman with any sense would want anything to do with the cats featured in the National Geographic documentary Tree Climbing Lions. Over the course of this documentary, big cat biologist Alexander Braczkowski sets out on a mission to discover the lions living in the trees and begin to understand why only a small portion of lions take part in this behavior. Shot both during the day and night, Tree Climbing Lions features some of the most breathtaking video of these big cats as well as some amazing footage of the lions in the dark of night.
Those are just 11 of the fascinating and enlightening nature documentaries found on Disney+. With many more being added every month, it wouldn't be the worst idea to check back and catch up on what you might have missed. Speaking of missing, was your favorite nature documentary left off the list? If so, speak up in the comments. You can never have too many nature documentaries.