Why Disney+ Was The Best Place For Dolphin Reef, Even Before Theaters Closed

Dolphin Reef

The film's made by Walt Disney Studio's Disneynature division were never the blockbusters that the company has come to be known for, but they were usually given a theatrical release nonetheless. Those that went to see movies like Born in China or Pengiuns were treated to some truly breathtaking visuals on the big screen. In the run up to the launch of Disney+ it was announced that the new film, Dolphin Reef, would not be seen in theaters, but instead would debut on the streaming service. Considering the current situation, that was a good move by Disney, but the filmmakers of Dolphin Reef think that Disney+ is the right place for the movie under any circumstances.

I spoke to Dolphin Reef director Keith Scholey and producer Roy Conli ahead of today's Disney+ release and I asked them how they felt about missing out on the theatrical experience. While both certainly love the cinema, they were ultimately very supportive of Dolphin Reef being a Disney+ movie, because, in the end, it likely means more people will see it. As Scholey explained...

I think the cinema's always exciting. It's all great to see your film in a big theater, but what we really want with these films is lots of people to see them and streaming has just opened up a whole new world. Such a big audience. These films are going to be there all the time for families, and when they've seen one they might say 'oh, let's see more.' and we've got a back catalog of these films.

In addition to Dolphin Reef and Elephant making their Disney+ debut today, both films are also receiving behind-the-scenes productions. Penguins, the last Disneynature film to hit the big screen is also making its Disney+ debut today, alongside its own behind-the-scenes feature, and all the previous Disneynature films are there to be enjoyed as well.

As mentioned before, while Disneynature films have seen theatrical releases before, they weren't exactly massive hits. They were movies seen by those who sought them out, not the sort of movie that an audience might simply checkout because it looked interesting. With Disney+, and especially right now, the chances somebody might give Dolphin Reef, or Elephant, a chance just for the heck of it are much better

And if more people do that, they'll learn something they might not otherwise learn. Keith Scholey went on to say that the reason reaching as many people as possible with movies like Dolphin Reef is important is because the films are trying to accomplish something real.

We make these films at Silverback [Films] to save our stars we want to reach out to as many people as possible and say, 'God, isn't the underwater world magnificent? Let's save it for future generations.' I think this way we're going to actually get to far more people than we would have done through cinema.

Walt Disney Studios has been making films like Dolphin Reef since the late 1940s when Walt Disney himself produced Seal Island, the first of what were then called True Life Adventures. Producer Roy Conli watched those films when they were rebroadcast as part of the long running Wonderful World of Disney anthology series, and for him it was a window into a part of the world he would not have otherwise had a chance to see.

The majority of this planet will never get to see [these places] except on these films.

And as an added bonus, it's a look at the world outside our doors, at a time when most us can't go outside our doors.

Dolphin Reef is now available on Disney+.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.