"Chimpanzee," opening in theaters on April 20, tells the story of an orphan and the selfless alpha male chimp who raised him.
Before the extraordinary primate adoption, filmmakers were uncertain of the young chimp's fate. Director Alastair Fothergill said, "We thought the film was over, we were planning to ring up Disney and say, 'guys we haven't got a movie'" until the star was adopted by another chimp, which was "never before filmed in the wild." Chimpanzee Video
Filmmakers were soon amazed by the care that the orphaned chimp was given by his surrogate father. Martyn Colbeck, Principal Photography, said, "This is pure altruism. This is selfless looking after an orphan when he doesn't have an agenda."
For the film, Disneynature has partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute to help protect wild chimpanzees. The "See 'Chimpanzee,' Save Chimpanzees" conservation program aims to protect habitats, care for orphaned chimps and educate the next generation of humans.
During the film's opening week, Disney will donate 20 cents to the Jane Goodall Institute for every ticket sold.
In the clip above, Goodall explains, "For the chimpanzees who are now threatened with extinction, a film like this can reach out into the hearts of people they're going to see that we're not the only beings with personalities and minds capable of thought."
Chimpanzees certainly stand to benefit from Disney's contributions and increased awareness of their plight. Chimps (Pan troglodytes) are currently listed as "endangered" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. According to IUCN, chimps are the most "abundant and widespread" apes, but poaching and habitat destruction and fragmentation have reduced their populations significantly.
Several celebrities, including Woody Harrelson, James Franco and Kevin Nealon, have recently lent their support to a ban on invasive laboratory experiments on chimpanzees.
In addition to seeing the Disney film, the Jane Goodall Institute suggests consumers can also help chimps by buying sustainably sourced products and recycling electronic devices, "many of which contain minerals that are mined from tropical forests."
"Chimpanzee" is the fourth film that Disney has used to help promote habitat protection and conservation. According to Mother Nature Network, the films "African Cats," "Oceans" and "Earth" have led to coral reef preservation and "the planting of more than 2.7 million trees in Brazil's Atlantic forest," among other efforts.