Directed by David
Lickley (2002, Science North)
Narrated in part by Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall guides a visit to the chimpanzee family that she has
studied over the years, and tells of the lessons learned.
March 20th, 2003 on
the IMAX screen
This was a nice, light-hearted
adventure among the chimps. As with other movies about animals, it's
quite amazing to see how similar they are to people, and of course, how
cute most of them are!
Jane Goodall does a wonderful job of narrating this movie, especially in
the early scenes, which read like a diary, or biography. She sits on a
mountaintop, which is footage probably from an early biographical study,
wondering what she was going to do, as she could hear lots of
chimpanzees around, but they would never let her see them. Eventually,
of course, she won their confidence, and their friendship.
With the IMAX crew around, we follow a family of chimpanzees, the ones
that Jane had named, decades ago. Many of them are still alive, and she
has followed their lives as she studied them. Obviously, the researchers
have changed the lifestyle of the chimps, as they allow the observations
to take place, and occasionally even attempt to play with the humans.
Fortunately, humanity doesn't seem to have adversely affected the chimps
-at least not the observers, anyway. While habitat destruction has
severely affected their range, other families of chimps, who have not
had such extreme contact with their observers, appear to be very
Playtime among the chimps was hilarious! They were literally little
kids, jumping among each other, climbing trees and launching themselves
through the branches. The little ones were so cute, but even the young
adults got into it. Grooming was another interesting time -it looked so
Of course, there are the bullies in every family. The one who became top
chimp -alpha male, is one scary-looking chimpanzee! Frodo is huge,
looking more like a gorilla than a chimp. He is a real bully, even
disrupting playtime among the young- especially if they are playing with
the neighboring gibbons. (As a side note, these male chimps seem to have
huge testicles and constant erections -what kind of life do they live?)
Jane admits not being surprised, and neither was I, when they discovered
that the younger bully in the family had DNA from Frodo -his son.
Jane is not the only one who observes chimpanzees. We met up with a few
of the researchers from that team, as they went about their daily work.
It's amazing to think that Jane was once the only person living among
the chimps, while now there must be a couple of dozen.
Jane also discovered how alike chimpanzees were to humans, forcing
scientists and others to redefine humanity. One instance was a war between chimp
clans, one of which was wiped out completely. That must have been a
really haunting day for Jane. The other is much more uplifting and
astonishing -the use of tools. They actually learned to peel the leaves
off of tree branches, stick the branches in termite and ant holes, and
retrieve their daily feast! It was truly amazing to watch. So much for
humanity being defined by our use of tools. Now we know of an assortment
of animals that use tools, of course, but that first discovery was
The movie would not be complete without some wild photography and a cool
soundtrack. The music was a rhythmic African beat, very catching, and
reminiscent of the great stuff from the alternate
Lion King soundtrack,
Rhythm of the Pridelands. These beats, combined with the quick movement
from tree to tree, followed the crazy playtime of the chimpanzees and
There was also a cool graphic showing the family tree of the monkeys.
Obviously done with bluescreen and other enhancements, it was seamless,
so that we could really think that all these different types of monkeys
were sitting on the same tree. Perhaps the monkeys were fake, too, but I
think they were real, just sitting lazily around.
And so this was a lot of fun, sitting around with the chimpanzees. I
think we could learn a lot from observing their lifestyle. They looked
relatively stress-free, at least when Frodo wasn't around! When they
grew up, they still looked cute, which is more than I can say about many