My Interview with Roy Conli The Producer of Born In China.
I was given the opportunity to interview Roy Conli the producer (Tangled, Big Hero 6) of Born In China. The movie transitions extremely smoothly and I was wondering how they were able to watch these animals in their natural habitat and create a story. This task was not as easy as it seems and it was extremely daunting and exhausting. Mr. Conli pointedly calls the cinematographers the unsung heroes. Shane Moore, who was the cinematographer for the snow leopard unit, was literally in the field 253 days, four trips over about a year and a half in a two-year period. He did not get his first shot of snow leopards until the 90th day. The snow leopard is probably the most elusive animal on this planet. Shane has filmed cats in Africa and in South America. It was his expertise and his ability to withstand probably one of the harshest places on this planet, where this was shot 16,000 feet above sea level. There were medics and oxygen on the set.
Now for our golden monkeys, they were the easiest of the animals to infiltrate, only because they want to play for the camera and they’re not as afraid of humans as a snow leopard. But you’ve got to stay away from the pandas. It’s an 800 pound animal with a cub. Our cinematographers literally donned panda suits and put panda scent (urine, this is dedication) on them in order to blend into the hillside and be able to get the shots that they did.
When watching this 75-minute movie I want you to remember that they had over 400 hours of footage. The process is, Chuan, myself, our writer David Fowler and (producers) Brian Leith and Phil Chapman, start crafting the stories. They went through 400 hours of footage to weave the masterpiece set before you. The structure of the three stories really comes from Lu Chuan. He did an amazing job encompassing, within a parenthetical aspect, the spiritual which is the cranes and the earthly, which are the chirus, to bring these three beautiful stories to life.
In the movie an animal loses their life, my immediate flashback was when I was on a Safari in South Africa and we saw a wildebeest stuck in thick mud. We had asked our guide if they were going to help the animal and he said, “No, this is part of life and we must allow nature to take its course.” I shared this with Mr.Conli because it was heartbreaking to see this majestic animal pass. Mr. Conli reiterated our safaris guides words, “I think one of the things that we adhere to is, this is a true life adventure and we cannot go in and script it in any way. We take the footage and build the script, and really I think in any way as a filmmaker you can’t intercede in that. You’ve got to allow nature to take its course and that’s the way you’ve got to report it.”
Meet the stars of Born In China
YaYa and MeiMei, mother and child panda bear. This could be my story, I cried watching their dynamic relationship, the entire time I was thinking of my little one. Mamma panda guides her baby and yet must begin to let go as the baby panda seeks independence. I had no idea that a Panda Bear is alone for the entirety of their lives, the only time they are not alone is when they have a baby.
TaoTao is a tale every child can relate too! TaoTao is a two-year-old that is replaced as the youngest once the baby is in the picture. Unsure of his place in his family, finding his place in this world he sets off by joining up with a group of troublemakers, which truthfully does not help one bit and confuses even more. Despite family issues, love always triumphs.
Meet Dawa and her cubs, #Motherhoodunplugged. Yes, I hashtagged that, we would do anything for our children, even place our own lives on the line for their survival. Their story follows them through one of the harshest environments on the planet, thousands of miles above sea level which brings about the ultimate hardship.
Thank you, Disney, for giving me the opportunity to preview Born In China and most importantly for granting me an interview with Mr. Conli to discuss the movie in depth with him, what an honor. It’s crucial that everyone sees Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure film BORN IN CHINA during its opening week (April 21-27, 2017) will benefit the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Based on opening-week attendance, Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the WWF to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China. You will help make a difference!