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Producer of Disney's 'The Lion King' continues trek into nature with 'Chimpanzee'

April 15, 2012|By Katherine Tulich
  • "The Lion King" Producer Don Hahn gets back into the wild with new documentary "Chimpanzee."
"The Lion King" Producer Don Hahn gets back… (Courtesy off Disney…)

It’s a long way from the comforts of Burbank to the wilds of the remote Ivory Coast in Africa, and Don Hahn, executive producer of Disneynature’s new film, “Chimpanzee,” laughs at the comparison. “Luckily for me, I got to stay home and sit in warm edit suites right here in Burbank looking at this amazing footage our filmmakers shot,” says the congenial producer.

It wasn’t that he preferred to be an armchair traveler, it’s also a matter of practicality. “Chimpanzee” follows the story of an amazing and very lucky infant chimpanzee named Oscar and his family group. It was shot in the remote Taï Forest, situated 60 miles inland. “I would have only been in the way. These are filmmakers that have spent years in treacherous and difficult territory, “ says Hahn. “You only want the people who really need to be there.”

Shooting began on “Chimpanzee” almost four years ago, while the country was still fighting a vicious and bloody civil war. “It’s 10 hours from the largest city by car and then another two hours by foot just to get to the base camp, and then every day the chimps can travel up to 4 miles a day looking for food, so the crew had to set off very early in the morning just to find our stars. Some days you might get 30 seconds of footage and other days you might be lucky to get three minutes,” says Hahn.

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“Chimpanzee” is the fourth movie to be released under the newly launched Disneynature brand (previous films were “Earth,” “Oceans” and “African Cats”). Hahn, who has acted as executive producer on all titles, admits he never thought he would now be considered a wildlife expert. “My background is really in animation, but when Disney decided to start making these films they didn’t want them to be straight-out documentaries. They needed to tell a story, so that’s how I got involved,” he says. “Its been an amazing challenge, to take up to 300 hours of footage and shape them into a 90-minute film.”

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