The Crimson Wing Review
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Through its new Disneynature label, Disney has taken audiences on journeys around the world, offering a closer look at the animals that share our planet and the creatures found under the sea. Both Earth and Oceans have given a broad overview of a wide variety of living creatures. But The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos takes a look at one small miracle that takes place each year in one remarkable location.

Tanzania’s Lake Natron is nothing like the lakes you’ve seen before. Though it may reach up to 40 miles in length, it’s never more than six feet deep. And it isn’t the kind of lake you’d like to swim in, either. Located at the base of an active volcano, it’s so full of minerals that, for most creatures, it’s toxic. Still, Lake Natron is a vital part of one creature’s survival.

  
 
Each year, when the rains come to Lake Natron, the water fills with algae—and that brings the flamingos, who flying hundreds or even thousands of miles to feed and find a mate. As the rainy season ends and the water begins to evaporate, the birds build nests out of the salty mud that’s left behind. It’s definitely not a cozy environment, but the salty nests and nearby marshes are where hundreds of thousands of flamingo chicks are born and nurtured each year.

The Crimson Wing is a bit like a steamy, salty March of the Penguins, following the massive flock of birds as they go through their annual rituals. Like the penguins of the Antarctic, the flamingos of Lake Natron journey to an inhospitable environment each year to mate, lay their eggs, and raise their chicks. It poses plenty of challenges, but it’s just the way they’ve always done it.

In following the flamingos through the process, directors Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward manage to capture some simple but stunning footage. Set against a matching backdrop of water and sky, the enormous flocks of vibrant crimson birds are absolutely breathtaking—especially as they perform their mating dances, accompanied by an energetic, exotic score.

While other Disneynature films have presented a number of different species in a number of different settings, though, The Crimson Wing focuses on just one. And although it gives audiences an in-depth look at the lives of these remarkable birds, it also tends to drag a bit toward the end. For the most part, the story is interesting, but the last five minutes or so feel like unnecessary filler—as though the filmmakers were looking for something else to add, in order to give the film its feature-length runtime.

Still, The Crimson Wing is another beautiful and educational Disneynature release. Though it feels a bit drawn out in the end, the rest of the film is a simply gorgeous exploration of a fascinating natural spectacle. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s heartwarming, and it’ll teach you a little more about your magnificent, mysterious planet.


Blu-ray Revew:
If you finish watching Disneynature’s The Crimson Wing and you’d like to know more, you’ll find more notes, diaries, and facts on the disc’s special features menu. The two-disc Blu-ray/DVD release includes the Living Planet globe—an interactive feature that offers more facts, information, and interviews from around the world (though very little actually relates to flamingos). Or, for more information about the flamingos, you can watch the film with the optional filmmaker annotations track—an extensive commentary track that offers more information and video footage. And, finally, there’s a five-part Lake Natron Diaries feature, which takes a behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Crimson Wing.

If you have plenty of time to explore the disc, you’ll find the filmmaker annotations educational and insightful. But if you’d like to learn just a little bit more about the movie and the flamingos, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to watch the Diaries. They’ll give you a closer look at both the flamingos and the filmmaking process without the major time commitment.

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