Growing up in small town New Zealand, the closest I ever got to a Big Cat was the traditional Sunday evening nature documentary. I loved these programs, even the mandatory chase scenes which inevitably ended up with some poor herbivore being killed and eaten, and my younger sister crying.
Now I’m all grown up, have travelled a bit and have seen plenty of lions in zoos and wildlife parks. I’ve even seen a leopard in the wild, but I still love a good nature documentary. Luckily, so do DH and the kids; our DVD shelves are peppered with them.
So when the opportunity came to attend the UK première of Disney’s African Cats, I jumped at the chance. I remember watching Disney’s documentaries as a child and I loved the idea of being able to introduce my children to them in such an amazing environment.
And not only were we going to be among the first people in the UK to see the film, this was going to be a Royal Première with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attending. The girls were very excited about this, although DD3 got a little confused and thought we were going to see one of the Disney Princesses!
Attending the première was an enlightening experience. I knew there would be a red carpet, but I didn’t think it would be for us. I assumed us common folk would be slipped in the side entrance somehow, but no. We had to walk down the heavily policed lane, with the girls gleefully capering and screeching like maniacs , onto the very wet red carpet, past a veritable wall of photographers, until we finally made it inside the building.
Once we’d had our bags checked and been scanned, we were ushered inside the theatre and had to wait a bit for the Royal Couple to arrive. There was an introduction, and a short film on the history of Disneynature but then quite a delay. My girls were a bored by the wait, and a little hungry. We had planned to eat before the movie, but severe delays of the Metropolitan line put paid to that and I had neglected to bring any snacks. Some seats had a small bar of chocolate on them, but ours didn’t. Luckily a lovely couple in front of us gave us theirs, which kept the kids quiet for a minute or two.
Finally the Duke and Duchess were announced , so we all stood as they walked into the room and sat down in the middle of the theatre, barely 100m away from where we were sitting.
Then the film began, and the entire audience was transported to Africa.
African Cats is the story of two mothers; one a cheetah and the other a lioness, and tells the story of their day to day struggles to bring up their cubs, and ensure their survival. It is filmed in HD and features some stunning slo-mo action sequences. Patrick Stewart is the narrator, and there are some scary parts, and a few sad bits (take tissues!) but nothing too gory for even quite young children. The cats have to eat though, so if you think your children may be upset by the concept of a food chain, you may wish to leave them at home.
African Cats was filmed over 2 years in the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya; it then took almost another year of editing to get the film ‘just right’. And it is a great film. I found it possibly a little anthropomorphic, and over narrated, but nothing I couldn’t cope with. The kids loved it though, even DD2, who hadn’t been so sure about the idea of a movie that wasn’t animated.
After the film showing, the girls were hopeful of some food, but instead we had a speech from Prince William. I’d never thought of him of much of a speaker but he was pretty good, and the girls were very interested. Apparently, it’s not common for attending Royals to speak at film premières, so we were lucky .
Finally the filmakers came up on stage, spoke abut the movie, then had a question and answer session. This was an unexpected bonus to the evening, was very interesting and I felt it ended too soon.
Once the Royal Couple had left the theatre, and were safely in a less public part of the building, we were allowed to leave. The girls haven’t been into London that late often ( it was nearing 9pm) and so we wandered down to the London Eye beside the river, and then got a cab.
I rang home to let DH know we were on our way home, and was informed the Met line was still in chaos, so we crawled back to our closest tube station on the Piccadilly line and had a McDonalds ‘picnic’ on the train. Classy!
It was almost 11pm by the time we got the girls to bed. They were tired, but still full of energy and took a while to settle down.
And of course, this morning they had to be peeled out of bed and forced into their uniforms in time for school. Still, it’s not every night you get to go to the movies with a Prince and Princess!
We were kindly given tickets to the Royal Première of African Cats by Disney, but this review, and the opinions expressed within, are entirely my own.