Like past charitable partnerships for its films "EARTH," "OCEANS" and "African Cats," Disneynature has once again shown the power of movies to make a difference.
This year's Earth Day film from the studio was "Chimpanzee," a touching true story that focuses on an orphaned chimp and the adventures and friends he discovers in the jungles of Africa. Disneynature decided early on to partner with the Jane Goodall Institute, which works to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. Proceeds from opening weekend ticket sales would benefit the organization and be distributed through the World Disney Conservation Fund.
But then something amazing happened: not only did the film rake in an impressive $10.6 million during its opening weekend, but Disneynature also (for the first time) decided to extend its charitable giving another two weeks. The film went on to rake in more than $28 million.
As a result, the initiative will protect 129,236 acres (about 202 square miles) of wild chimpanzee habitat through infrastructure investments in the expanded Tchimpounga Nature Reserve in the Republic of Congo. The donations will also allow the Jane Goodall Institute to greatly expand its education program on the importance of protecting chimpanzees, reaching an estimated 60,000 children in 100 schools in the Congo.
"A huge 'thank you' to Disneynature and the millions of people who saw 'Chimpanzee' in its first two weeks," said Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a U.N. Messenger of Peace. "The conservation program — 'See "Chimpanzee," Save Chimpanzees' — substantially raised public awareness about the threats facing chimpanzees and their habitat, and everyone who saw the film helped the Jane Goodall Institute continue its efforts to protect these amazing beings and their forest home now and in the future."
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It's a remarkable achievement and a wonderful reminder of the power of studios to give back and turn movie events into fund-raisers. While no preview of next year's film was shown before "Chimpanzee," I'm already excited (as are the numerous environmental orgs out there) about what impact Disneynature's 2013 film might have.
You can see a trailer for "Chimpanzee" below.