As you can imagine, the making of a movie about chimpanzees in the wilds of the rainforest is quite an undertaking. Filmmakers spent some 700 days over the course of about three and a half years filming the animals, and the project was not without some seemingly insurmountable challenges. But through ingenuity, perseverance and sheer determination, along with a little luck, directors Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield and their team were able to bring an amazing and remote true life story to the big screen.
Now the whole process started with a recon trip called a "recce." Filmmakers went to the Ivory Coast to shoot some footage and figure out if there was a story they could tell. Director Mark Linfield tells a little bit about the process:
When we first went to Disney, we had a script for the movie, because you sort of have to have one in order to get a commission. And, we had a storyline which was centered on a young female who had just had a daughter. And the young female was called Sumatra, and the young female had just been born, and these are the chimpanzees we met on our reconissance trip to the Ivory Coast back in 2008.
And we went out there with a camera crew and started to try and film Sumatra, and she turned out to be camera shy. It sounds like a trivial thing, but literally, every time we took the camera out of the bag, she would just turn her back on us and disappear into the underbrush. And we thought hey, she’ll get better in time, don’t worry about it. And she never did.
That’s just one of the things about chimpanzees. They are so like us, that they have all of these quirks and foibles that humans have, and some of them don’t like cameras. Some of them do. She didn’t.
That challenge turned out to be one of those times when luck played a heavy part. The original story didn't work out, but along came a new little star...