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Nature's Innocence: A Look at Disney's True-Life Adventures

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by , 04-23-2011 at 03:25 PM
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Sometimes, if I close my eyes I can still hear those familiar mechanical sounds. The hums, whirs and clicks of celluloid driven by a motor through sprockets and spindles, the friction of film rubbing against metal reels. In a darkened classroom I sat, watching lighted images of nature projected on a white screen. Sometimes they were of industrious beavers building dams, other times of barking fur seals frolicking on rocks. The voice of the films' narrator--straightforward and slightly amused--is as indelible in my head now as the noise of the projector. Suddenly, I'm 11-years-old again.

This is my memory of Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures.

In 1943, Walt said of his films, "It is not visionary or presumptuous for us to anticipate the use of our own medium in the curriculum of every schoolroom in the world." To say these words were prophetic, particularly in the U.S., is a gross understatement. If you were a kid in the 1960s or '70s, there's a pretty good chance more than one Disney picture in 16mm was shown in your classroom, either to educate or to entertain, usually both. It was in elementary school that I first saw the Disney chestnuts [I]Johnny Tremain[/I] and [I]So Dear to My Heart[/I], not to mention countless installments of the I'm No Fool cartoon series starring Jiminy Cricket.

But, it was the True-Life Adventures that stuck with me the most over the years. Full of both grandeur and intimacy, fact and fun, they presented an accessible and palatable look at nature. For a child of the suburbs, they made the great outdoors kinda cool.

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