15 things to watch on Disney+ to celebrate Earth Day
Enjoy nature from the comfort of your couch
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This Wednesday, April 22, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. You can celebrate by planting a tree, taking a walk in the fresh spring air, or by watching Earth-friendly movies, shorts, and documentaries on Disney+.
From nostalgic favorites like "Finding Nemo" and "A Bug’s Life" to National Geographic’s "Drain" docu-series Disney+ is fully stocked with titles that will inspire you to coexist with all of nature’s creatures. We wrapped up a queue for you to explore our planet’s intricacies, peek at national parks, and view heartwarming shorts that give life to volcanoes, clouds, and unlikely friendships.
1. "One Strange Rock"
"One Strange Rock" is a 10-episode series that explores the fateful twists and turns that have led us to our presence on planet Earth. The series is hosted by Will Smith and features astronauts who share what it was like to leave their home behind. The episodes span topics like cosmic storms, lethal habitats, other intelligent lifeforms, and what may happen if we were to leave Earth altogether—would we survive? It’s a great introduction to all that Earth provides and protects us from.
Jane Goodall is one of the world’s most famous researchers and nature lovers. Many of us learned about her because of her extensive and groundbreaking research on chimpanzees. This documentary features over 100 hours of archival footage set to an orchestral score. It’s an exquisite account of her life and work exposed to nature—from the 1960s to now.
The documentary follows her as the media discounts her research because she’s a woman, through to her groundbreaking discoveries of both the brutality and kindness of a species so similar to us. Goodall's legacy is well worth diving into in celebration of women, science, and the Earth’s way of connecting us all.
A compacter living in a dystopian future, Wall-E is one of the last beings on the Earth that humans had to flee after depleting of its natural resources with industrialization, consumerism, and greed.
This Pixar classic is a cute tale of two unlikely friends who travel across the universe to preserve life. It’s also a striking reflection of our current climate change crisis and a warning of a possible future outcome.
I recently rewatched "Moana," and it was such a pleasant reminder of how our relationship with Earth can change. Moana is a teen from an island village who discovers her people used to be voyagers, despite the fact that they now stay on their island and only fish nearby.
But things begin to change when coconut harvests are rotten and the ocean’s fish disappear. Moana takes it upon herself to sail across the horizon to restore the mystical heart of Te Fiti. Her journey showcases the importance of nature to our livelihood and survival.
5. "Sea of Hope"
This documentary explores the oceans as national “parks,” or blue parks. The year-long journey follows marine biologists travel across the seas to protect endangered species and ecosystems as the ocean is a “frontier in peril”—coral reefs are dying, ecosystems are falling apart.
The documentary makes the case for protecting one of our greatest natural resources. "Sea of Hope" shares stories from fishermen and sailors who have seen the ocean change in their own lifetime. It’s an educational 47-minute watch that will inspire you to reduce, reuse, recycle, and hold people accountable for maintaining the waters that are integral to our survival.
Earth Day is a chance for us to consider our place in the world. Do we encourage growth or do we hinder our resources through overconsumption and mass-production?
I always return to "Pocahontas" as a reminder to treat our lands and waters with respect and awe. Just look to the lyrics of "Colors of the Wind": "You think you own whatever land you land on/The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim/But I know every rock and tree and creature/Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.”
7. "Winged Seduction: Birds of Paradise"
You may recognize this short documentary, after clips went viral a few years ago. The male Parotia—a vibrant and recently uncovered bird found in New Guinea—extravagantly sweeps his portion of the forest floor in preparation to mate. After a long preparation period, the bird monitors the area and when a female mate comes along, he puts on a show.
He unfurls his tail and feathers, resembling a ballerina, and dances around his circle. It’s truly a fantastic showcase of dazzling seduction that’s worth the watch.
8. "Finding Nemo"
"Finding Nemo" is one of Pixar’s most popular movies. Nemo is precious and funny and determined, whereas his father Marlin is protective, loving, and...also determined. While "Finding Nemo" doesn’t directly deal with Earth Day, it showcases colorful undersea scapes.
It also tells a tale of different species—clownfish, sharks, pelicans, starfish, and more—working together to help each other while humans get in their way. You can take "Finding Nemo" as it is and enjoy the adventure, or you can read into the theme of human intervention and how it causes what is natural to begin to decay—up to you!
9. "A Bug’s Life"
"A Bug’s Life" is especially nostalgic to me—I used to watch it while in daycare and always loved the humor and larger-than-life animations of circus bugs and grasshoppers. "A Bug’s Life" is a fun watch that both celebrates nature and humor, and reminds us of how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
The trailer for "Penguins" almost reminds me of "The Bachelor." The camera follows a single Adélie Penguin named Steve as he looks for a mate who enjoys what he enjoys: long walks along the Antarctica beach, fishing, and searching for rocks.
Who wouldn’t love him? He actually already has a lifelong partner, but it is her turn to collect food, essentially making him a single father. Yes, this is still about an actual penguin in one of the most “unforgiving and stunning places on Earth.”
11. "Partly Cloudy"
"Partly Cloudy" is a Pixar short about clouds creating kittens, puppies, and babies, so storks can deliver them to doorsteps of expectant parents. It’s lighthearted and imaginative, and gives a cute—albeit creatively inspired—look at the beauty of our skies.
"Lava" is a seven-minute short that spans millions of years. Featuring animations of luscious island scenery, the short tells the story of a lonely volcano who sits in the sea with the hope to find a friend like him, just as the turtles, dolphins, and birds around him have found love. The volcano begins to turn to stone and is close to extinction, until someone overhears his song.
13. "Giants of the Deep Blue"
The ocean is not unlike outer space—we have yet to invent technologies that allow us to travel far below the surface, yet we know there is life. There are organisms who don’t need oxygen to survive, and there are numerous tales of monsters and sea giants.
"Giants of the Deep Blue" isn’t a scary movie; it’s a majestic look into the undersea lives of whales and dolphins. The documentary follows them along “liquid roads” as they hunt for their food, adapt to their surroundings, and search for mates. It’s thrilling to see how they interact and play throughout their days.
14. "Wild Yellowstone"
Since Yellowstone National Park is nestled among parts of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, the land experiences all types of seasonal climates. This two-part series shares what each summer and winter can be like with footage of both extremes, including shots of the fiercest animals living in the area: bears, elk, and...hummingbirds?
15. National Geographic’s "Drain" series
Ranging from Alcatraz to the Great Lakes, from the Titanic to the Bermuda Triangle, this series imagines what’s below the surface. Scientists and researchers use sonar technology to scan what lies below the surface. Then they theorize what historical artifacts may be present.
If you’re a history nerd, the Titanic episode will be a great fit. Each episode is captivating and thought-provoking. Is this what could happen to landmarks we have now?
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