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Filmed in Alberta, Canada, which is not a native habitat for lemmings and has no outlet to the sea, lemmings were imported for use in the film. (Purchased from Inuit children by the filmmakers.) The lemmings were placed on a snow-covered turntable and filmed from various angles to produce a "migration" sequence; afterwards, the helpless creatures were transported to a cliff overlooking a river and herded into the water to die. The movie does not depict an actual lemming migration -- at no time are more than a few dozen lemmings ever shown on the screen at once. The entire sequence was faked. They used a handful of lemmings deceptively photographed to create the illusion of a large herd of migrating creatures.
Oscar-winning Disney documentary, directed by James Algar, about life in the Arctic (filmed in Canada). As with the other Disney nature documentaries I've seen from this period, the beautiful photography of the scenery and wildlife is what makes this worth recommending. There's exciting footage of rushing rivers and glaciers breaking apart and playful footage of polar bears playing, etc. Oliver Wallace's excellent score compliments the action well. A good thing, too, as Winston Hibler's monotone narration can be sleep-inducing. There have been many similar television and film documentaries in the decades since this was made but the footage here is so good it still manages to impress. Some scenes were staged, including the unpalatable 'lemming suicide' scene. Today, where discussions of the environment are concerned, there are inevitable axes to grind and flags to be raised. What's refreshing about seeing older docs, such as White Wilderness, is that they are just trying to provide a look at nature's many wonders in an informative and entertaining way. There's no agenda. Some elements may be dated but, for the most part, this is still a great documentary with lovely nature photography that should please most viewers.
This documentary is one of the best ever produced by Disney and has both the strengths and weaknesses of most Disney documentaries-excellent visually and technically but with narration that is all too frequently vapid, silly and boring, with the added difficulty that the narrator's droning monotone almost puts me to sleep. The visuals more than make up for any shortcomings. Recommended.
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