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Elephant review – Meghan Markle adds schmaltz to Disney yarn

The Duchess of Sussex has provided the voiceover – including plenty of unverifiable comment – for this sugary documentary about elephant migration

Last autumn, before she and her husband made it into their current Californian lockdown, Meghan Markle recorded the narration for this lavish new documentary from the Disneynature production unit, streaming on Disney+, her fee being a donation to the Elephants Without Borders conservation charity working in Botswana. The film shows the annual, dramatic migration of an elephant herd across the Kalahari in search of food and drinking water, moving from Botswana’s Okavango Delta in its dry season, heading for the Zambezi and the Victoria Falls: the last being an awe-inspiring phenomenon which Meghan matches with her own spectacular torrents of schmaltz. She takes to Disney-narration like an anthropomorphic duck to water. “For elephants, family is everything! In this tight-knit group, someone always has your back!”

The film is directed by Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz and Alastair Fothergill, veterans of the BBC Natural History Unit, and they get some great scenes and striking moments, working in the immersive, intimate nature-doc tradition pioneered by David Attenborough. But they are also giving us something in the somewhat silly Disneyfied tradition of The Lion King and The Jungle Book, with a cutesy narrative sneakily fashioned in the edit, and everything but Elton John belting out Circle of Life on the soundtrack. The heroes are the herd’s ageing 40-year-old matriarch Gaia, her younger sister Shani and one adorable little baby elephant: “Meet Jomo!” coos Meghan.

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