Did you know that once upon a time lemurs co-existed with dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago? Well they did, they survived the catastrophic meteor strike that wiped out the dinosaurs. That makes them the most ancient primates that live on this earth. “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar” is a 3D IMAX documentary on the cute furry little primates and their journey of survival in the only place they exist; Madagascar.
The film takes us through Ranomafana National Park where Dr. Patricia Wright, primatologist, has been studying lemurs for more than 30 years and has continued efforts to preserve the endangered species. The park opened in 1991 to protect the animals. “Some [lemurs] are critically endangered and some are threatened. That’s a lot of lemurs we have to save” said Dr. Wright last week at the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles for press day.
The same production team for “Born to Be Wild” back in 2011 assembled this documentary. Which brings back the voice of Morgan Freeman to narrate the story. “These are magnificent creatures,” said Freeman, “it’s a story about courageous individuals engaged in acts of heroism.”
Director David Douglas and writer Drew Fellman had waited a long time to make the film. They had spent a month traveling the island with Dr. Wright trying to figure out a way to film. ” It’s the kind of place where the chasm between wanting to do something and being able to do something is so huge because its such a crazy place [to film in] said Fellman referring to the ever-changing landscape of the island. “The road system gets completely washed away.”
Filming in 3D IMAX was also a challenge. The traditional IMAX camera weights about 350 pounds, making it almost impossible to transport. Production figured out a way to use a 40 pound 3D camera, making it much easier to transport in backpacks throughout the remote areas of the island.
“One of the big challenges over the year putting the movie together was finding the individual groups of lemurs who could tolerate us,” Fellman said. Watching the film you would think lemurs were accessible and easy to work with. The film is relatively short comapred to other animal documentaries. It runs for 40 minutes.
Everyone who attended press day was eager to meet real life lemurs. I got to play with Taj, a seven-year old brown lemur. I was excited and bit timid approaching Taj, after all he’s got sharp little claws. The handler told me to stand still and Taj would leap from his shoulder to mine. I knew they looked cute and cuddly but I wasn’t expecting Taj’s fur to be so soft. Taj brushed up against my face and neck as the cameras flashed and I fell in love instantly. What a special treat.