Daily Archives: January 5, 2010

The Living Desert

Directed by James Algar
Produced by Ben Sharpsteen
Written by James Algar, Winston Hibler
Narrated by Winston Hibler
Music by Paul J. Smith
Cinematography Robert H. Crandall, Paul Kenworthy
Editing by Norman R. Palmer
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution
Release date(s) 10 November, 1953
Running time 69 minutes

Here is a different type of Disney movie from what I watched yesterday and something that was considered quite revolutionary at the time. Yes, The Living Desert is a nature documentary but it also came out in 1953, long before National Geographic Channel, Animal Planet, Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough. This title won the Academy Award for best documentary and it is great viewing indeed.

Unlike most of today’s nature documentaries The Living Desert never takes itself or its subjects too seriously. The main focus of the film is to entertain its audience while also educating them about life in the harsh desert environment of America. There are lots of memorable scenes, especially the sequence showing the mating ritual of the scorpions, as well as the battle between the tarantula and the wasp and the mating ritual of the desert tortoise. The Living Desert is a fascinating film that still is fun to watch today almost sixty years after its release.

One feature about the movie that was criticised for upon its release is the musical score by Paul Smith, which many thought was quite hokey and gives the film its lighthearted feel. I feel that the music is appropriate and is what separates a Disney production from any other nature film.

The Living Desert is featured on the Walt Disney Legacy Collection volume 2 which was released a couple of years ago. I actually received this as a Christmas present from my parents and for that I will be eternally grateful. Other Disney True Life Adventures are featured on the DVD set including The Vanishing Prarie which I will write up very soon.