The Vanishing Prairie

Directed by James Algar
Produced by Ben Sharpsteen
Written by James Algar & Winston Hibler
Narrated by Winston Hibler
Editing by Lloyd L. Richardson
Release date(s) 17 August 1954
Running time 71 minutes
Country United States

The Vanishing Prairie is another of Walt Disney’s True Life Adventures that is contained on the Walt Disney Legacy Collection Volume 2, which I received for Christmas. A couple of days ago I made a post about the other full-length nature documentary contained on the DVD set, The Living Desert. Like its predecessor, The Vanishing Prairie won the Academy Award for best feature-length documentary.

I think I prefer this movie to The Living Desert, perhaps because this film does not focus so much on snakes (although a rattler does appear), spiders and insects. The Vanishing Prairie does have many memorable and enjoyable scenes such as the buffalo giving birth to a calf, the mountain lion cubs growing from kittens to teenagers and the lives of the prairie dogs, which face many dangers in their daily lives.

Paul Smith’s musical score plays a big part in the way that one feels about this movie and while it can be a little clichéd at times, I do think that it is brilliant too.

I think that the best way to treat this is as entertainment first and then as a nature documentary. When watching this film and The Living Desert I wondered to myself how much of the footage used was genuine and how much was set up or faked. Looking at the extras on the DVD set does give you the answers to this question though which made me quite disappointed, especially since one of the signature sequences of The Vanishing Prairie was faked according to Roy Disney. However there is still a lot of original stuff that they filmed on location and it is all quite fascinating. Still, this is very entertaining stuff which is a complete contrast to the nature documentaries that you see on TV today that I feel are very dry and at times boring.

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