Melissa dives into Disney Plus’ vast archive to explore the wealth of content inside the National Geographic section.
National Geographic has been a leader in geography, natural sciences, and archeology since 1888. We’ve all grown up with their magazines everywhere from doctor’s office waiting rooms to classrooms. And I can’t tell you how many people try to donate decades-old collections of magazines to libraries (It happens a lot). But their documentaries and productions haven’t always been accessible. Until now. Disney is bringing their programming straight to your living room as part of their streaming service Disney+. I’ve been making my way through their catalog of programs since the beginning of the Pandemic and found what I think is the best of what’s available to stream.
For younger audiences, there’s The United States of Animals. In twelve half-hour-long episodes, viewers are introduced to the wildlife found from coast to coast in the USA. From the unique prairie chicken to the endangered whooping cranes, details on the animals’ habitat, mating, and migrations are given in a factual but fun way by park rangers and other experts. You’ll even learn the best time to visit parks and other places to catch a glimpse of them. The episode has hilarious titles like “The Other Jersey Shore” and “Cranes, Planes, and Automobiles” and is chock full of jokes sure to please young viewers.
Wild Hawaii, Wild Alaska, and Wild Yellowstone showcase some of the most majestic and extreme places in the US. From volcanoes like Kilauea to geysers like Old Faithful you’ll see just how volatile our planet can be. But also how beautiful with some of the most breathtaking vistas this side of the equator. You’ll be introduced to wildlife in their natural environment, as well as those that are invasive to the area, and learn some truly interesting things. For instance, I now know what volcanic mountain in Hawaii has snow. While these programs are on the shorter side with one or two hour-long episodes apiece, they are not to be missed.
America’s National Parks dedicates eight episodes to America’s National Park system showcasing forests, deserts, mountains, and tundra climates. It’s the best way to see the featured parks without having to leave your living room and brave some of the harsh conditions talked about or risk getting too close to a predator.
Wild Nordic is five episodes dedicated to Scandinavia. You’ll see Norway and Sweden in ways you’ve never seen before. With breathtaking scenery, jaw-dropping views of cliffs and waterfalls, and scenic vistas of the many, many fjords of Norway’s coast I was truly fascinated with this one. Scandinavia is home to the largest forest in the world, the Taiga which stretches all the way to Siberia in Russia, and several of the world’s tallest waterfalls. You’ll also see coastlines covered in snow, but the harbor and coastal waters free of ice thanks to the “warm” gulf stream, Sami herders (think Kristoff), daring cliff divers, and more.
Wild Russia is four episodes dedicated to the wild and most remote regions of the world’s largest country. Most of the country is untamed wilderness with its own unique collection of wild animals and habitats. Including the jungle cat that doesn’t live in the jungle, the Baikal seal, and the great grey owl. Russia is home to the world’s largest lake, the Baikal, which has some of the clearest water on the planet and is the size of a small country. Politics aside, it’s a truly stunning country.
One Strange Rock and Welcome to Earth are hosted and narrated by Will Smith and directed by Darren Aronofsky. The cinematography in all these specials is beautifully done, but these two are exceptional and deserve all the awards. They showcase some of the most unique; remote, and alien landscapes on Earth in such a way that you just can’t tear your eyes away from the screen. One Strange Rock utilizes astronauts to tell part of the story of our planet. And how their work has left them in awe of our little blue planet. Welcome to Earth has Smith get out there with explorers and scientists to see these places for himself, and even overcome a few fears.
CIRCLE OF LIFE
While full of facts, the information is presented in a light, fun, engaging, and easy-to-understand way. You don’t need a background in science or a degree to understand the concepts presented in each program. If my science classes had been presented this way, I might have retained and understood more. The science here is fascinating and you truly get to see the Circle of Life at play. And how everything is connected. I mentioned alien landscapes, and I mean it. You don’t have to look very far to find areas that look like something out of Star Wars or Star Trek and you’ll see it all here.
WELCOME TO EARTH
The United States of America is a great all-ages program and perfect for a family night. All of the Wild branded programs feature predator animals hunting, stalking, catching, killing, and eating prey animals. So if you are squeamish at the sight of animal death or blood, be forewarned. They aren’t graphic, but they might be upsetting to younger children. The science discussed in One Strange Rock and Welcome to Earth is perhaps best understood by middle school age and above. But it can be enjoyed by family members of all ages. Young children will love seeing the bio-luminescence shows and the views from space. All of these are great educational resources and supplements.
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of National Geographic Programming available on Disney+. There is also a Wild Japan which I have yet to watch. And several archeological shows featuring Egyptian digs perfect for fellow fans of The Mummy (the 1999 version, obviously). So the next time you are looking for a family movie night or need something to binge-watch, consider these and other excellent programming from National Geographic.
National Geographic and all its incredible content is available to stream on Disney Plus now.
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I’m Mina, the Jedi Librarian. I’m a teen services librarian, lover of all the books, and a lifelong Star Wars fan. I’m also secretly a Jedi.