If you take your kids to see one movie this weekend, make it this one. DisneyNature’s newest film, Monkey Kingdom, is in theaters and trust me – everyone will love it!
I had a chance to watch this movie a few weeks ago and just fell in love with the entire story of Maya, a female toque macaque monkey, and her adventures rising in the ranks of the monkey family (something we learned is pretty much unheard of in monkey culture).
It is totally amazing that the DisneyNature crew was able to witness this story in the first place, but all the footage they were able to capture is just breathtaking – and with Tina Fey narrating, the story just comes to life!
About Monkey Kingdom – Meet the Macaques
MAYA, known for her blonde bob and three distinctive spots on her nose, is part of a complicated extended family of macaque monkeys living among ancient ruins in the storied jungles of South Asia. Clever and resourceful, Maya’s a quick learner who’s willing to work hard and take risks—especially if it means securing a bright future for her new son, Kip.
“Low social rank means that Maya is often supplanted by the high rankers from the choicest morsels of food, water holes and places to rest and sleep,” says Dr. Wolfgang Dittus. “It also encourages her to venture where others do not dare. She needs to take risks in order to survive in this competitive society.”
KIP is Maya’s precocious and playful son. Director of photography Martyn Colbeck says Kip made quite an entrance. “When you’ve got a newborn baby in the group, it alters the whole dynamics of the group,” he says. “Like all newborns, he’s adorable. All the other youngsters were very curious.”
Kip must learn how best to navigate his world, where important elder macaque monkeys can be quick to put him in his place, if necessary. “Kip is a curious little guy,” says Disneynature producer Kristina Reed. “He learns the hard way where he sits within his troop.”
RAJA is the alpha male of the Castle Rock macaques. Stationed high in the troop’s prized fig tree, Raja has the perfect vantage point to spot danger, warn his troop and discourage potential threats—not to mention an easy reach to the ripest figs.
“Raja’s my favorite monkey,” says Wilson. “He’s very athletic—a bit of a jock. He’s not a benevolent king by any means—he rules with an iron fist. To be alpha in the monkey world, you have to do that. So you might catch him swaƫng a baby that gets out of hand or bieng someone who’s doing something that’s bad for the troop.”
According to Dittus, alpha males are challenged often by up-and-coming males from other troops. “When his position is challenged, the alpha male is not inclined to give it up simply through peaceful negotiation. He normally needs to be ousted by force.”
Most alpha males hold on to their position for about three years before a newcomer supersedes him.
The SISTERHOOD is a trio of macaque monkeys with bright red faces. Thanks to their privileged status among the group, they control the day-to-day activities of the Castle Rock macaques, which makes life for the Sisterhood quite pleasant. They’re not the friendliest bunch, but they are loyal—to each other.
“To us, these high-ranking females seem spiteful and nasty,” says Linfield. “They learn from generation to generation how to push lower-ranking monkeys like Maya aside to satisfy their own needs.”
But the Sisterhood lacks the survival skills that Maya has developed. When a neighboring troop of monkeys threatens the Castle Rock troop, they retreat to the village, and it’s Maya who knows her way around. “The Sisterhood are like fish out of water,” says Linfield. “If you’ve got a full tummy from the forest, you don’t have to take chances, but you don’t learn much from a safe perch atop the tree.”
KUMAR is a bright, up-and-coming male who arrives at the Castle Rock troop’s front door hoping for a way in. “He’s a fancy, bold young dude,” says Linfield. “He’s come of age and left his birth troop and he’s looking for a new place to settle. Maya immediately recognizes him as a potential future alpha male. She aligns herself with him early on—which is very smart and goes a long way in ensuring both her safety and that of her future oﬀspring.”
GRANDPA is the troop elder. His coat is graying and his posture droops a bit—he is nearly 40, after all, which is ancient in monkey years. He takes a lot of naps, tends to lag behind the others, and he’s lost most of his teeth—but this old guy still has some spunk to his step. “Grandpa holds his own,” says Wilson. “He must’ve been something in his day, because he doesn’t back down from confrontations.”
LEX is the leader of a battle-hardened rival troop. With a split lip, he looks a bit like a baddie, and he’s got his eye on Castle Rock. “His chief partner-in-crime, who’s blind in one eye, also has a slightly evil look,” says Wilson. “These guys all look a bit like pirates. We couldn’t have designed it better.”
As you can see, the ‘characters’ in this truly fascinating story are ones you can really fall in love with. I definitely recommend heading out to see this with the family!
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