Reflections on an Awesome Premiere of Disneynature's "Chimpanzee" in Toronto

Monday, August 20, 2012 - 6:13pm
Bill Wallauer speaking at the Toronto International Film Fest

This past spring, during the theatrical release of Disneynature's Chimpanzee, Bill Wallauer, JGI's research videographer and wildlife cameraman, and one of the movie's principal photographers attended the premiere of the movie at the Toronto International Film Fest. Read on to learn about Bill's experience. 

When I am not in Gombe National Park or around chimps, I think the most rewarding and important thing I can do is to speak on their behalf.  I knew upon getting involved with Disneynature’s Chimpanzee that I would have great opportunities to show the film to audiences; to talk about the amazing experiences I had over the three years shooting the film; and to discuss the tremendous threats chimpanzees are facing across Africa.

Like Jane, I feel it is crucial to get young people involved in conservation and Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, the Jane Goodall Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian program for young people of all ages.  I can’t think of a better way to peak their interest than to show them a great film about chimps.  During the premiere of Chimpanzee, I was given a wonderful opportunity to do just that at the Toronto International Film Fest (TIFF) for Kids, a festival geared to inspire young people to learn about and get involved in filmmaking.


After some great press opportunities during the day, I arrived at the beautiful TIFF/Bell Lightbox Theater in time to have a tour of the museum, which had some great exhibits about different aspects of film, including set design, animation, robotics, and green-screen applications.  After the tour and a trip to the Luna Canteen, I was escorted to the theater.  The screening began with a wonderful introduction by TIFF Kids Director Elizabeth Muskala.  I followed with a brief welcome and intro to the film, and then sat down to enjoy viewing the movie on a big screen for the first time. 

It was great to hear the reaction from the crowd: lots of laughs in all the right places; some squirming as Scar and the rivals were bearing down on Freddy and his family; and an overall great reaction and ovation when the film was over.

And then the real fun began.  I was amazed that after a day at the museum, a 15-minute introduction, and an 86-minute long film, the kids in the audience stuck to their chairs like glue during the question-and-answer session.  It was wonderful to describe to enthusiastic kids what it is like to run into a herd of buffalo or elephants in dense vegetation, or how it feels to be 120 feet up in the canopy standing on a 3’x3’ platform.  The audience, young and old alike,  had excellent questions about the challenges of filming chimps in the wild and my work to help protect this amazing species by inspiring people to get involved and engaged in chimp conservation.  The event was a tremendous success and I left feeling a real sense that something special had happened, and that at least a few lives in that audience had been changed by seeing chimpanzees as they should be—wild and free.


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