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Tag Archives: True-Life Adventure

August 12

August 12, 1958 – The True-Life Adventure White Wilderness Premieres in Theaters

“Every species had to adapt itself to the bitter cold, or perish.”

On August 12, 1958, the thirteenth True-Life Adventure featurette, titled White Wilderness, was released to theaters. It would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It was directed by James Algar and filmed primarily in Canada. It took a team of several photographers three years to gather enough footage in the Arctic to create the film, creating a story about the struggle between predatory beasts and migratory animals. This film is also notorious for its “lemming scene,” where a mass of lemmings are seen leaping into the Arctic Ocean; however, lemmings do not commit mass suicide, and the scene was eventually uncovered as staged.

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August 10

August 10, 1960 – The True-Life Adventure Jungle Cat is Generally Released

“[The jungle cat’s] secret domain is the scene of our True-Life Adventure, and its predatory habits our theme, for this is the story of the greatest hunter of them all.”

On August 10, 1960, the final True-Life Adventure documentary was generally released to theaters, after having an initial release on December 16, 1959. Directed by James Algar, the film explores the story of the South American jaguar as narrated by Winston Hibler. A pair of jaguars start a family, fight off their natural enemies (such as a crocodile and a boa constrictor), and hunt for food in the South American jungle.

June 26

June 26, 1952 – The True-Life Adventure Featurette Water Birds is Released to Theaters

On June 26, 1952, the True-Life Adventure featurette Water Birds was released to theaters as a two-reel short film. It was the fifth True-Life Adventure featurette created. Created in collaboration with the National Audubon Society and the Denver Museum of Natural History, the featurette showed audiences the life of a variety of water birds, such as pelicans, flamingos, and storks. The featurette would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel).

April 6

April 6, 1959 – Disney Wins Three Academy Awards for Documentary Features

On April 6, 1959, the 31st Academy Awards were held at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California. At this awards ceremony, Disney won three Academy Awards for features considered live-action documentaries: Best Live Action Short Subject for Grand Canyon, Best Documentary Feature for White Wilderness, and Best Documentary Short Subject for Ama Girls. Disney was also nominated for the Best Short Subject – Cartoons for Paul Bunyon, but lost to the Looney Toons short film Knighty Knight Bugs; White Wilderness was also nominated for Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, but lost to Dimitri Tiomkin’s scoring for The Old Man and the Sea.

March 29

March 29, 1951 – The True-Life Adventure In Beaver Valley Wins an Academy Award

Beaver Valley

“The close call with the coyote has failed to shake our young beaver’s stubborn resolve.”

On March 29, 1951, the 23rd Academy Awards were held at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California. The True-Life Adventure In Beaver Valley (also known as simply Beaver Valley), scored Walt Disney Productions the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel), Disney’s only win this ceremony. It was the second of five eventual wins for the studio in this category. The featurette focused on a beaver as he lived his life in a pond area, and his interactions with other kinds of animals, including a moose, deer, and raccoons. The featurette would also go on to win the Golden Bear for documentaries at the 1st Berlin International Film Festival.

October 7

October 7, 1918 – Film Editor and Disney Legend Norman “Stormy” Palmer is Born

Norman Palmer

“Stormy was one of the key players in creating the classic Disney True-Life Adventures series, and he was a true pioneer in the field of nature documentaries.”- Producer and Creative Director Dave Bossert

On October 7, 1918, Norman Palmer was born in Santa Ana, California. After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1937, he applied to the Walt Disney Studios, joining as a projectionist in 1938. Soon after he arrived, Palmer was transferred to the editorial department. His early career was cut short by the onset of World War II, when he joined the Field Photographic Branch of the Office of Strategic Services in Washington D.C., editing films. He was soon sent overseas, taking aerial photos over Europe. After the war, Palmer came back to Disney, where he continued editing films, including Melody Time and Make Mine Music. When the studio stared working on the True-Life Adventure series, Palmer was brought in to edit the films, including Academy Award winning The Living Desert and White Wilderness. It was Palmer’s special skill with editing and attention to detail that brought attention to these nature documentaries. Palmer also brought his editing skills to several Disney television series. After 45 years with the company, Palmer retired in 1983. He was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1998. Palmer passed away in 2013 at the age of 94.