“Kenya 3D: Animal Kingdom,” opening Friday at the Entergy IMAX Theatre, takes viewers on an often beautiful walk through four nature reserves and a national park.
Two colorfully attired Masai warriors, Francis Ntulesia Kipelian and Nicolas Ntukai Oloserian, act as de facto guides. As they hike through the East African plains on their way to an ancestral ceremony, Kipelian and Oloserian encounter the annual migration of wildebeests, zebra and gazelles.
Many more wild creatures are seen in “Kenya 3D.” As cameras follow Kipelian and Oloserian, moviegoers get the grand tour of the real circle of life that inspired the Disney animated classic and stage production “The Lion King.”
Filmmakers Jean-Jacques and Francois Martello spent two years photographing Kenyon wilderness areas. Their footage is playful and family-friendly, but also serious.
The animals are depicted in the sweeping natural habitat where they’ve dwelled for thousands of years. As news reports about the slaughter of elephants and rhinos by poachers grow more and more dire, the film shows the magnificent creatures that are being lost.
The migration of wildebeests, zebra and gazelles from the Tanzanian-Serengeti planes to the Masai Mara grasslands is a matter of survival. The animals need the water and grazing opportunities in the grasslands. With a million wildebeests participating in the journey, it’s the world’s largest mammal migration.
Kipelian and Oloserian talk and sing as they walk. They also stop to observe the extraordinary sights. Lions, of course, get their close-up. A pride of the big cats is seen at rest in the shade. The film’s low-key narrator explains that lions sleep most of the day, that female lions do the hunting and males protect the pride’s vast territories.
The film complements its images with loads of facts. For instance, elephants are the Earth’s largest land animals and rhinos, an extremely threatened species, have existed for 50 million years.
Another of Kenya’s wild cats, the cheetah, is the Earth’s fastest land animal. Cheetahs run up to 75 miles per hour. They’re superb stalkers who sneak up on prey and then spring. Viewers of nature programs, however, likely have seen better footage of running cheetahs than what’s seen in “Kenya 3D.”
In addition to footage shot from the ground, the film contains aerial images of a vast herd of wildebeests and huge flocks of swarming pink flamingos on a salt lake. The Masai people named the elegant creatures well: firebirds. And Louisiana residents may be surprised to see the film’s brief visit with African pelicans.
Along with such A-list animals as elephants and lions are, “Kenya 3D” also covers the much less attractive hyenas and warthogs. But all of the animals play their parts in nature, and the movie’s 3D imagery makes everything all the more immediate.