John Krasinski to narrate Disney nature film 'Born in China'
John Krasinski is going wild.
The erstwhile Jim Halpert is set to narrate Disney’s upcoming film Born In China, EW can exclusively reveal. The latest release from the Disneynature film label is set to hit theaters on Earth Day 2017, chronicling the stories of three separate animal families: a panda bear mother raising her increasingly independent baby, a young golden monkey who sets out on his own, and a mother snow leopard who fights one of the harshest environments on earth to raise her two cubs. The film also journeys deep into some of the most majestic environments in China, showcasing gorgeous, never-before-seen footage from the country’s bamboo forests, mountains, and more.
Directed by Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan, Born in China is the seventh release from Disneynature, joining past box office hits like Monkey Kingdom (narrated by Tina Fey) and Chimpanzee (narrated by Tim Allen). And for every ticket sold during the film’s opening week, Disneynature will make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China.
Krasinski, a self-professed Disneynature fan, joins the House of Mouse just as Emily Blunt, his wife, is beginning rehearsals for Disney’s upcoming musical sequel Mary Poppins Returns. EW caught up with Krasinski to talk about why he was so eager to get involved with Born in China and how the father of two daughters unexpectedly found himself identifying with an enormous panda mother.
EW: How did you get involved with Disneynature?
JOHN KRASINSKI: I’ve actually seen all the Disneynature movies. So I’m such a huge fan of what they’ve done and the people who’ve narrated before — up-and-coming actors like Meryl Streep and Morgan Freeman. So I figured, yes, I’ll get on that line of indie actors who are struggling. No problem. [laughs] But no, I find them so incredibly epic and sweeping and moving that I feel like they’re sometimes even more emotional than these movies that we write and create out of fiction.
Being a dad, did you find yourself connecting with these different stories about animal families?
Oh god, yeah. First of all, we all look the same. [laughs] No, I’m kidding. But I think that’s one of the things that’s been certainly emotional about this one. These movies are always emotional because it connects to you on some level in a very human way, even though you’re watching animal behavior. It is that sort of universality of how we’re all connected in a way. This one especially, the parenting stuff is really gut-wrenching. So yes, absolutely, being a dad myself was a massive part of why I connected so strongly to this one. Certainly watching a mother and her baby panda living their whole life together and then slowly realizing that the adolescent panda will move on in her life without her mother is a big tearjerker.
At least you’re a few years off from having to deal with that.
Yes, luckily I have some years before my adolescent teens turn on me. [laughs]
Was there anything about working on this film that really surprised you?
Oh, absolutely. I think the biggest thing about Disneynature is they usually get footage that has never been seen before, and never has that been truer than with this one. I think this is the biggest collection of images of snow leopards that’s ever been captured. They’ve never been captured in this detail and in their habitat. So in order to do that, there are some incredibly brave, incredibly creative and artistic guys who basically just sat on a mountain for months and months and months. And so I think the commitment level to actually show people what it’s like, it’s one of those things where you go for the “aww” cuteness factor, and you stay for the incredible insight into a world that you wouldn’t believe is on our planet, going on right now. And I think that’s such a special thing for kids to see. It’s very mind-expanding to know that the world you live in is a very, very small part of a much larger story.
And especially when a lot of these animals, like the snow leopards, are facing extinction or the effects of climate change. It’s important to capture that now more than ever.
Absolutely. And I’ve gotta say, this is a small thing that was for me a big thing: I was blown away by how if you go see the movie the first week it opens, the folks at Disneynature are going to donate in your name to the World Wildlife Fund. That’s massive. It’s not only going to see a movie but actually knowing that you’re making a difference. Because I think the biggest problem in this day and age is that there’s so much going on, and certainly a lot of dramatic stuff that you see on television and on the news, and I think the biggest question is, how can I help? You’ll be helping just by going to see the movie, which I think is massive. It directly sponsors and helps the programs with the pandas and snow leopards in particular. To me, that was such a simple thing, and yet the simplest things are usually the last to be thought of, so I was really blown away that they would make such a movement like that.
Are you an animal person yourself?
Yeah. I remember when I was a kid, there was a show called Marty Stouffer’s Wild America, and I used to watch that all the time. I’ve been an animal guy for a long time and have a big dog that I’m pretty sure is part dragon and part bear. He’s so big. So I love anything that I can cuddle up with on the couch. So yes, I’m a big animal person. [laughs]
You’re in London now, is that right? Are you there for Mary Poppins Returns?
I am here for Mary Poppins! Emily is rehearsing Mary Poppins. I’m on dad duty and writing a script that I have to deliver by Christmas. It’s been great! There’s no cooler place to write. I guess a couple good writers have come from here. [laughs].
Were you a Mary Poppins fan growing up?
I was a Mary Poppins fan! I think everybody has to be a Mary Poppins fan. I saw it on VHS because I’m 94 years old, and my daughter has since seen it on iTunes, streaming. So I think that was pretty mind-blowing for me to see how things have changed. But it’s such a special movie, and I think it’s a very rare movie in that it’s really a celebration of joy and happiness and silliness, and yet at the same time, family. So I think that it’s a really special movie, and I know Emily is just so incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity to do it. And the little amounts I know, they are doing something really, really special.