The Oscar-winning actress lends her voice to 'Dolphin Reef,' a nature doc. set to makes waves on Disney+ April 3.

By Ruth Kinane
April 03, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT
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Dolphin Reef; Natalie Portman
Credit: Disney Plus; Inset: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Disneynature’s new deep-sea documentary Dolphin Reef is so visually stunning, “there’s times when you feel like you're watching Star Wars,” says narrator (and Star Wars star) Natalie Portman. “It's so miraculous, it looks like science fiction.”

Directed by Keith Scholey, who also helmed Disneynature's Bears, Dolphin Reef is a deep dive into the reef life of the oceans of Polynesia. Following the adventures of a playful young Pacific bottlenose dolphin named Echo, we meet a cast of engaging sea creatures inhabiting the coral reef. There's Mr. Mantis, a peacock mantis shrimp who spends his days compulsively tidying up (relatable). There's a crew of bumphead parrotfish whose buckteeth and sand poops make them a curious but vital part of the reef's ecosystem. Audiences will also be privy to wild underwater facts: Dolphins sleep with one eye open! Cuttlefish mesmerize their prey with their glowing skin before they pounce!

Longtime animal rights activist Portman, 38, was already an avid fan of the sea mammals. "I learned how to scuba dive with dolphins," she tells EW. "The fact that they have a language and communicate and can learn — they're pretty remarkable animals." Her excitement often bubbled over as she watched each scene preparing for her voice-over. "I was so impressed by how the dolphins learn to hunt, the cleaning stations where there's, like, fish dentists—it's so wild," she says. "It feels like it can't be real. I'd have to watch each section a few times before we recorded, because otherwise all you'd hear is me gasping at the beauty and magic of what I was seeing."

The hour-and-a-half feature film packs in as much drama, humor and emotion as an episode of your favorite reality TV show. (Sample plot line: Several suitors get into a sonic shouting match while courting a female humpback.) But unlike most of those, this flick is family-friendly. In fact, Portman was excited to share the doc with her own children, and her parenting skills added pizazz to her narration. “We played with the intonation to make it fun,” she says.” “Luckily, I have a lot of experience reading to kids and this is similar in regard to making certain parts sillier and explaining things.”

And with Earth Day 2020 approaching on April 22, it’s a good time to remind viewers of all ages of our responsibility to Earth and its oceans. “When we see what these animals are capable of, our appreciation for the wonder of nature deepens, and so does our need to protect it,” Portman says. “Our oceans are their playground — where they eat, sleep and play — and we need to do our part to keep it as clean and safe as possible.”

Dolphin Reef is available to stream on Disney+, April 3 .

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