John Krasinski on narrating Disneynature’s Born in China
The Office and 13 Hours star John Krasinski narrates the upcoming Disneynature film Born in China, and we recently got a chance to speak to him about the April 21 release. Disneynature’s new True Life Adventure film Born In China takes an epic journey into the wilds of China where few people have ever ventured. Following the stories of three animal families, the film transports audiences to some of the most extreme environments on Earth to witness some of the most intimate moments ever captured in a nature film. A doting panda bear mother guides her growing baby as she begins to explore and seek independence. A two-year-old golden snub-nosed monkey who feels displaced by his new baby sister joins up with a group of free-spirited outcasts. And a mother snow leopard—an elusive animal rarely caught on camera— faces the very real drama of raising her two cubs in one of the harshest and most unforgiving environments on the planet.
In keeping with the theme of Born in China, if you see the film the first weekend, a portion of all proceeds go to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with the funds earmarked for helping snow leopards and pandas.
ComingSoon.net: When did you get involved in the project?
John Krasinski: Well, I got a call that Disney was interested in me, particularly, for this, which I found hugely exciting, because I am a massive fan of all things Disneynature. I’ve seen all the movies and to me, I find them so incredibly emotional. I find myself bonding to these characters unbelievably, so I was thrilled. But then I got really nervous, because the people who’ve done it before me are Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, John C. Reilly, people who are pretty good at what they do! [laughs]
CS: I have to ask you about the April Fool’s Day video you did about the Disneynature Cinematic Universe.
Krasinski: [laughs] That was totally their idea! The idea of a cinematic universe on Earth, there was something not just ironic, but super powerful about it. The cinematic universe that we all admire so much at Marvel is actually all around you. That’s a great idea.
CS: When you were doing the voiceover for this, did you get to see all the footage? Get a script?
Krasinski: The whole movie was shot and done by the time I’d done it, because, I think it premiered at the China Film Festival… they had shown footage of the movie and they brought it to me fully done, so I got to see it finished… it was just so beautiful!
CS: Have you had a chance to interact with any of these animals?
Krasinski: With these animals? No, but I’m a big nature nut, so when I went to college, the first semester before college, I actually went to Costa Rica and taught English down there, and on weekends, traveled all around the country. I was alone, going to – if you don’t know about Costa Rica, the ecosystems there are unlike anything in the world. So you have rainforest, pine forest, all this incredible marine life, active volcanos, so I was in heaven. I was trying to get as close to these animals as I possibly could, even if it meant being totally dangerous.
CS: Did you actually get close to anything?
Krasinski: Yeah, I got way too close to something. I went to a place called Tortuguero, where the baby turtles run. I went at night. You go and see them running and see them coming out of their shells. It’s unbelievably moving. It’s just astonishing, really. And then, the next morning we were leaving, and I decided to run down to the beach and take a swim before we left, and I kind of hiked through some jungle. And, I don’t know how I was so lucky, but I got knee-deep in the water and was about to jump in when the guide came out of the forest — I don’t know how she found me — and she said, “Slowly back out of the water,” and she was screaming it at me. And she said, “What do you think you’re doing?” And I was like, oh, I just wanted to swim before we left. She said, “Take a look at the water.” The baby turtle run means all the other predators schedule their entire year to be here for the baby turtles. And we watched and we counted, and I think it was like 23 tiger sharks, within three feet of me. Yeah. It was pretty terrifying. And I’m surprised I did not lose a toe, at least.
CS: What was the first Disneynature film that really grabbed you?
Krasinski: Oceans was probably one of the first ones, I think. I think Oceans was first. Again, I’ve seen them all. I remember Chimpanzee was recent and I remember loving that. I remember African Cats was the one that I was really blown away by. They start having all these incredible shots of lions and cheetahs going at full speed, and you just get to watch these things in slow motion. That’s the thing about these movies; you can watch nature shows all day long on TV, but there’s something about the way these are shot that is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. You really feel the sort of majesty in the landscapes and the animals that they’re shooting. There is something really big about how they shoot it, so being in the theater is really worth it.
CS: I’d spoken to the producer a while back, and he talked about how the story of the young male monkey evolved from a story about his sister. Did they share the process of all that?
Krasinski: Yeah, I mean, for me it was – they basically just let me watch the movie before I went in, so I got a real sense of how they were doing it. The baby monkey thing, with the little girl is so intense and so beautiful, and I love – that’s what I mean. It’s almost immediately, you start assigning human emotion and human decision-making to these animals. And then to have this teen, that is written like any other Hollywood part a teenager would have, it’s like, hilariously specific and something that all of us can relate to and understand, was unreal. I love how they brought it back to the little girl and his jealously. It was so well done. They always are.
CS: Doing a voiceover for something like this is a very specific skill. Were there other actors who do this sort of thing that you listened to?
Krasinski: Yeah, again, I watch this stuff all the time. Recently Planet Earth came on and it was incredible. So I think that for me – I think that what you learn, especially from someone like Richard Attenborough, is taking the land seriously, taking the animals seriously. There is a respect for the world that you’re watching, rather than a condescending tone, making it really sweet and adorable. There’s plenty of opportunities for humor, but you really take it seriously. You realize that this stuff is – it’s our everyday life, even though it’s happening to animals. You realize that there is so much we can learn. And I took that and certainly the Disney folks were great with tone and had the perfect idea of what to do.
Check out shots from Disneynature’s Born in China in the gallery below. Krasinski will next be seen in the upcoming Amazon Studios series Jack Ryan. (Check out our interview with Krasinski about the show here.) Are you guys interested in seeing the new Disneynature film? Are you going opening weekend? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @ComingSoonnet.