African Cats, the third feature film in Disney’s Disneynature series, follows Earth and Oceans in showcasing our beautiful planet and its many inhabitants. Direct by Alistair Fothergill, the director of Earth, and Keith Scholey, the film is an exhilarating journey across the Serengeti, set in Masai Mara National Reserve in Tanzania.

Like The Lion King, the film tells the story of the circle of life of wild cats in Africa. However, unlike The Lion King, African Cats does not use catchy songs and quirky cartoon characters to make the harsh realities more kid-friendly. Survival of the fittest is not an easy idea for kids to stomach, and this film, despite its moments of triumph and family -friendly themes, may be too mature for children under the age of 7. The 5 or 6-year-old girl sitting on her mother’s lap beside me ran out crying after the first 15 minutes, traumatized by the predator attacks, familial deaths and violent hunting intermingled with the warm, fuzzy interactions between cubs and parents.

Nevertheless, this is a stunning portrayal of life in the Serengeti, expertly voiced by Samuel L. Jackson, who tells the tale powerfully and wisely, interspersing humor, excitement and drama into his narration. Samuel L. Jackson makes the story relatable and fun for kids, but never talks down to his younger viewers. It is hard not to compare any narrator with Morgan Freeman, and while Jackson is not quite as masterful a narrator as veteran Freeman, he does an excellent job.

The narrative is powerful and profound, telling the story of two families of cats: a pride of lions facing the imminent threat of ferocious rivals, and resourceful cheetah hiding her five baby cubs from voracious predators. Despite the constant threats prevalent in the African kingdom, the film’s central theme is a mother’s love for her children, a theme that resonates with viewers of all ages.

Layla is an aging mother lioness nursing several injuries, as well as a young cub named Mara. Their pride’s male protector, Fang, guards the female lions, but rival lion Kali and his menacing sons pose a dangerous threat as they attempt to cross the stream and lay claim over the female pack. If Kali’s gang takes control of the pack, Mara and the rest of Fang’s cubs will be either killed or banished from the tribe. Furthermore, if the tribe moves and Layla cannot keep up, Mara may be cast out into the wild, where she would have almost no chance of survival.

Sita, on the other hand, is a sinewy, powerful female cheetah harboring a secret: five baby lion cubs. With no male lion to safeguard them, Sita must protect and raise her cubs on her own. Predators constantly threaten Sita and her cubs, whose survival is at stake throughout the film.

The beautiful score sets the tone for the story perfectly, at times suspenseful, tender and powerful. Although danger and peril is constant in these animals’ lives, the real story is the lengths these feline mothers will go to protect their children.

Furthermore, the film’s cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, capturing the vast, magnificent landscape of the Serengeti and lithe, fluid movements of its feline inhabitants. Time literally slows down as the agile cats leap across the savanna and catch that night’s dinner.

African Cats’ release coincides with Earth Day, following in the footsteps of Earth and Oceans. And there is an extra incentive for going to see the film – Disneynature’s ‘See ‘African Cats,’ Save the Savannah’ campaign. For every ticket purchased during opening week (April 22-28), a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the African Wildlife Foundation for the Amboseli Corrider project, which protects cheetahs and lions in the African savannah.

African Cats is an exquisite portrayal of a world untouched by harmful human hands, and this wonderful, touching story is proof that it is our duty to do anything we can to protect this beautiful region.