Disney Film History: The Vanishing Prairie

The Vanishing Prarie

The Vanishing Prarie

Continuing the True Life Adventure series, Walt Disney’s second nature film comes with similarities and differences to his first. Growing up in the midwest, Walt Disney had close ties to the places that live between the Mississippi River and Rocky Mountains. The Great Plains of the United States have historical significance as a land once called home by many Native Americans and animals not found on the coastlines of the States. Disney’s The Vanishing Prairie is the story of a world that was once filled with life and rich history which has since been lost thanks to the white man taking over the land.

The tale of the Eastern Colonial men and women traveling across the country along the Oregon Trail, and several other trails is a tale many of us may not know the whole story of, but that’s where The Vanishing Prairie takes us and then back into the Native American’s great land and the animals that enrich this flat land across the U.S. We meet buffalo, big horn sheep, prairie dogs, and more.



The stories that follow these animals is similar to that of the first True Life Adventure film, The Living Desert. Mating, children, and surviving become the main topics. Despite some great footage, we are yet again plagued with funny sound effects and inappropriate music. It’s as if they had learned nothing from the critical arguments that followed the desert film.

For myself, and for history buffs alike, this film takes us one step further with a historical look at the Great Plains. The small specks of knowledge that Winston Hibler, our narrater for The Living Desert and this film, give this film an edge of it’s predecessor.

On top of all of this is some great cinematography. Animals aside, this documentary really makes the American Prairie look beautiful. I’m sure some of us who have traveled across Nebraska and Kansas know better, but this truly is stunning work. The rich green grasses, the flowers, and the blue skies light up this film and give a breath of fresh air between animal scenes. I can see why this film, along with The Living Desert, won Academy Awards for Best Documentary. The work shines through both in narrative as well as cinematography.

All in all, the continuation and evolution of the nature documentary according to Disney is a fascinating tale and a journey I’m excited to continue onward with. True Life Adventures will pop up from time to time as will the eventual rise of Disney Nature films. Through all of the live action films that conquer over Disney Pictures during the 1950s-70s, these documentaries are really a treat and after watching and discussing the films from England, I was glad to get back to some of these great, although tongue and cheek at times, True Life Adventure films.

The Beauty of the Great Plains

The Beauty of the Great Plains

Have you seen the Vanishing Prarie? What are your thoughts on True Life Adventures, Disney Nature, or nature documentaries as a whole? Do you think it’s wrong to manipulate the narrative in order to tell a story or should we tell the story straight forward with these nature films? Leave your thoughts and comments below!

Josh Taylor
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Previous Film: Rob Roy, The Highland Rogue
Next Film: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea


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Posted on March 12, 2014, in Articles, The Whole Picture and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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