Go cubs go: Furry babies steal the show in ‘Born in China’

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Mei Mei the panda gets laughs in “Born in China.” | Ben Wallis/Disneynature

There are many reasons to explore Disneynature’s “Born in China,” which offers arare look into thecountry’s vastnatural world.

Theview is both spectacular and educational: DirectorLu Chuan’s film celebrates Saturday’s Earth Day, with a portion of the first week’s box office going to the World Wildlife Fund.

But if you’re going to be really honest, “Born in China”is all aboutthose baby animal stars alluded to in the title, starting with a darling panda cub, Mei Mei.

“I feel like I am cheating becausethe movie I am a part of has baby pandas. That’s like bringing in a ringer,” says narrator John Krasinski. “Thiswins just on sheer cuteness.”

Producer Roy Conli says the baby pandas — along with the younggolden snub-nosedmonkeys and baby snow leopards — are the key players.

“A big part of this film’sstory is the evolution, witnessing these juveniles becoming part of their species,” says Conli. “And these baby animalsare phenomenally adorable.”

Here’s a breakdown on the movie’s cute cubs.

Pandas

Mei Mei is a star babywhoselove-smothering first-time mother, Ya Ya, runsthe roost inSichuan’s Wolong National Nature Reserve. But the roly-poly Mei Mei still demands to make it on her own as she climbs trees.

The resulting falls (into rocks, into trees) and accidental rolls down hills, accompanied by panda sounds, are natural comedy. And there are those wide eyes taking in the new world.

“There’s nothing cuter than a baby panda,” says Krasinski. “It’s just a fact.”

Snow leopards

“Born in China” cameramen didn’t capture any footage for 90 days, as they learnedthe movementof snow leopards in China’s TibetanPlateau, the highest mountain plateau on Earth. But they eventually got an up close and personal look attwo cubs. Their play, including biting mom Dawa’s ear, is pure joy in a brutal environment wherepredators compete forscarce food.

One of Dawa’s snow leopard cubs in “Born ini China.” | Film Frame

One of Dawa’s snow leopard cubs in “Born ini China.” | Film Frame

“They are adorable, but it’s even more intense thinking about the harsh conditions the cubs and their motherare under,” says Krasinski.

Golden snub-nosed monkeys

The film follows a youngacrobaticmale named TaoTao and his scene-stealing younger sisternear the Yangtze River in central China’s Shennongjia Forest. The sister is so preciousthat their parents focus entirely on her, leaving Tao Tao confused and out of the mix. He comes back around to complete the familyand even saves his sister from a hawk.

The younger of the golden snub-nosed monkeys (pictured) gets all the parental attention in “Born in China.” | Jacky Poon | Disneynature

The younger of the golden snub-nosed monkeys (pictured) gets all the parental attention in “Born in China.” | Jacky Poon | Disneynature

One insanely cute young monkey game involves simply falling through branches to the ground and climbingback up again for more.

“I’d put Tao Tao and his sister up against Baby Groot any day,” says Conli of the “Guardians of the Galaxy” standout star. “And Groot is one of my favorites.”

Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY

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