White Wilderness (1958)

71-72 or 80 mins | Documentary | September 1958

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HISTORY

James Algar's opening credit reads: "Written and directed by." Huband-and-wife photography team Herb Crisler and Lois Crisler are credited onscreen as "Herb and Lois Crisler." The opening credits include the following written acknowledgment: "With the cooperation of the Canadian Wildlife Service, National Park Service of Canada, Province of Alberta Dept. of Lands and Forests, Province of Manitoba Game Branch, Hudson's Bay Company, McKinley National Park." As with the previous "True-Life Adventure" features, White Wilderness begins with an animated paintbrush depicting the narrator's description of prehistoric times.
       The following information was taken from studio press materials: The film was shot over three years in the Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska. Native American trappers and Eskimo guides led photographers, by foot, plane and dogteam, into areas including the Foxe Channel off Southampton Island, Brooks Range, La Paz and the Thelon River. Hundreds of thousands of feet of 16mm film were compiled, then edited and transferred to 35mm. Individual assignments included: Hugh A. Wilmar shot the polar bears and walruses; the Crislers filmed the grey wolves; James R. Simon and Lloyd Beebe captured images of the wolverine; Beebe, with a Canadian Wildlife Service biologist, shot the caribou and musk ox; Carl Thomsen filmed ice and snow scenes; Richard Tegstrom photographed reindeer; and Dick Bird snapped the duck family.
       As noted in the HR review, studio footage of animals in controlled situations and some special effects were added to the wildlife footage to give the audience more subjective perspectives. Many reviews referred to White Wilderness as the finest of the True-Life Adventure films. For more information on the series, refer to the Series Index and ... More Less

James Algar's opening credit reads: "Written and directed by." Huband-and-wife photography team Herb Crisler and Lois Crisler are credited onscreen as "Herb and Lois Crisler." The opening credits include the following written acknowledgment: "With the cooperation of the Canadian Wildlife Service, National Park Service of Canada, Province of Alberta Dept. of Lands and Forests, Province of Manitoba Game Branch, Hudson's Bay Company, McKinley National Park." As with the previous "True-Life Adventure" features, White Wilderness begins with an animated paintbrush depicting the narrator's description of prehistoric times.
       The following information was taken from studio press materials: The film was shot over three years in the Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska. Native American trappers and Eskimo guides led photographers, by foot, plane and dogteam, into areas including the Foxe Channel off Southampton Island, Brooks Range, La Paz and the Thelon River. Hundreds of thousands of feet of 16mm film were compiled, then edited and transferred to 35mm. Individual assignments included: Hugh A. Wilmar shot the polar bears and walruses; the Crislers filmed the grey wolves; James R. Simon and Lloyd Beebe captured images of the wolverine; Beebe, with a Canadian Wildlife Service biologist, shot the caribou and musk ox; Carl Thomsen filmed ice and snow scenes; Richard Tegstrom photographed reindeer; and Dick Bird snapped the duck family.
       As noted in the HR review, studio footage of animals in controlled situations and some special effects were added to the wildlife footage to give the audience more subjective perspectives. Many reviews referred to White Wilderness as the finest of the True-Life Adventure films. For more information on the series, refer to the Series Index and The Living Desert , below. White Wilderness won the 1958 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
7 Jul 1958.
---
Daily Variety
25 Jun 58
p. 3.
Film Daily
27 Jun 58
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1958
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 1958
p. 3.
Los Angeles Mirror
16 Aug 1958.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
28 Jun 58
p. 889.
New York Times
10 Aug 1958.
---
New York Times
13 Aug 58
p. 22.
Variety
25 Jun 58
p. 6.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT

NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A True-Life Adventure Feature
A Walt Disney Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTOR
PRODUCERS
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Photog
Photog
Photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
Addl photog
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SOUND
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec processes
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Arctic guide
ANIMATION
Anim eff
Anim eff
DETAILS
Release Date:
September 1958
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 12 August 1958
Los Angeles opening: 22 August 1958
Copyright Claimant:
Walt Disney Productions
Copyright Date:
21 March 1958
Copyright Number:
MP9085
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound Recording
Color
Technicolor
With animated sequences
Duration(in mins):
71-72 or 80
Length(in feet):
6,500
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
18892
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the Northern Hemisphere, many characteristics of the Ice Age still remain. Despite the harshness of the environment, life continues to flourish. During the spring, the bleak, snowy lands begin to thaw, causing avalanches and vast rivers of running water that batter against the glaciers. Hectic animal activity begins in an effort to gather as much food as possible before the next cold season arrives. The walruses appear in the Arctic Sea, huge mammals with fins, blubber-filled bodies and tusks. These warm-blooded animals swim in frigid waters but prefer sun-baked rocks, where they lay en masse. They live on shellfish, posing little threat to other wildlife, but are themselves hunted by the polar bear, the approach of which can terrify a whole herd into retreat. The great white bear reigns as the most powerful carnivore in the area. Although it does not hibernate, the female goes into a dormant phase when pregnant. The film shows two new cubs, which nurse without waking their mother, then explore the terrain on their own. This intelligent, playful species can be quite mischievous, as when one older cub forms a snowball and pushes it off a hill onto his brother. The ring seal pups have a white coat that serves as camouflage, but when they need to move on land, they are awkward, slow-moving targets, dragging themselves back to the sea. Once in the water, they are a master of the defensive maneuver, swimming expertly. White beluga whales, actually a member of the dolphin family, also appear in the sea, swimming in near-formation. One of the smallest Arctic creatures is the lemming, the female of which must hunt even in the freezing ... +


In the Northern Hemisphere, many characteristics of the Ice Age still remain. Despite the harshness of the environment, life continues to flourish. During the spring, the bleak, snowy lands begin to thaw, causing avalanches and vast rivers of running water that batter against the glaciers. Hectic animal activity begins in an effort to gather as much food as possible before the next cold season arrives. The walruses appear in the Arctic Sea, huge mammals with fins, blubber-filled bodies and tusks. These warm-blooded animals swim in frigid waters but prefer sun-baked rocks, where they lay en masse. They live on shellfish, posing little threat to other wildlife, but are themselves hunted by the polar bear, the approach of which can terrify a whole herd into retreat. The great white bear reigns as the most powerful carnivore in the area. Although it does not hibernate, the female goes into a dormant phase when pregnant. The film shows two new cubs, which nurse without waking their mother, then explore the terrain on their own. This intelligent, playful species can be quite mischievous, as when one older cub forms a snowball and pushes it off a hill onto his brother. The ring seal pups have a white coat that serves as camouflage, but when they need to move on land, they are awkward, slow-moving targets, dragging themselves back to the sea. Once in the water, they are a master of the defensive maneuver, swimming expertly. White beluga whales, actually a member of the dolphin family, also appear in the sea, swimming in near-formation. One of the smallest Arctic creatures is the lemming, the female of which must hunt even in the freezing winter to find enough food for her brood. A type of mouse, the lemming lives underground in the winter and moves aboveground after the thaw, when thousands of the species roam the tundra, eating all the vegetation. Every seven to ten years, when they have exhausted the area vegetation, the lemmings follow an extraordinary instinct to commit mass suicide, jumping into the ocean en masse and then dying of exhaustion. Scientists hypothesize that this behavior is an innate method of population control; the few surviving lemmings gradually repopulate the area. Among the spring visitors are the waterfowl, who migrate to the area to raise their young undisturbed. The eiderduck, turnstone, phalarope and gulls hunt in distinct ways and nest on the flat ground, leaving them vulnerable to predators such as polar bears and ermines. The ermine, a type of weasel, is small but bloodthirsty and determined. Goldeneye ducks, unlike the rest of their species, nest in hollow trees. The babies must leave the nest before they can fly, and so follow their mother’s example and fall headlong to the ground. One family escapes unscathed and rushes to the relative safety of the water. The tundra serves as grassland for the musk ox, which has survived since the Ice Age due to its long hair, extreme strength and dangerous horns. When a wolf appears, the ox herd forms a protective circle around its cows and calves, with the males facing outward from the circle, forcing the wolf to retreat. Despite its bad reputation, the wolf is actually a useful, monogamous family animal, which has been driven out of much of its homeland by humans. They display the same loyal tendencies as their canine brethren, mating for life and treating their young with great care. One family hunts caribou by waiting patiently until the herd is forced to travel through a narrow mountain pass. The wolves then kill the weakest caribou, thinning the herd of its unfit members. The only animal that scares a wolf is the wolverine, a combination of bear, raccoon and weasel. This vicious, voracious hunter is small but very strong. One chases a rabbit, which almost escapes by hiding in a hollow log, but the wolverine rolls the log into the water, forcing the rabbit to run out. The wolverine is soon distracted by an osprey nest high in a tree, and although the osprey mother dive-bombs the animal, she cannot prevent it from eating her baby. After a quick summer, the cold season returns, signaling the caribou and reindeer herds to leave for southern forests. The ice makes travel difficult, so they “make haste slowly,” hurrying so they will not be trapped by sudden blizzards. Winter soon rages in the Arctic, but life will come again next season, recreating patterns of survival in nature’s white wilderness. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.