Movie Born In China: Interview With Producer Roy Conli


The highly anticipated Disneynature’s film, “Born in China” hit theaters today, and I can’t be more thrilled. Have you ever wondered how film makers are able to capture footage of animals in their natural environment? I recently was given the opportunity to speak to the producer, Roy Conli to learn more about how an amazing film like this one is created.

Born in China” is directed by accomplished Chinese filmmaker Lu Chuan, and produced by Disney’s Roy Conli and renowned nature filmmakers Brian Leith and Phil Chapman.


Disneynature, in its ongoing quest to bring the natural world to the big screen as never before, presents its most ambitious project to date, taking moviegoers on a grand journey into the wilds of China. “Born In China” follows the adventures of three animal families — the majestic panda, the savvy golden monkey, and the elusive snow leopard.


About Roy Conli

Roy Conli is an American film producer and voice actor. He won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film for the 2014 Walt Disney Animation Studios film Big Hero 6 at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015. Roy’s background includes theater and animation. This project was different than anything he has ever worked on before. In our interview, Roy talked about his movie making experience and how he was able to create a film that will be everlasting and make an impact. He is currently working on two animation projects.

I learned some interesting facts about the production. The crew, was divided into groups and assigned to an animal family. They documented the animals habits and thought processes in their natural environments. Several cameras were placed in and around the location of the animals. Roy talked about the collaboration with the Lu Chuan, and the brilliant film crew. The cinematographers worked from the early morning until the late evening. They slept in shacks or tents, to have access to the animals. The film crew also faced extreme weather conditions much like their animal friends.


Here are some excerpts from my interview with Roy Conli.

(Roy talking about the Snow Leopard cinematographer and team) 

“He was 253 days shooting, over four trips, over six seasons. He was living in a little shack next to a monastery in the Sichuan, Shaanx Plateau. He and his very small team, would leave before dawn and get back after dark. And literally shoot straight for the length of their visas. Now they were coming in on journalist visas and essentially had to leave after three months. The first shot of snow leopard that we got was ninety days into his first stay. He had to leave after the first day he got the fist shot.”

Photo Credit to Disneynature

“It’s a testament of what kind of perseverance but what kind of professionals these guys are. They really track these animals and get to understand their movements, and start to understand their thought process, and what their habits and customs are. Same thing with the pandas…. Pandas are incredibly isolated and don’t like a lot of companionship around them, and they are also 800 pound animals. So a mother panda with her 800 pound cub, can be somewhat dangerous. So what the cinematographers on that crew did, was essentially put on panda suits and would put panda scent on them. You can imagine what panda scent is. And they literally kept a significant distance away.

As you build a relationship with these animals, and as those animals see that you are not a danger. Then they start getting closer and closer. So Shane for instance, on the Snow Leopard front, started about 400 meters away, with telephoto lenses and really focusing, you know and building that relationship. By the time he ended, he was somewhere between 40 and 50 meters away. So that’s like 130 to 140 feet away. Really amazing… Sometimes you look at the shot and you see the mother looking straight at camera. She’s  looking straight at camera. She’s looking at Shane and saying, “You’re not coming any closer to my kids.”

I was fascinated to hear about the amount of work that is involved to create an incredible film like this one…

Photo Credit to Disneynature

The monkeys loved to perform for the cameras and the crew. This little one was totally amused.

Roy said, “The monkeys in comparison to the snow leopards, and comparison to the pandas, they wanted to come up and say hello. They actually performed for the cameras. And one of the things that you need to do when you are working with monkeys, is try to divorce yourself from that because you don’t want them to become too familiar. Because then all of a sudden, you’re doing the exactly opposite of what your are trying to do. Let nature take its course.They want to involve you in their tribe. And you have to kind of reduce that as much as possible.”

His passion for film making is transparent in this incredible film… The footage and imagery is stunning!

This movie is a MUST SEE. Go see it in theaters today!

Support World Wildlife Fund

During Born In China’s opening week (April 21-27, 2017) film proceeds will benefit the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Based on opening-week attendance, Disneynature, via the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, will make a contribution to the WWF to help protect wild pandas and snow leopards in China.

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