'Wings of Life' shows a million butterfly stars

05:00 AM, Apr 05, 2013

Monarch butterflies clustered by the thousands on the ground drinking water. Canon EOS 5D Mark II/


Written By by Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY

After filming this Monarch butterfly scene for Disneynature’s Wings of Life, director Louie Schwartzberg knew what it was like to be consumed by the delicate creatures.

Standing there and having a million butterflies come towards you is actually the highlight of my life,” says Schwartzberg of filming the scene at the Monarch’s Mexico winter home. “It’s hearing the sounds of millions of wings flapping.”

This scene, shot at the El Rosario Butterfly Preserve in Michoacán, Mexico, is one of many from the film, which looks at the relationship between flowers and the critical pollinators in North America. Wings of Life heads to Blu-Ray and on-demand on April 16 in time for Earth Day.

The slow-motion footage here also shows something that impressed scientists. “They had never seen the fact that the Monarch wings bend,” says Schwartzberg. “The aerodynamic way that they fly was illuminating to scientists, and it’s beautiful to us.”

When Schwartzberg started making the film, he thought that only bees provided the critical flower reproduction role. He soon found out there are many other creatures as diverse as the Monarch, including the hummingbird and the bat.

A lot of nature films look at predator and prey,” says Schwartzberg. “This is about relationships. And how beauty, in the case in flowers, is something we’re hardwired to respond to in order for life to move forward.”

Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep provides the “intelligent, timeless, compassionate” voiceover in the movie, says Schwartzberg.

The movie also explores how these critical pollinators are in danger because of a variety of factors. For example, this year scientists saw the lowest levels of Monarchs ever to make the winter migration to Mexico due to pesticides killing off their food supply along the difficult route.

This is a movie that inspires, and you fall in love with this amazing relationship between the pollinators and the flowers. Towards the end of the movie you realize this could potentially unravel,” says Schwartzberg. “They provide the foundation of life. If they go, we go.”