MORNING LIGHT (Blu-ray Edition)|
Disney / Buena Vista | 2008 | 98 mins | Rated PG | Jun 16, 2009
Written by David Hillyer
June 21, 2009
I heard rumors about Morning Light in late 2008. I was told that Disney brought together a bunch of kids that were heading toward a bleak future, taught them how to survive and sail in the ocean, and let them race a boat against seasoned professionals. While that sounds like something made for The Disney Channel, there is always something wonderful about stories of people being lifted up out of the garbage that life throws at them. That kind of “helping others” story is what makes people love shows like “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and other Oprah tearjerkers.
Morning Light never came to my local theater, so I had to wait for the Blu-Ray, and I'm glad I did. This way I didn't have to pay to see this flawed film. I have never been so disappointed in a documentary.
Roy Disney brought a group of 30 young adults to Long Beach to judge them on their sailing and character (and make a movie about it). Wouldn't it have been great to see Disney bring a group of street kids or other underprivileged youth to learn how to swim, sail and be part of a team? Instead they brought in 30 privileged well spoken young adults from all over the world who had already been sailing a year or more. Several of them left college (Harvard, Brown, Stanford etc.) for a year to come try out for this race. What sacrifices these kids made! Can you feel the tears welling up in your eyes?
The “kids” were age 18 to 24 and were to compete for 15 positions on a sailboat. They were destined to race in the 2007 Transpac 2,300 mile, 12 day race from Los Angeles to Hawaii. We get to see parts of their training, from treading water to sailing on the open ocean with a team of other people. Unfortunately there is very little to endear us to these kids and very little explanation as to the significance of this race to them. Only that Roy Disney wanted these kids to have the experience he had when he learned to sail in the open ocean.
The crew used cranes to do the usual pan up in front of the house and other overused reality show film tricks are thrown in for good measure. Aside from the start, there is very little context for this being a “race”. We see little of the competition or of the other boats. There was so much that could have been done to better cover the race and the difficulty of the task. But for the most part we get a poorly edited highlight reel of boredom.
Morning Light: Making the Cut as aired on ESPN (which is owned by Disney) (41:56 in HD). This honestly is much more interesting than the actual film. It appears that the footage is a mix of HD and SD as some of the on sea footage is extremely grainy. They talk a lot more with the Morning Light hopefuls and give simple explanations about sailing terms and positions. It shouldn't be this way, but I highly recommend you watch this documentary before watching the theatrical film. It will certainly help you care at least a little bit about the participants.
Stories from the Seas hosted by Jason Earles (28:32 in HD) This goes into a bit more depth about the production of the movie featuring more behind the scenes footage of the training the team went through. There are also sections about the primary videographer who was on the boat and an interview with the producers Roy Disney and Leslie DeMeuse-Disney. There are some slight overlaps between the film and this feature.
I have watched over 50 Blu-Ray movies this year and I have never been more disappointed in a film and its purpose. It's nice for people to have new experiences and learn life skills. But with the exception of Steve (a Baltimore native who was teaching inner city kids how to sail), the participants all appear to have very privileged lives. We wouldn't know otherwise from any of the film provided on this disc. This would have made a much more interesting reality series on Disney Channel where we could have actually learned about the participants. Instead we have a poorly edited film that doesn't stand on its own. If not for the extras on this disc, I would have sworn this was a video just for the participants to remember their summer at sailing camp. It is certainly not a film worthy of Disney.