Disneynature: Wings of Life (2011) Movie Script

In the countless
landscapes of life on Earth,
things are not always what they seem.
What appears fragile may be fierce.
What appears innocent
may be calculating.
Clever illusion
is more than a means of survival.
It's also a story of love.
And of the mysterious force
relentlessly driving all living things
to reproduce themselves.
By any means necessary.
Including deception.
I live in forests like this.
But then, I live almost everywhere.
This tropical forest appears still,
but everywhere living things
are following the mute commands
of their genes to find mates
and to ensure
that their species lives on.
One might imagine that the most
important life forms are large,
Or flashy,
or smart.
But it is love among the little things
that actually runs
the vast machinery of life.
Some of the most important events
on Earth occur quietly
in small and hidden worlds.
And some species
critical to the grand scheme of life
are not what you expect.
This is a story
about one of the most vital
and ingenious of all living things.
It's my story.
I'm a flower.
I'm going to tell you,
on behalf of all flowers,
about life from our point of view.
You think we're just
fragile wisps of beauty,
unaware that beauty is our strategy.
We're more important than you know.
We've helped life prosper
across the ages.
Without us, humans might not survive.
Beauty is not always what it seems.
Beauty can be a tool of survival
and seduction.
Every beat of every wing
in every forest
is somehow keeping the great
enterprise of life streaming forward.
The constant motion of life
makes love connections possible.
Animals with wings and legs
can search for mates.
But we plants
are forever rooted in one place.
So we entice animals to us
by offering rewards.
When they come, we use them
to make the love connections
we can't make ourselves.
In this forest in Panama,
a tropical orchid bee
has picked up an alluring scent
and he's searching for the source.
It's me, an orchid.
And I'm one of the most cunning
of all flowers.
My perfume is a trick.
The orchid bee depends on me
for help with his central mission in life.
To mate with a female.
For weeks, he collects scent oils
from orchids.
Eventually, he uses
his mix of fragrances
as a kind of orchid "cologne"
to attract a female.
The scents come from me,
a bucket orchid.
The bucket is part of my trick.
The bee has to climb a waxy slope
to reach the scent oils
cleverly hidden beneath a hood.
I've filled my bucket with a sticky fluid
that makes the bee sink.
I provide only one escape route,
which leads him just where I want him.
After the bee climbs out,
I grip him tightly.
I glue two pollen sacs to his back,
each filled with tens of thousands
of pollen grains.
These are the only pollen sacs
I will ever produce,
so I won't let him go
until the glue is dry.
I may wait an hour or more
before loosening my grip.
This one bee now carries my legacy.
When he comes upon the scent
of another orchid that same day,
he heads right for it.
If he slips into the bucket
of this second orchid,
the pollen sacs on his back
will come unglued.
Pollination can occur.
A new orchid generation can begin.
How nature has created
such intricate strategies
is a mystery of life.
Yet we can unravel some of the puzzle
if we go back in time.
Back nearly 200 million years.
During the Age of Reptiles,
there were no mammals
larger than a mouse.
For a very long time,
there were no flowers, either.
Without flowers,
Earth was a drab place.
But about 135 million years ago,
life began to change dramatically
because of an invention.
When dinosaurs roamed forests
like this,
most plants spread their pollen
on the wind.
If they were lucky, a few pollen grains
would reach another tree,
creating seeds that would become
the next generation.
It still works today for pines,
grasses and many other plants.
But it's not very efficient.
Most of the pollen goes to waste.
Some unknown plant in the deep past,
perhaps a magnolia ancestor,
produced a device that would ensure
delivery of pollen directly to a mate.
It would prove to be
one of the most important events
in the history of life.
The device was me. A flower.
Our blossoms act like
advertising billboards.
Our perfumes and tasty rewards
lure passing creatures to us.
And we load them up with pollen
they will unknowingly carry
to other flowers.
Beetles were among
Our first "love messengers".
Our fruit, seeds, nectar and pollen
became crucial foods
for millions of species.
We flourished
and became a keystone life form.
Today, our pollination schemes
knit together the fabric of life
across the planet.
our pollination tactics evolved.
Pollinators adapted in turn.
And life everywhere
became infinitely more diverse.
There's an example in this rain forest.
Some of us began hiding our nectar
in tubes.
It encouraged some pollinators
to specialize,
developing mutually
beneficial relationships.
One of these pollinators
evolved a longer beak for nectar tubes.
And wings that can beat up
to 200 times a second.
With these unique aerobatic skills,
hummingbirds can hover to feed
and maneuver like airborne dancers.
Now, after millions of years,
pollination partnerships
occur almost everywhere.
In luxurious habitats like the rain forest,
but also in some of the harshest places
on Earth.
The Sonoran Desert
of northern Mexico
is a world of blistering heat.
I live here, too.
We cacti are flowering plants
central to life in this arid world.
Living as long as 150 years,
we help feed generation
after generation of desert creatures.
We are living water tanks.
That's how we survive.
But to reproduce, we form alliances
with unusual partners.
In this harsh realm,
our strategy is not to deceive,
but to nurture.
When pollinated,
we cactus flowers turn into fruit
with seeds to start a new generation.
So, on summer nights,
to attract pollinators,
we open a few nectar-filled flowers.
And we wait.
Elsewhere in the night,
our pollinators wait, too.
When the time is right,
they will leave their home
on an island in the Sea of Cortez
to search for the white flowers
beckoning from the desert.
These nectar-feeding bats
are all female.
They live apart from males
while pregnant.
Most are due to give birth soon.
Some are already nursing.
They desperately need nourishment.
Pollen sticking to their faces rubs off
and pollinates the flower
of the next cactus.
A new mother gulps nectar
so she can nurse a baby
born only moments ago.
Each flower opens on only one night,
its sole opportunity to spread its pollen
across the desert on wings.
In billions of these brief intersections
of the animal and plant worlds,
life regenerates itself
over and over again.
If the flowers
were pollinated and fertilized,
they will become nourishing fruit.
A wait begins among hungry creatures
for the next gifts of the cacti.
A waiting game has also begun
among very different flowers
in a very different world.
The farm fields
of the American Midwest.
I live here, too.
I'm a kind of wildflower
growing near the crops.
Each spring, I wait for a pollinator
to sweep in from far away.
I thrive across North America,
but I'm considered a weed.
"Milkweed" people call me,
because of my special sap.
I make a milky poison
that can sicken many animals
that might feed on me.
But I also produce sweet nectar
that draws a kind of beautiful pollinator
from a hidden retreat
more than 1,000 miles away.
In a forest on a mountain
in central Mexico,
monarch butterflies are amassed
by the tens of millions,
waiting for the rising sun
to energize their bodies.
In clusters so dense
they can bend the trees,
they rest and prepare themselves
for the long journey northward
to reach the milkweed.
Every autumn,
to avoid freezing in the north,
they fly here
from as far away as Canada
and perch in fir trees at an elevation
of more than 1 1,000 feet.
It's the perfect climate to help them
conserve energy through the winter.
As the morning sun warms their wings,
they begin to cascade downward.
To stay alive,
they must rely on stored fat
they accumulated last fall.
But to turn fat into energy,
they need water.
Their mission each day
is to search for a drink of water.
They must maintain their strength
for the exhausting flight
from here to the southern U.S.
From there, the children
and grandchildren of these monarchs
Will journey on northward
through the summer to Canada.
Their thirst quenched,
the monarchs return to the trees
by late afternoon.
By next autumn,
their great-great grandchildren
will return to these same forests.
Soon they will set out
on the longest migration
of any butterfly on Earth
to reach a little-noticed weed
half a continent away.
Not all plant and animal relationships
are so exotic.
But even a familiar one,
involving a common food
and well-known insect,
is an example of hidden beauty.
People raise this flowering plant,
not for the flowers,
but for what the flowers turn into.
I live here, too.
I'm a tomato flower,
and I lock up my pollen tightly,
so that only the most
efficient pollinators can get it.
My favorite is a very hard worker.
The bumblebee,
who gathers pollen
for the egg-laying queen
and the developing young.
Bumblebees are one of the few insects
that care for their offspring.
When damage occurs in the hive,
a worker quickly repairs the cell.
Honey made from flower nectar
is kept in wax pots.
The adults eat it
and regurgitate it into the cells
to feed the young.
They need a lot of pollen and nectar,
and searching for it is a constant chore.
They spot a garden nearby.
As the foragers investigate,
they see things
invisible to the human eye.
Because they are able
to perceive ultraviolet light,
bees can detect markings
produced by flowers
to guide pollinators
directly to nectar and pollen.
The bees need more food
than the garden can provide.
Ahead, they see
what they're looking for.
So begins a fascinating
kind of pollination.
The bee bites to hold on tight,
then blasts the locked-up pollen loose
by vibrating her flight muscles
up to 440 times per second.
She packs the pollen into baskets
on her back legs.
Her vibration rate is the same
as the musical note A.
She's like a living tuning fork.
Few flowers are "buzz pollinated",
but they include some favorite foods
enjoyed by human beings.
The workers will keep at this
until they have enough pollen
to feed the colony's
newly developing brood.
Such flower rewards
sustain billions of creatures,
sometimes in places
where there is little else to eat.
Weeks have passed
in the Sonoran Desert.
My cactus flowers
should have turned to fruit by now.
The female bats are depending on it.
They can't continue
to nurse their young
without a new source of food.
The cacti may be their only hope.
From their island cave,
they make a long night flight.
A round-trip of more than 60 miles.
It's a demanding journey,
but a feast awaits.
The mothers need nourishment.
And so do those
carrying new life within.
As they gorge on the fruit,
they are also consuming seeds,
which they eventually spread
across the desert.
We cacti are key
to Sonoran Desert life.
But we couldn't endure
without the help of bats.
And the bats and their young
couldn't survive without our help.
This crucial connection
between plants and animals
helps keep the desert alive.
There are others who depend
on the cactus fruit,
collecting it at night so it can be
consumed fresh each day.
Their distant ancestors
so adored cactus fruit
that they honored the cacti
as revered members of their tribes.
Today, it's a way for people
to provide for their families.
As well as a sweet pleasure.
So sweet that people plant
cacti seeds in their gardens.
From a flower's point of view,
humans are just another species
we can use for our purposes.
But a delicious reward in one place
can be the cause of conflict in another.
Unlike the desert,
a tropical rain forest
is rich in resources
and competition.
Survival favors
the bold and aggressive.
Even the seemingly gentle
turn out to be warriors.
And nectar-bearing flowers
are territory to defend.
The winners will spread pollen
that helps keep the forest lush.
One stakes his claim.
And the challengers arrive.
It's a standoff.
Then, the first move.
Even a warrior can make a mistake.
The hidden spectacles of pollination
can involve a few tiny rivals.
Or hundreds of millions of voyagers.
From the high forests in Mexico,
the great migration
of monarch butterflies
heads northward
toward the middle of North America.
In their long round-trip each summer,
the vast monarch population
will help pollinate and sustain
more than 200 kinds of flowers.
As this first leg of the migration
reaches farmland,
the butterflies are tiring.
It's a strenuous flight.
They need fuel.
That's where I come in.
Milkweed flowers in a variety
of colors and shapes
serve as refueling stations
in return for a little help
spreading pollen.
We milkweeds are wily.
Our flowers have narrow slits
that can snag the leg
of a feeding monarch
and hold her in a vise-like grip.
When she tries to jerk free,
she snags a cord,
releasing sacs of pollen
she'll unknowingly carry
to the next milkweed.
As they migrate, they also mate.
This overwintering
generation of monarchs
may live nine months.
They're among the longest-lived
butterflies on Earth.
But now their days are numbered.
They have to produce young
to keep the migration going.
Sometimes another male
tries to intervene.
Even in small love stories,
victory goes to the most determined.
Eventually, the male
sweeps her off her feet
and carries her to the privacy
of a tree branch.
He may keep her in his embrace
for up to 16 hours.
Within two weeks,
each female attaches up to 400 eggs
to the underside of milkweed leaves,
and only milkweed leaves.
Unlike bees, monarchs rely
not on the care of their young,
but quantity.
Enough eggs
and some are bound to survive
the onslaught of hungry insects.
The job of a monarch caterpillar
is to eat relentlessly.
First, its own egg case.
Then, milkweed leaves exclusively,
growing to 2,000 times its original size.
If it survives.
hundreds of millions survive.
Their mothers put them on milkweed
for a reason.
The toxic sap settles in their bodies.
The monarchs are unaffected,
but a predator who eats one
is likely to become ill
and soon learns to avoid them.
Eventually, each caterpillar
finds a secure spot
and spins silk to hold onto.
It's time to become a butterfly.
The caterpillar grips the silk
with its back legs
and hangs upside down.
Through contractions,
the skin is loosened.
Eventually it splits,
revealing a new casing beneath.
Now, a dangerous maneuver.
In a matter of seconds,
as the old skin and legs fall away,
she must thrust hooks
from the new case into the silk.
If this delicate handoff fails,
she will fall to the ground helpless
and be eaten.
Within this protective shell,
Her caterpillar self is fading away.
Across the ages,
humans have seen
in this transformation
the ultimate symbol of change.
Her body begins to pump fluid
that will inflate her wings.
The scales on the wings
are shaped to reflect light
so that it produces a bright coloration.
Contrasting orange and black
are warning colors in nature.
She still carries milkweed toxins,
and these colors say,
"I'm not good to eat".
This strategy is so successful
that some butterflies without poison
copy the monarch's colors.
We milkweeds
will provide the flight fuel
as this first generation of summer
continues the monarch's
long migration.
There is no rest for pollinators,
not for butterflies
and not for one very hard worker.
In a farm field,
bumblebees are finishing
the exhausting job of buzz pollinating.
When they're loaded with pollen,
it's time for the bees to return home
and store it.
The young are beginning to emerge.
They'll need the colony's treasure
of pollen and honey for nourishment.
But the colony's riches
can also attract danger.
A skunk will eat not only the pollen,
but the bumblebees and their young.
A threat to the colony
is one of the few times
these passive bees
will use their stingers.
With safety restored,
colony life goes on.
A young bee entering the world
will live on pollen and honey
in a home made of wax.
All are gifts from flowers.
And within a tomato blossom,
another kind of new life is beginning.
This is how I reproduce.
Pollen grains brought by bees
from another tomato flower
send tubes
to the center of the blossom,
delivering reproductive cells
to the ovary.
Forming seeds,
each of which grew
from one grain of pollen.
Fertilization occurs.
Gradually, a fleshy container
forms around all of the seeds.
Most people don't realize
that what they eat is a yellow flower
that turns into a tomato.
Around the world,
people depend on farming
for their sustenance,
as they have for thousands of years.
By growing their own food,
people were able
to develop civilizations
and rise to dominance.
Humans consider agriculture
one of their great advances.
But it was actually to our benefit.
People now take care of us
and spread our seeds.
Who is in control of whom, really?
Today, farming is a science.
This is an immense
high-tech greenhouse.
Ten acres of tomatoes under one roof.
I'm here as well,
and the humans
cater to my every need.
People have engineered ways
to grow tomatoes
without even using soil.
Nutrient-rich water recycles constantly.
No pollution, no wasted water.
This operation produces one in six
of all the supermarket tomatoes
in the United States.
Yet, despite many tries,
humans have been unable to come up
with a pollination method
as effective as the one engineered
by nature.
The entire operation
and millions of dollars a year
depend on ever-reliable bumblebees.
An important food of humanity
would not be grown
and distributed worldwide
but for an ancient partnership
between a bee and a flower.
To me, all pollinators are important,
but to people,
one is more critical than any other.
So critical that they carry them around
as precious cargo.
In many parts of the world,
honeybees are so vital
that hives are shipped
thousands of miles
from one kind of farm to another.
Travel can subject them to stress,
poor diets, new parasites,
pesticides and diseases.
But many kinds of farms
would fail without honeybees,
such as this almond orchard
in California.
Honeybees tend to harass an invader
who opens their hive.
But smoke has a calming effect.
The champion of all pollinators
is ready to go to work.
Nearly 200 million bees
reaching every flower
in 1,700 acres of almond trees.
They return
with loads of almond pollen
packed on their hind legs.
The foragers share almond nectar
with the other bees.
This protein-rich pollen
will feed their developing youngsters.
A returning scout
directs her companions
to flowers she's discovered
using a complex way
of communicating.
As she walks and shakes her body
in what's called a "waggle dance",
she indicates the distance
to the flowers
and the direction to take
according to the angle of the sun.
Across Earth,
pollination by honeybees is essential
to more than 1,400 crops
people depend on.
Without bees,
none of these foods could exist.
People forget
that life begins with plants.
We not only provide shelter
and medicine,
but we're living solar collectors.
The only life forms that can convert
sunlight into stored energy,
producing fuel and food,
and supporting the entire web of life.
Weeks have passed in the orchard.
Pollination has led
to the growth of young almonds.
But there is an ominous sign.
Most of the honeybees in the hive
have disappeared.
In recent years,
some honeybee populations
have plummeted.
The causes could range
from diseases and parasites
to a phenomenon
in which hives seem normal,
filled with honey
and developing young,
but the adult bees never return.
Are the missing bees a warning
of a greater collapse to come?
Some human activities
threaten pollinators.
Farming practices can poison them
and kill flowers such as milkweed.
Wild areas needed by pollinators
are often cleared.
Or they're covered by houses.
Or roads.
And across the Earth,
pollinators are diminishing.
Every third bite humans take
is dependent on pollinators.
And if they continue to decline,
life may reach a tipping point.
The pollination scheme that knits
Together the fabric of life could unravel.
But there are solutions.
One of the most important
is to restore lost flower habitats.
Where human construction
eliminates wildflowers,
human ingenuity can replace them.
I can flourish even on a rooftop.
The love stories of pollination
can unfold
in the millions of unused acres
bordering the world's highways.
In the past, farmland left bare
has been planted with grasses.
But farmers increasingly turn it into
Wildflower fields to help pollinators.
People can turn a backyard
into a productive flower habitat.
Neighbors are planting vacant lots
with flowers
and teaching their children
to grow their own vegetables.
Even a six-story building
can support pollinators.
Children who learn
the value of pollination
represent hope for the future.
The lawn of the past
can become a yard
filled with flowers and vegetables.
Humans simply need to remember
how intimately their lives
are connected with
and dependent upon flowers.
People use us to express love.
To honor loved ones.
To enrich the great emotional moments
of their lives.
They give flowers to congratulate.
To mark every milestone in life.
They surround themselves with flowers
to bring color to their lives.
We flowers are grown
and sold by the billions.
In the process,
people have become
one of our most important pollinators.
Like other pollinators,
they feed on our rewards,
and they even use our perfumes
to kindle their own romance.
To people, flowers
are the universal symbol of love.
After all,
we embody the ultimate love story.
A love story that feeds the Earth.
Day after day,
as flowers lift the human spirit,
in hidden corners of the world
beyond the view of people,
bees are helping plants
produce the world's food.
Hummingbirds are helping to spread
tomorrow's flowers through the forest.
Bats are dispersing life
through the vast desert.
And butterflies are making
exhausting flights,
including the monarchs,
now setting out on a marathon journey
of 2,000 miles back to Mexico.
pollinators are working tirelessly
to keep
the vast machinery of life running.
Ripped By Itzik Gur