Film festival remembers Milotte history, legacy

The third annual Milotte Wildlife Film Festival kicked off last weekend with the 1952 Milotte and Disney “Water Birds” film and the 2012 DisneyNature film “Chimpanzee”.

Alfred and Elma Milotte are seen here in Africa filming their 1955 documentary 'The African Lion.'

The third annual Milotte Wildlife Film Festival kicked off last weekend with the 1952 Milotte and Disney “Water Birds” film and the 2012 DisneyNature film “chimpanzee”.

This year also featured guest speaker Bill Wallauer, the cinematographer for the Jane Goodall Institute. Wallauer filmed “chimpanzee.”

Wallauer gave the audience a behind-the-scenes presentation in the making of the film, which took three years to make.

The festival was hosted by the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society, and the event was at the Bonney Lake Justice and Municipal Center.

The Milotte Film Festival started in 2012 in order to honor the legacy of Elma and Alfred Milotte, said Bonney Lake Councilman Mark Hamilton. The councilman helped start the festival three years ago.

“The Milottes wanted to share nature with the public, especially kids,” Hamilton said. “They had a lifelong love of nature.”

Hamilton approached the Bonney Lake Historical Society with the idea of a film festival because as a kid, he saw some of the films the Milottes and Walt Disney worked on together.

“I saw the True-Life Adventure films when I was young,” Hamilton said. His first was the 1955 nature film “The African Lion,” which was shown after a Daniel Boone viewing.

“I remember the Daniel Boone film, but African Lions blew me away, because you just didn’t see that,” said Hamilton. “You’d see lions in photos, or in a zoo or the circus, but never alive in Africa.”

According to Hamilton, the Milottes and Disney changed the way nature films were shot.

“Wild life films back then were when the great white hunter bagged an elephant,” he said. “That was a wildlife film.” But when the Milottes and Disney started producing film, they brought nature front and center, with no human interaction.

“The model where wildlife was the subject of the film, that was started by the Milottes and Disney,” Hamilton said.

Their first nature film, the 1948 “Seal Island” was the first nature film to win an Academy Award for wildlife documentary.

Over their lives, the Milottes were awarded a total of six Oscars while working with Disney.

But according to Hamilton, their legacy is far greater.

“The Milottes are Disney Legends,” Hamilton said. “They helped make Disney Studios what they are today.”

The Disney Legend program officially recognizes people who made an integral contribution to the Walt Disney Company.

The Milottes were inducted into the program in 1998, nine years after their deaths.

In the spirit of the Milotte’s love of nature and their legacy of nature films, the festival held a nature documentary contest. The documentaries had to be wildlife or nature focused, and could be no longer than three minutes.

The runner up in the contest was Bonney Lake resident David Wells, who shot his nature video of Lake Judd in Alaska with a GoPro camera.

The winner of the contest was Oregon State student Emily Anderson, who is also a Bonney Lake resident.

Anderson focused her underwater film on the invasion of the lion-fish of Belize.

Hamilton hopes that the Milotte legacy will continue to inspire people to document nature and wildlife for next year’s festival.

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