As a child growing up in Bonney Lake in the middle of the 20th Century, the rest of the world was so far away, but for Councilman Mark Hamilton, one Sunday evening television program sometimes provided a window to the rest of the world.
“As a kid I looked forward to every Sunday watch Disney,” he said, recalling the old “Wonderful World of Disney” program. “And every once and a while they’d have these nature films.”
Hamilton said at the time – pre-Animal Planet or Discovery Channel – there was nothing else like it on TV and no other place to see an actual African lion hunting down game.
“I’d never seen anything like that,” he said Friday. “It just opened me up to a little bit about wild life.”
But little did he know that the filmmakers responsible for many of the nature shows he loved lived right in his hometown. Then, one day his mother came home from an art class and told him about a man ini her class named Alfred Milotte who made nature films for Disney.
“I put two and two together and realized they were the Milottes talked about by Walt,” Hamilton remembered.
Now, decades later, Hamilton wants the rest of the city and the region to know more about former residents Alfred and Elma Milotte and their films, which earned the couple a total of six Academy Awards
This Saturday marks the first Milotte Wildlife Film Festival, hosted by the Greater Bonney Lake Historical Society. The hope is for the festival o become an annual event where nature filmmakers can show their work.
But this first year, all of the films being shown will be by the festival’s namesake couple.
“This year is pretty much an introduction of the Milottes back to the community,” Hamilton said.
Alfred and Elma Milotte moved to the Bonney Lake area in 1958, buying a large tract of land that had views to Mount Rainier in the East and Puget Sound to the west.
The couple used to say their home was their “island in the sky” and the name stuck, though it has been reformed into the Sky Island neighborhood we know today.
“The whole Sky Island development is basically the Milotte property,” Hamilton said.
But prior to settling permanently on the Plateau, the Milottes had been all over the world, making nature films for Disney’s “True Life Adventures” highlighting animals from all around the world, from the seals in Alaska to lions in Africa and “Nature’s Strangest Creatures” in Australia.
This year, the Historical Society is showing three of the Milotte’s Oscar-winning films.
First up will be “Seal Island,” the couple’s first collaboration with Disney. Also shown will be “Bear Country,” filmed in Yellowstone National Park and “Beaver Valley,” filmed in Montana.
“They did all the cinematography,” Hamilton said.
The festival runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Justice Center, 9002 Main St. E. and all three movies will be shown twice during the day. The event is free and open to the public.
There will also be a costume contest for kids and representatives form the Relay for Life will be on hand selling popcorn as a fundraiser.
For more information on the festival and the Milottes, visit www.mwlff.org.