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Joely Richardson Narrates PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME, Opening in IMAX & More

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Joely Richardson Narrates PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME, Opening in IMAX & More

The giant panda is one of the rarest species on our planet. A shy, elusive and gentle creature, they once ranged in great numbers between Beijing and the Himalayas. But now, after centuries of human expansion and destruction of their habitat, the giant pandas are on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 1,600 remaining. PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME, a groundbreaking natural-history film, captures for The First Time in 3D on the world's largest screens the highly endangered giant pandas living in Wolong National Nature Reserve in the People's Republic of China. This new 3D/2D giant screen film experience gives audiences a unique glimpse into one of the most incredible conservation efforts in human history. The scientists' goal: to increase the numbers in captivity and, far more ambitiously, to return pandas to the wild --to their natural home. Presented by National Geographic Entertainment, this original production will premiere in 3D, 2D, 15/70 and digital formats and will open in giant-screen, IMAX® and digital 3-D cinemas around the United States and worldwide beginning May 2014.



Directed by Nicolas Brown (Human Planet) and produced by Caroline Hawkins (Meerkats 3D), PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME, is an Oxford Scientific Films Production for National Geographic Entertainment and Sky 3D, in association with the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association, Wolong Panda Conservation Centre, CCTV9 and Nat Geo WILD.



Narrated by Joely Richardson, the 40-minute large format film PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME follows the pandas at a significant milestone in their history. After decades of captive breeding, the Wolong National Nature Reserve has hit its target number of 300 giant pandas and now must tackle the challenge of reintroducing breeding populations of the species to the wild. Filmmakers were given unrivalled access to the Wolong National Nature Reserve with the support of the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association and the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda. Oxford Scientific Films was granted permission to film the rare release of a panda bred in captivity and to follow a group of pandas being prepared for the wild in a mountain habitat, a first for a Western film crew. Alongside the natural breeding program, the film also captures the captive breeding program, including footage of newborns, young pandas playing, and methods of encouraging pandas to mate.



"PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME will give audiences insight into the extraordinary strides that have been made towards saving the panda in the wild, but will also convey that much work has yet to be done," said Lisa Truitt, president of National Geographic Cinema Ventures (NGCV). "This is an important story, and National Geographic is grateful for the special access in order to feature the iconic, beloved, charismatic panda on the giant screen and in 3D."



Audiences will also get a chance to help with the conservation effort by participating in a texting campaign to raise funds for the preservation of the pandas' shrinking habitats. They can text PANDA to 50555 to contribute $10 towards a grant that National Geographic will award to the World Wildlife Fund for one of its panda conservation programs, details of which can be found at http://ngpandas.com.



PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME is a true exploration of the environment the pandas are being equipped to live in, taking audiences to the center of the fight to reveal the incredible lengths researchers are going to in order to save them from extinction. PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME follows China's quest to save the giant panda from extinction and the remarkable process leading to the release of a young male panda into the wild.



Very little is known about the behavior and breeding patterns of these shy mountain creatures. Breeding them in captivity largely began as a case of trial and error. But the plan is working and now the dream of releasing captive-bred pandas into the wild has become a reality. At birth, pandas are exceptionally vulnerable; blind and tiny. The cubs at Wolong National Nature Reserve's Bifengxia Panda Base are raised carefully and lovingly, developing playful and affectionate bonds with their keepers, and are carefully monitored by the vets and wildlife scientists at the base.



After years spent simply trying to breed more cubs and raise them to adulthood, the conservationists are now embarking on the next phase of their species-wide rescue mission: releasing these charges back into the wild. But there is a challenge facing them. Pandas raised by humans are not equipped to survive on their own. The last panda to be released, several years ago, survived for only one year before being killed by predators. The conservationists are determined to prevent tragedies like this from happening, and have developed a comprehensive wild training program for the pandas in their care. As a transitional environment, they use the breeding center in Wolong, where the pandas are distanced from humans and prepared to live a life in the wild.



Audiences are introduced to one of the residents, Tao-Tao, who is destined to be released into the remote LiTzu Ping reserve, where only 13 pandas remain. The hope is that Tao-Tao, strong and healthy, will find a female panda and introduce a new bloodline to this precious wild group. Tao-Tao could be the last chance of survival for this tiny population of giant pandas. Audiences are introduced to the conservationists at Wolong tasked to teach Tao-Tao to find water and food on his own and to recognize danger. Cameras capture Tao-Tao's much-anticipated release into the wild, an emotional culmination of years of work, carrying the hope for the future of the species.



PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME invites audiences to witness all of the extraordinary efforts to save the panda and introduce them back in to the wild. With the species excruciatingly close to extinction, PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME is an extraordinary picture of how pandas live and the astonishing measures conservationists are taking to ensure their future.



For more information on PANDAS: THE JOURNEY HOME, including Theater Listings, links to the trailer, and behind-the-scenes videos, visithttp://ngpandas.com. Become a fan on Facebook at facebook.com/NatGeoMovies. Or follow us on Twitter @NatGeoMovies.



About National Geographic Cinema Ventures/National Geographic Entertainment

National Geographic Cinema Ventures/National Geographic Entertainment is responsible for production and distribution of giant screen, 3-D and specialty films. Over the last decade, NGCV/NGE has produced or released a number of successful films, including Oscar-nominated documentaries "Restrepo" and "The Story of the Weeping Camel"; giant-screen award-winning films "Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure," "U2 3D," "Mysteries of Egypt" and "Forces of Nature"; and feature-length films "The Last Lions" and "Life in a Day." Lisa Truitt is president of NGCV/NGE, and Mark Katz is president of NGCV/NGE distribution. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com/movies.


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