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Morning Light
Morning Light
Actors: Chris Branning, Kate Theisen, Chris Schubert, Graham Brant-Zawadzki, Chris Clark
Director: Mark Monroe
Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
PG     2009     1hr 37min

Experience a riveting and inspiring true life adventure aboard the high tech sloop Morning Light. Fifteen rookie sailors have one goal in mind, to be part of her crew, racing in the most revered sailing competition on Eart...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Chris Branning, Kate Theisen, Chris Schubert, Graham Brant-Zawadzki, Chris Clark
Director: Mark Monroe
Genres: Special Interests, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Outdoor Recreation, Documentary
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/16/2009
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 10/07/2008
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 37min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: French, Spanish
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Movie Reviews

Outstanding Documentary on Long-distance Sailboat Racing
Mark J | So. Cal | 06/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Being a sailor myself I was looking forward with much anticipation to a story about the Transpac race that starts just a few miles from where I live. Normally, documentaries on sailboat racing follow a pretty standard formula that features quick cuts, long-range helicopter shots, and a few comments from the competitors and supporters. All pretty boring stuff. This film, however, totally smashes that mold.

For the first time, we get a glimpse into the fascinating world of long-distance sailboat racing by giving us the opportunity to get familiar with the characters, the boat (aptly named "Morning Light" - which at the end of the movie provides a bit of Disney magic!) and intense preparation required to compete in one of the premier yacht races. In short, I was blown away. By the way, the photography is utterly amazing - the best we've ever seen in a sailing film.

If you've never been on a sailboat before you'll finally get to see why so many of us find it intoxicating. The boats in the film are the Ferrari's and Lamborghini's of the sea - they're always being fussed over to gain that extra knot or two, in any kind of weather and at any hour. And we get to see that in shot after shot. One great scene shows the boat hitting 27 knots, which sent chills up my spine. For a monohull sailboat, that's just sick!

But the real star of the film is the crew, which, as you've already read, features fifteen rookie sailors that are given the chance to prove themselves against some of the world's best sailors. Their stories are what brings Morning Light her character and heartbeat.

Roy Disney, who was the driving force behind the film, said, "I would like this film to appeal to people who have never been sailing and have always wondered what it's like out there... I'd like for people to understand that it's a very demanding and athletic sport." Roy, you've done a terrific job."
Worthy of time and money, could have been better
Robert D. Steele | Oakton, VA United States | 06/26/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Amazon review above stinks. Ignore it.

I would never, ever, have known of Morning Light if I had not been the only other person in an advanced meterology class in Seattle under master weatherman Lee Chesneau. The skipper Jeremy, the navigator Piet, and the back-up navigator Chris, and I, spent a full week together. I ended up feeding them and the instructor a lot of sushi.

These three were a cut above the norm, but one of the things I learned from being with them was just how normal the crew was, and the fact that they were giving up a working position in order to carry a camaraman--in other words, they came in second to a world-class professional crew even though handicapped by one cargo camaraman. I was surprised not to see this mentioned in the film.

As for the film, it had me on the edge of my seat and as mundane as some may find aspects of the film--not exactly a James Bond movie, and certainly not a drama with hotties such as Wind--for anyone who loves sailing, this is absolutely a great film to view alone or as an excuse for a gathering of like-minded folk.

My biggest disappointment in the film is the lack of detail on training--absent my comment and my direct experience, no one would know they got advanced meterology training, or that their initial southern pick went against everything they were taught (the wind rotates counter-clockwise). Nor did I learn anything of other training.

From talking to them I learned far more about the training and the details of equipping the boat, e.g. they were each allowed one small sack of personal items, and as the boat was put together there were furious arguments about the exact weight of the navigation light at the top of the mast, and the weight of the wire from the light to the power source. That is the kind of stuff I was hoping would be in this film.

So a bit disappointing, but a superb contribution and one that I would recommend as a gift to any aspiring sailor from high school onwards.

Other DVDs in my sailing library (see my Amazon List):
Volvo Round the World Race: The SEB Stopover Reports.
Racing To Win with Gary Jobson

Blu-ray: This film may not be for everyone but I found the d
Dennis A. Amith (kndy) | California | 06/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Transpacific Yacht Race, a race featuring competitors from all over the globe as they start from Point Fermin (southern edge of Los Angeles) and travel through the Pacific Ocean through unforeseen weather conditions and try to reach their goal in Hawaii. A 2,225 nautical mile contest that is known for its challenge, its adventure and teamwork as everyone aspires for excellence.

Executive producers Roy E. Disney who has been part of the Transpac Yacht Race since 1975 and Leslie DeMeuse (who works as an ESPN producer) who also participated in sailing competitions when she was a teenager are passionate about this race and came up with an idea of what if they can find 11 young rookie sailors who had to work together and compete in the 2007 Transpac Yacht Race.

"morning light" is a documentary directed by Mark Monroe and feature cinematography by Josef Nalevansky. The documentary is based upon Disney and his staff finding the young men and women who have sailing experience from college, those who were determined to compete in a professional race.

From 538 applicants down to the initial 30 people invited to Long Beach, California and become part of a small competition trials to determine the applicants strength and weaknesses. From these 30 competitors, Roy Disney, Leslie DeMeuse and sailing master Robbie Haines and crew decide on the the final 15 who were then invited to train in Honolulu, Hawaii and undergo intensive training. These young men and women range from the age of 18 through 23 years old.

After the training, the team leaders will need to determine who will be part of the final eleven who would compete and then prepare for their 2,225 mile competition as they get to ride the 52-foot high, high performance sloop known as "morning light".

The documentary shows us the men and women who go through training in Hawaii and have to learn safety (several professionals have died in Transpac Yacht Race competitions due to unforeseen weather conditions and inadequate safety preparation), due to the demands of the boat and having to continually grind and lift objects, they need to be in their best shape and to do things quickly.

Although the main 15 people get along, we see a few individuals who face major challenges. One sailor goes off to the ski slopes during her training off day and ends up breaking her wrist. Now she is in the risk of not being able to compete professionally. Another sailor has problems swimming and now he is in jeopardy of not making the team. And just the sense of competition of which person will lead the team, who will take what position and then having to decide which of the four people will be cut from the final 11.

And once the race does start, they must work together and make wise decisions in their first professional race.


When it comes to picture quality, "morning light" is presented in 1080p High Definition (aspect ration of 1:85:1). As a big fan of documentaries shot on the ocean, especially in Hawaii, I can tell you that you get very beautiful shots of the sloop on the ocean and nice and beautiful blues of the ocean and the skies. Because the film was shot outdoors, you get to see the vibrancy of the reds and yellows and with occasional shots of Hawaii, we get to see the beauty of the island. Skin tones are natural (well, considering everyone had to apply the lotion on their faces) and blacks are nice and deep. There is little artifacting and noise that can be seen on certain scenes in the documentary but nothing terrible.

But the primary focus is on the ocean and that is where the majority of the action takes place. This is a documentary shot in the ocean and because of the amount of shaking and constant movement, it was noted on the special features of how challenging it was for Director of Photography Josef Nalevansky. There are a few scenes in which drops of ocean water get on the lens but for the most part, considering the challenges of instability on the sloop's movement, picture quality is pretty good.

As for audio, audio is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD (48 kHz/24-bit). Dialogue is clear, music is clear but you get the occasional bad weather with the rains and thunder, the winds and the crashing of waves which come alive. Documentaries are not exactly something to expect superb audio and full usage of all channels but overall, "morning light" manages to capture the sounds of the ocean and of course, the youthfulness of the film by its rock n' roll soundtrack.

As for subtitles, "morning light" is presented in English SDH, French and Spanish.


"morning light" comes with two featurettes. Both are featured in 1080p High Definition with English 2.0 Dolby Digital sound. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

Included are:

* Stories from the Sea with Host Jason Earles - (28:32) "Hannah Montana" star Jason Earles stars in a featurette about behind-the-scenes footage of what was not seen in the documentary, including interviews with both Roy E. Disney and Leslie DeMeuse. Learning how Josef Nalevansky was chosen to shoot the documentary. Also, learning of the impressions of the youths who were selected and what happened to some of them after they were cut from the final selection.
* Morning Light: Making the Cut - (41:52) The actual special that was shown on ESPN. This featurette focuses on the final 30 people who were selected among the 538 applicants. How they had to compete and be evaluated by Roy Disney and his crew and in the end, the 15 people were chosen. This special was enjoyable as we learned of the things that transpired before the actual documentary. So, I'm glad this was included on the Blu-ray.


I happen to find "morning light" quite enjoyable to watch. I have always found it entertaining to watch films especially about college students who have taken up collegiate sports that may be unfamiliar with most people. From rowing competitions featured on the 1984 film "Oxford Blues", to people competing in badminton, surfing and various competitions. In this case, college students who were (and some who still are) members of their collegiate sailing team.

I found it fascinating to watch these young men and women who were very passionate about sailing and how excited they were to be part of such a project.

For Roy E. Disney and Leslie DeMeuse, to film a documentary on the sport definitely helps generate interest but also brings the spotlight to these athletes and gives us who are not familiar with these competitions a chance to see what is involved.

So, as a documentary, I found it quite entertaining. If anything, it was good to see everyone come together as a team. There were no major squabbles, if anything, the most difficult part that these people had to endure outside of the competition was having to cut the four people they trained with for six months. And of course, those who were cut having to face disappointment.

I found the whole race and the cinematography captured to be quite breathtaking. I am quite biased towards aquatic based films and I just found the whole sense of leadership, teamwork and adversity among these rookies who don't know each other all that well, having to come together and work together for ten grueling days in the middle of the ocean with no one but themselves to depend on.

It also helps to have two enjoyable featurettes, one special that was shown on ESPN showing the viewer what transpired before the documentary of "morning light" and another featurette that shows us what happened to some of the people who were cut from the team but were given some real awesome opportunities. But what caught my attention was when both Disney and DeMeuse were talking about "Trash Island", areas in the Pacific Ocean where people who have dumped their litter and it has all been collected in certain parts of the ocean and have become poisons to aquatic life (plastics dissolve into polymers and become ingested by aquatic organisms and enters the food chain). I was surprised to hear about all this.

Overall, "morning light" may not be a documentary for everyone. I can see sailing enthusiasts and those who are open and are curious about the Transpacific Yacht Race to watch this documentary and enjoy it. I've never sailed in my life but I do appreciate the sport and enjoyed the documentary.

If you are a person who has an interest in sailing or any ocean sports, I definitely recommend giving "morning light" a chance!"
Impressively shot documentary
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 01/01/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)


Since 1906, boaters from all corners of the globe have gathered to compete in the Transpacific Yacht Race, a two-week-long sailing competition that extends across more than 2,000 miles of open ocean, starting in Los Angeles and ending in Honolulu. In 2007, Roy Disney and a team of expert trainers sponsored a hand-picked crew of young sailors - ages 18 to 23 - to compete in the event (indeed, it was the youngest team in the history of the race). Named after the 52-foot boat on which they sailed, "Morning Light" is a documentary account of both the preparation for that race and the race itself.

The movie spends much of the first half focusing on the grueling training the youngsters underwent as part of the process of whittling down the group of 15 hopefuls to a final crew of just 11.

Directed by Mark Monroe, "Morning Light" is a wholesome, upbeat, fast-paced documentary with razor-sharp editing (by Monroe and Paul Crowder) that really gets the adrenaline pumping, and cinematography (by Josef Nalevansky) that truly makes you feel like you're a part of the action. Through interviews, we get to know a little about the youngsters themselves, what motivates them, what excites them about sailing, and what it means to them personally to make - and, indeed in some cases, to not make - the final cut.

With its inspirational, shoot-for-the-stars pop-rock soundtrack, MTV-style editing techniques and "Real World" communal setup (albeit a squeaky-clean one), the movie is clearly aimed at a younger audience. And there are times when the movie does feel a little too "Disneyfied" for its own good (did none of these young adults ever once swear?). But folks of any age will be able to thrill to this film, provided they have a spirit of adventure - armchair variety or not."