'Oceans' a captivating ride

It was on Earth Day 2009 that Disney’s new division, Disneynature, brought out its first film, the stunningly beautiful documentary “Earth,” a visual poem to the place we all call home.

One year later, in honor of this year’s Earth Day, the imprint releases a companion piece of sorts, the slightly less impressive but still captivating “Oceans,” an adventure into the underwater world that covers most of the planet.

Whereas “Earth” told its ecological message through the lives of animals struggling through a season — a father polar bear separated from family, an elephant and her calf searching for water, and a humpback whale and her calf migrating from the tropics to the Antarctic — “Oceans” is more of a random collection of images from the deep.

But, boy, what images.

While viewers may not bond with the animals in “Oceans” in the same way as they did in “Earth,” they still will be mesmerized by what directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (who also made the birds-themed doc, “Wings of Migration,” in 2001) have been able to put on screen.

From the martial march of an ocean-floor of spider crabs on the attack (these could have been the inspiration for “Starship Troopers”) to the simple elegance of the ribbon eel, from the haunting grace of the half-block-long, 120-ton blue whale (an image it reportedly took the filmmakers seven months to get) to a feeding frenzy of sea birds dive-bombing for dinner, “Oceans” has more than its share of jaw-dropping scenes.

But even if the film doesn’t let us get to know one group of animals well in the way that “Earth” did, there are still moments of heartbreak. When the baby turtles have the bad luck to be born on the beach in broad daylight, in full view of a flock of swooping birds, the race to get into the safety of the water proves more perilous than usual. (It’s also ironic, considering the work Perrin and Cluzaud have done in the past, that the birds prove to be the bad guys. But birds, like fish and turtles, have to eat, too.)

The biggest problem with “Oceans” is that, clocking in at under 90 minutes, it feels short. All the more reason then to hope for lots of unused footage on the DVD.