Al­berta bears, Toronto rac­coons fea­tured in ‘Planet Earth II’


Bears bust­ing a move in the Cana­dian Rock­ies and a ras­cally rac­coon fam­ily in Toronto are among the an­i­mals pro­filed in “Planet Earth II,” the fol­lowup to the mas­sively pop­u­lar 2006 TV se­ries that won four Em­mys.

De­but­ing Satur­day on BBC Earth, the vis­ually ar­rest­ing six­part se­ries was filmed in 4K in 40 coun­tries over a span of three and a half years, fea­tur­ing ex­otic jun­gles, deserts, is­lands and grass­lands.

The sec­ond episode vis­its the Al­berta Rock­ies and shows griz­zly bears com­ing out of hi­ber­na­tion and do­ing a dance against trees to scratch them­selves.

Film­mak­ers cap­tured the footage by in­stalling cam­eras up high in trees that were iden­ti­fied by sci­en­tists as be­ing among the type that bears like to use. They left the cam­eras there for sev­eral weeks and came away with in­ti­mate and hi­lar­i­ous footage.

“It’s funny, that se­quence feels a bit voyeuris­tic,” said El­iz­a­beth White, pro­ducer of “Planet Earth II.”

“The way they get into their danc­ing, it re­ally looks like th­ese twerk­ing bears. It was a re­ally fun one in the edit, they put some great mu­sic to it. It’s a side of bears that you wouldn’t ex­pect to see.”

The rac­coons are seen in a city-fo­cused episode as they nav­i­gate the streets - and garbage bins - of Toronto late at night.

“I think we just wanted to show a parental strug­gle,” said White. “It’s an adorable story. It’s a mother look­ing after her lit­tle ones and try­ing to look at the city through their eyes.”

Hans Zim­mer did the score and English vet­eran broad­caster David At­ten­bor­ough nar­rates the se­ries, which of­fers new per­spec­tives on an­i­mals and the planet us­ing so­phis­ti­cated tech­nol­ogy, in­clud­ing drones and ther­mal-imag­ing cam­eras.

The se­ries of­fers rare footage, in­clud­ing river dol­phins deep in the Ama­zon, fe­male birds of par­adise in the jun­gle, and adult chin­strap pen­guins feed­ing their chicks on the re­mote is­land of Zavodovski.

The first episode fea­tures is­land life and White said they had to bat­tle El Nino dur­ing film­ing, but added that it “was rel­a­tively easy in that a lot of is­land an­i­mals are quite naive to hu­mans.”

“They’re not used to hu­man be­ings and so they don’t feel mas­sively threat­ened by them,” she said.

The is­land episode starts with a story of a sloth who swims great lengths to find a mate. It also shows a fierce ko­modo dragon bat­tle and a slew of snakes hunt­ing down a hatch­ling ma­rine iguana.

The high-stakes snake-iguana se­quence has gone vi­ral on­line, with over nine mil­lion views on the BBC Earth YouTube chan­nel.

“We knew that snakes hunted igua­nas but we had no idea we’d see such big num­bers of snakes, so that’s quite a spec­tac­u­lar piece of footage,” said White.

White said pro­duc­ers go into film­ing with an idea of the drama they want to cap­ture, but don’t al­ways come away with it. In the sloth se­quence, for ex­am­ple, they were hop­ing to cap­ture a suc­cess­ful mat­ing ef­fort but alas, the love was un­re­quited.

The cre­ators con­sult with ex­perts in or­der to make sure they’re re­spect­ing the an­i­mals and their nat­u­ral habi­tat, she said.

“There are rules and reg­u­la­tions, so you have to work within the frame­work of our own eth­i­cal code and also the peo­ple who you’re work­ing with,” said White.


Griz­zly bears are shown in a handout photo for the se­ries “Planet Earth II.” Bears bust­ing a move in the Cana­dian Rock­ies and a ras­cally rac­coon fam­ily in Toronto are among the an­i­mals pro­filed in “Planet Earth II,” de­but­ing Satur­day on BBC Earth.

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