Epic ‘Planet Earth II’ offers creatures’-eye view of nature
LONDON From jungles to deserts to mountains, the BBC’s epic nature series “Planet Earth II” takes viewers around the world — and around many genres of television.
The fortitude of a penguin family tugs heartstrings like a love story. The snail’s-pace courtship of a three-toed sloth is soothing comfort TV. And a life-or-death contest between baby iguanas and writhing racer snakes is heart-in-mouth action thriller.
The seven-part series, which begins in the U.S. on Saturday with a simulcast on BBC America, AMC and SundanceTV, is a spectacular demonstration of how far nature programs have come. And no one has been more closely linked to their evolution than David Attenborough, the 90-year-old naturalist who narrates “Planet Earth II.”
Attenborough has been making wildlife documentaries for so long that, when asked about the biggest technological change he’s seen, suggests “the shift from blackand-white to colour” before settling on the transformative power of digital photography.
Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of the show’s U.S. premiere, he said in the days of celluloid film, “I went for as long as 2 1/2 months without seeing what I’d filmed.”
A decade ago, the BBC’s original “Planet Earth” was the first nature series filmed in high definition. The new series — shot in razor-sharp ultraHD — uses even more technological wizardry. Stabilizers and drones let the cameras roam, capturing creatures’eye-views of leaping lemurs and fighting Komodo dragons. Remote camera traps allowed close-ups of elusive snow leopards and grizzly bears.
The result is a show that gets viewers closer to the animals than ever before — and more emotionally involved. Broadcast in Britain in the fall, “Planet Earth II” has been sold around the world and starts airing this week in Canada and Australia.
Attenborough says in the past, program-makers felt “we weren’t giving the viewers the climax that they wanted” if a predator failed to catch their prey. In real life, he said, “the failure is more common and more significant than the catching . ... Lions fail about eight times out of 10.”
Series producer Tom HughJones said he thinks a growing number of female producers has added “a lot more emotion" to wildlife programs.
“They see different things, little looks or tender moments,” he said. “The male producers tend to go for the more bombastic stuff.”
In this May 2012 file photo, British television personality Sir David Attenborough stands with a floral sculpture of himself at Kew Gardens in London. From jungles to deserts to mountains, the BBC's epic nature series "Planet Earth II" takes viewers around the world - and around many genres of television.