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.

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