BEAR GRYLLS’ ‘HOS­TILE PLANET’ REV­ELS IN TOUGH AN­I­MALS

The Tribune (SLO) - - Ticket - BY RICK BENTLEY

Tele­vi­sion pro­grams ex­am­in­ing na­ture have been around for decades. The dif­fer­ence with what is be­ing pro­duced to­day – such as the new Na­tional Geo­graphic Chan­nel se­ries “Hos­tile Planet” – is the beauty of look­ing at life in the wild now comes with a far more dan­ger­ous el­e­ment.

The main fo­cus of “Hos­tile Planet” is to show the re­silience of an­i­mals that survive in the most hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments. A seg­ment in the new se­ries about polar bears will be vastly dif­fer­ent than what would have been pro­duced 50 years ago.

“What’s in­cred­i­ble about ‘Hos­tile Planet,’ that’s never been done be­fore, is that so many of the sto­ries are so heart­break­ing,” says host Bear Grylls. “And it is an emo­tional thing watch­ing ‘Hos­tile Planet.’”

Grylls, who is also an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the Nat Geo of­fer­ing, has seen much of the tragedy of the nat­u­ral world through his jaunts around the globe. The for­mer mem­ber of the British Spe­cial Forces starred in seven sea­sons of the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel’s Emmy Award-nom­i­nated “Man vs. Wild,” which be­came one of the most watched shows on the planet, reach­ing an es­ti­mated 1.2 bil­lion view­ers.

His fas­ci­na­tion with na­ture started when he was a young­ster and would watch pro­gram­ming such as “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet.” He re­calls be­ing left in awe by those shows for the beauty they re­vealed. While “Hos­tile Planet” will also of­fer stun­ning up-close looks at na­ture, Grylls pre­dicts the re­ac­tion will be more “no, no” than “wow, this is beau­ti­ful.”

The big dif­fer­ence for Grylls is he looks at the footage of events in na­ture through the lens of his sur­vival ex­pe­ri­ences. What he learned when stranded in those iso­lated places was sur­viv­ing is re­ally tough. The re­silience, adapt­abil­ity, re­source­ful­ness, in­tel­li­gence and com­mu­nity he needed are ex­actly what the an­i­mals are do­ing.

“They’re all learning to work to­gether. Where they don’t have strength or speed, they’re hav­ing to be re­source­ful and clever and com­mu­ni­cate. We’re see­ing seals com­mu­ni­cat­ing to bat­tle off sharks. We’re see­ing polar bears learning to hunt whales. We’re see­ing jaguars learning to hunt in the wa­ter for croc­o­diles,” Grylls says. “Stuff you’d think, ‘That’s science fic­tion. That doesn’t re­ally hap­pen.’

“I saw ev­ery wildlife pro­gram ever made when I was a kid, and I never saw any of that. And this is what, for me, is so ex­cit­ing about ‘Hos­tile Planet.’ It’s re­fresh­ing and re­boot­ing a genre that we have all grown up lov­ing and tak­ing it to an­other level.”

The six-part se­ries from ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and Academy Award-win­ning cin­e­matog­ra­pher and direc­tor Guillermo Navarro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), Emmy Award-nom­i­nated pro­ducer Martha Holmes (“The Blue Planet”) and Emmy Award-win­ning Tom Hugh-Jones (“Planet Earth II”), draws at­ten­tion to accounts of an­i­mals that have adapted to the cru­elest evo­lu­tion­ary curve­balls. Each episode spot­lights a unique en­vi­ron­ment – moun­tains, oceans, grass­lands, jun­gles, deserts and polar – to nav­i­gate the con­di­tions en­dured by some of the most com­plex, un­re­lent­ing and awe-inspiring species on the planet.

The im­ages were cap­tured with ev­ery­thing from minia­ture cam­eras to drones. A new piece of equip­ment used on the pro­gram was a rac­ing drone that could travel 100 miles per hour. It was used to cap­ture footage to give the au­di­ence the ex­pe­ri­ence of what it felt like to be an ea­gle, soar­ing through the moun­tains, down the gul­lies and up to the next ridge.

“The point was to show that the stakes are very high and that we were also try­ing to change the lan­guage,” Navarro says. “We wanted to change this sense that ev­ery­thing was led by a voice-over and the im­ages were just il­lus­trat­ing a text. Here, my par­tic­i­pa­tion had to do with how this had to be­come a vis­ual lan­guage, a vis­ual nar­ra­tive, and that the lens had to be in the place for you to be able to con­nect emo­tion­ally with the strug­gle the species go through.

“I see the in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to con­vey this to an au­di­ence and to see how these species are ac­tu­ally do­ing their part. This planet, that also is their planet, we all have to do our part now. But the trans­for­ma­tion, the struc­tural trans­for­ma­tion of the nar­ra­tive is what’s very im­por­tant for me. It has to be the vi­su­als that lead you and talk to you and teach you.”

“Hos­tile Planet” de­buted April 1.

JO­HANNES DU TOIT TNS

The main fo­cus of Bear Grylls’ “Hos­tile Planet” is to show the re­silience of an­i­mals that survive in the most hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments.

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