BEAR GRYLLS’ ‘HOSTILE PLANET’ REVELS IN TOUGH ANIMALS
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.
The main focus of Bear Grylls’ “Hostile Planet” is to show the resilience of animals that survive in the most hostile environments.