If fish could speak, underwater docs would take on a whole new dimension. Alas, only in the wonderful world of cartoons can a sweet little clown fish or a malicious shark bond with an audience by eloquently spewing forth their fears, hopes and desires.
So thought Guillermo Sierra, VP of programming and production for Discovery Networks Latin America/ Iberia (DNLA/I), when he approached the Buenos Aires office of Buena Vista International (BVI) about collaborating on a doc that shows the real-life world depicted in the Walt Disney/Pixar Animation film Finding Nemo. The feature follows two clown fish trying to reunite after being accidentally separated, and takes moviegoers on an epic journey through the Great Barrier Reef. ‘There was a lot of potential for us to do something, because the movie portrays the various animal species very clearly,’ explains Sierra, who first saw the film when it opened theatrically in North America at the end of May.
The Disney-owned distrib agreed. The result is Discovering the World of Nemo, a 30-minute special that premiered on Discovery’s Latin American feeds on Friday, July 11, at 7 P.M. Says Laura Rama, VP of marketing and brand development for The Walt Disney Company (Latin America), ‘The program allowed us to create awareness with an audience that’s not necessarily the core audience for animated films.’
The doc blends live-action footage with animated sequences pulled from the feature film’s electronic press kit. Although the program was produced in-house by DNLA/I, Disney was able to approve the script and its execution. Specifically, Rama says she ensured that characters weren’t used out of context, that every scene was appropriate for family viewing, and that the animated clips were only used in a promotional manner. ‘Pixar ultimately owns the film,’ she explains. ‘If we go beyond a promotional use for this TV special, Pixar will have to get involved.’
DNLA/I retained exclusive control over the editorial content of the live-action sequences, which were culled from 70 programs in the Discovery library.
‘You’re going to start seeing a lot of these with us,’ says Sierra. ‘We’re trying to partner with entertainment companies to tell stories the way a [fiction/drama] production would: using more special effects and better narration. Let’s take the documentary to the next step.’