Docs

Smithsonian launches first VR title

Smithsonian Channel, a joint venture between CBS’s Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian Institute, and Smithsonian’s National Zoo are collaborating on a virtual reality experience centered on the zoo’s pandas, Tian ...
November 21, 2019

Smithsonian Channel, a joint venture between CBS’s Showtime Networks and the Smithsonian Institute, and Smithsonian’s National Zoo are collaborating on a virtual reality experience centered on the zoo’s pandas, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang, along with their offspring, the (at the time of filming) 3-year-old Bao Bao and 1-year-old Bei Bei.

Using specially designed, “panda proof” 360-degree cameras, Pandamonium: A Virtual Experience (pictured) puts viewers in the field to witness a historic period: the first time that four giant pandas were being cared for at the zoo to help improve the species’ status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” by studying panda breeding.

Over the course of a 10-month filming period, filmmakers captured behind-the-scenes footage of significant milestones, including Bei Bei’s first birthday and Bao Bao’s final physical exam before a trip to China.

Pandamonium: A Virtual Experience is a Smithsonian Channel-Smithsonian’s National Zoo production with Run Riot Films. Executive producers for Run Riot Films are Chris Tuss, Josie Swantek and Dave Adams. Executive producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle and Charles Poe.

“Millions of fans have been captivated by the giant pandas by visiting the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, DC, or watching their Pandacam online. Now, they can actually be up in the branches with Bei Bei, and watch at arm’s length his interactions with his mom, Mei Xiang – it’s like being part of the family,” said Poe, SVP of production for Smithsonian Channel, in a statement. “It’s especially poignant to see these moments now that Bei Bei is joining his sister Bao Bao in China.”

The VR experience will be available starting Nov. 29 at Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

In other Smithsonian Channel news, the network will premiere two new docs next month.

Leopard Huntress, which airs Dec. 4 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, follows a female leopard’s struggles after her cub is killed in a fight with a male, while The Leopard Rocks, premiering Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, is about a family of leopards living on rocky hills, riddled with caves, in Rajasthan, India.

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