National Geographic, the newest addition to the Walt Disney Company, is to provide an intimate look at how animals have adapted to survive in some of the world’s most extreme environments in the six-part natural history saga Hostile Planet.
Hailing from Academy Award-winning cinematographer and director Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and Bristol-based natural history filmmakers Plimsoll Productions, Hostile Planet will offer audiences an unflinching look at the volatility of Mother Nature and the resilient animals that have adapted to survive Earth’s most extreme environments, including jungles, mountains, deserts, oceans, the poles and grasslands.
Survivalist and adventurer Bear Grylls (Running Wild with Bear Grylls) serves as host and narrator, guiding viewers through each extreme location to examine the ways in which animals have adapted to survive against all odds.
“Hostile Planet pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in wildlife storytelling with its unique mix of breathtaking cinematography and intimate dramas that reveal the extraordinary ways animals triumph against the most extreme and increasingly volatile forces of nature,” Geoff Daniels, EVP of global unscripted entertainment at National Geographic, tells Realscreen. “With the creative collaboration between renowned survivalist Bear Grylls, Oscar-winning cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and the world-class producers at Plimsoll, landmark series like Hostile Planet demonstrate National Geographic’s commitment to delivering ever more innovative, impactful and immersive natural history experiences that will energize our audiences around the world.”
Hostile Planet premieres Monday (April 1) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on National Geographic in 172 countries and 43 languages.
Ahead of the premiere, Realscreen caught up with Holmes (pictured below), executive producer and head of natural history at Plimsoll, to discuss the production challenges of Hostile Planet and the evolution of the natural history space.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.
National Geographic were keen to partner us up with a Hollywood visionary to break us out of familiar wildlife storytelling habits. Guillermo was alongside us throughout the production, pushing us to rely less on a narrator to explain the stories and ensuring we didn’t revert to conventional techniques.
What sets this natural history series apart from others in the wildlife space?
It is very immersive. Where we can, we tell the stories from the animals’ perspective, on their shoulder if you will, using techniques to move with the animals be they flying through the forest canopy, or running across the savannah. Also, the series has teeth – it doesn’t pull back from the harsh realities of life and the extraordinary lengths animals go to to survive.
Did you encounter any production challenges when developing and producing this project?
Normally just filming animal behavior is challenging enough. Adding the extra element of capturing it during the harshest times and extreme weather conditions made things much more complicated and unpredictable. Not only did it make the odds of success much smaller, it also meant just when most wildlife crews would be packing up and heading home, we were just getting the camera out. Following animals in extremes inevitably means uncomfortable times for the crew.
How do you see the natural history space evolving over the next few years, and how does Hostile Planet play a part in that?
Technology is allowing us to get closer to animals, to film them from new perspectives and, critically, to film them remotely – so I think we will end up capturing some of those super hard to get holy grail sequences. At the same time the natural world is changing and suffering so events and behavior that would normally be bankers will become more unpredictable and the animals harder to find. Hopefully the trend to incorporate an environmental message in wildlife films will play its part shaping the future of an increasingly vulnerable natural world.
Can you tell me about how this project fits with Plimsoll’s brand and why it’s such an important title in your production stable?
Plimsoll’s ambition is to create and produce premium quality content for national and international clients: Hostile Planet is the company’s biggest statement in this space so far.
Demand for blue chip natural history shows has never been greater and Plimsoll, home to many of the world’s best wildlife filmmakers, is now synonymous with this increasingly popular non-scripted genre. Natural history has the rare power to deliver the kind of cinematic beauty that both entertains and informs: this reflects, perfectly, the company’s brand which aspires to produce well-funded series of the highest quality.