BBC Studios “Animal Impossible” EP on taking a “fresh approach” to natural history

The BBC Studios Natural History Unit (NHU) and Migu Video, the video platform of state-owned telecom China Mobile, are putting well known animal facts to the test in the 10-part ...
February 10, 2020

The BBC Studios Natural History Unit (NHU) and Migu Video, the video platform of state-owned telecom China Mobile, are putting well known animal facts to the test in the 10-part series Animal Impossible, headed to the studio’s 44th Showcase in Liverpool, England this week.

Hosts Tim Warwood (pictured left) and Adam Gendle (right) “risk life and limb” to uncover the truth about the natural kingdom, answering questions such as: Do cats always land on their feet? And, could a squid sink a ship?

Doug Hope, who developed the series and serves as executive producer, says the NHU expects the show to attract a “broad audience.

“I know everything about natural history, or so I thought, and I’ve learned things from this show that I didn’t think we would. It’s been fascinating… People that think they know will be amazed and surprised,” he tells Realscreen. “It’s definitely skewing younger, because it’s a lot of fun. It’s fun natural history, and we’ve not done that before. And I don’t think anyone’s doing that. We’re hoping the audience will be huge.”

Hope first pitched Animal Impossible to co-production partner Migu at the annual Showcase a few years ago.

“They loved the freshness of the content. They have a youth-facing audience, and they really wanted to work with the Natural History Unit, so this title really worked for them,” he says.

In each 50-minute episode, Warwood and Gendle embark on a globe-trotting journey of discovery, quizzing experts and conducting “bonkers” stunts, Hope says, from swimming with piranhas to dangling off a piece of rope made of spider silk over a canyon in Utah.

Outside the U.S. and UK, the presenters travel to far-flung locations such as Africa, China, Costa Rica and South America, with episodes featuring “bear-proof engineering,” birds that prey on monkeys, an undercover robotic shark (below), a face-off with an angry bull and a mechanical giant squid, to name a few scientific adventures.

animal impossible

“The energy they have is just exhausting and relentless but also hysterical,” Hope says of Warwood and Gendle. “We present it as these two guys that want to keep asking questions. They’re naturally curious and they ask those basic questions that take you on this great journey to discover the how and why of these 10 facts – and even if they’re true.”

Animal Impossible is the first partnership between BBC Studios and Migu. Despite challenges, such as distance and language barriers, Hope says the partnership has been “fantastic,” and the NHU plans to deliver the series to Migu by the end of February.

“Ultimately, they just loved the content and the two presenters,” he said. “We’re delivering it to them very soon. The proof will be in the audience.”

Looking ahead, Hope says the studio plans to take the series’ fresh approach to natural history storytelling, which includes “modern” digital components, even further.

“We’ve got big ambitions. The key to these kinds of things is we build it so we know its got a huge capacity,” he adds. “I have written season two and we’ve also written season three because there’s no end to extraordinary facts in the natural world. The key will be the audience and if they come to it and love it as much as I do, then I think it has got the potential to be one of those series that keeps on going.”

An array of international talent are expected to attend the 2020 BBC Studios Showcase, which runs Feb. 9 to 12 in Liverpool. The four-day content market spans content financing, development, production and sales for the Studio’s own productions, and programs and formats from UK indies.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news editor at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joined the RS team in 2015 with experience in journalism following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and with communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.