National Geographic revealed more natural history global series and specials at Sunday’s TCA gathering in Pasadena. Headlining was the announced return of last summer’s highly successful Yellowstone Live, which is now set for a June 2019 premiere.
The other projects in the works: America, in which a new generation of gyro-stabilized gimbals allow capture of developing shots of animal behavior with never-before-seen levels of dynamism and intimacy; Planet of the Whales, which immerses viewers in the whales’ world through the next generation of visual technology; and Photo Ark, a two-hour event special following National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore’s uncanny mix of humor and an earnest, indefatigable commitment to save everything he can through photography.
“National Geographic has been the gold standard of storytelling about the natural world since its inception 131 years ago, consistently evolving the genre over the years to tell these important stories across our media portfolio to a huge global audience of almost 500 million, in relevant and inventive ways,” said Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Global Television Networks. “Audiences are hungry for knowledge about our world — whether it be themes of conservationism or capturing the diverse wildlife in places they’ve never before been — and we continue to be the most trusted brand to deliver these stories in entertaining, authentic and unique ways across all of our platforms.”
Added Geoff Daniels, EVP Global Unscripted Entertainment at National Geographic Channels: “We are demonstrating how you can take natural history programming and — with bold, innovative, ambitious storytelling from the most creative minds in the business — inject this genre with renewed vigor,” s “The use of ground-breaking cameras and innovative technology has been a game changer that’s driving us to set the bar even higher with breathtaking, narrative, newly visualized animal behaviors and landscapes that will not only entertain but take our viewers to places beyond their wildest imaginations.”
National Geographic’s slate of natural history programming includes the following three titles, which will air globally in 172 countries and 43 languages on National Geographic and Nat Geo Wild.
The show descriptions, per the network:
Six-Episode Series Premieres 2021
(From Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz, Dan Rees, Hugh Pearson, and Tom Stephens
America is a land we think we know. We see its iconic landscapes and wildlife as timeless, but the truth is very different. On this continent of relentless change, every day is a brave new world. Here, unique geography drives the forces of nature to extremes, shaping and reshaping the land and throwing down new challenges for life. This ground-breaking series will journey through the iconic regions that resonate with us most: the frozen north, the Pacific Coast, the Wild West, the grassy heartland and the East Coast. We’ll discover that their distinctive character and wildlife are deeply rooted in the forces that have shaped them in the past and continue to shape them every single day. The series will be a startling portrait of contemporary America — one that couldn’t be more timely. America has always been a restless, vibrant continent, but human activity means it is changing faster today than ever. What is the future for America’s wildlife? One thing is certain: the plants and animals that embody America’s pioneering spirit are the ones most likely to thrive. For them this will continue to be a land of opportunity.
PLANET OF THE WHALES
Four-Episode Series Premieres 2021
(From National Geographic Photographer Brian Skerry, and Brian Armstrong and Shannon Malone-DeBenedictis of Red Rock Films)
Our planet’s least explored territory is ruled by whales. PLANET OF THE WHALES will be filmed for more than two and a half years, in 24 locations, to reveal the incredible life of five different whale species. The series will feature the extraordinary communication skills and intricate social structures they build. We will witness whale species relate with their kin, make lifelong connections and grieve deeply for the loss of loved ones. We will be immersed in whale environments and discover the challenges they face in a changing ocean. The work of acclaimed National Geographic photographer Brian Skerry will help tell the story of the species he’s been capturing on film for decades. Down below the waves, the series will feature a “whale’s-eye view,” using cutting-edge research technology that sees the world from each marine giant’s perspective. These new cameras also function as data tags, which provide important information on the whales’ movements at depths where people cannot follow. It’s a personalized angle that very few are lucky enough to witness. By the end of our journey, we’ll come to understand how whales are a lot like us.
Two-Hour Event Special Premieres 2020
(From National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore and WGBH-Boston)
National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore’s uncanny mix of humor and an earnest, indefatigable commitment to save everything he can through photography is what has powered his successful Photo Ark campaign, a 25-year documentary project to save species and habitat. In PHOTO ARK, Joel picks up where that project left off, leaving his couch in Lincoln, Nebraska, for parts — and risks — unknown. It’s not that he isn’t intrepid, it’s just that his natural habitat gravitates toward The Cheesecake Factory and a good barn sale, though when presented with the prospect of getting a photograph, he “will literally sleep anywhere and eat anything.” And so will we, as we go with Joel after images of some of the most critically endangered and remarkable animals on the planet. Each episode will pivot from Joel’s quest to the animals themselves, featuring rich natural history sequences that reveal unique adaptations and the context of their plight, whether from habitat loss, threat from introduced species, climate change or poaching.
Four-Night Live Event Premieres June 2019
(From Grant Mansfield, James Smith, Andrew Jackson and Martha Holmes of Plimsoll Productions and Al Berman of Berman Productions, Inc)
The unprecedented live broadcast that garnered 13 million viewers in its debut last summer will head back to the nation’s most cherished national park this June. Capturing America’s national treasure on an even greater scale, YELLOWSTONE LIVE will showcase even more of the extraordinary wildlife and stunning vistas the greater Yellowstone ecosystem has to offer. June is one of Yellowstone’s most dynamic times of year — as it emerges from brutal months of winter, flowers are blooming, rivers are rushing with meltwater and Yellowstone is bustling with new life. Encounter cougar cubs venturing out of their underground dens, black bear cubs learning how to hunt and bison protecting their young calves from wolves, as Yellowstone awakens.
Additionally, as previously announced, National Geographic will premiere Hostile Planet, a six-part natural history saga beginning Monday, April 1, at 9/8c. Executive produced by Academy Award-winning cinematographer and director Guillermo Navarro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), Emmy-nominated producer Martha Holmes (“The Blue Planet”), Emmy award-winning Tom Hugh-Jones (“Planet Earth II”) and BAFTA winner Bear Grylls (“The Island”) — who also serves as the series’ host and narrator — Hostile Planet draws attention to the most extraordinary, almost supernatural, accounts of animals that have adapted to the cruelest evolutionary curveballs. The series zooms in on the world’s most extreme environments to reveal the animal kingdom’s most glorious stories of survival on this fast and continuously shifting planet.
For National Geographic, Ashley Hoppin is executive producer of America and Photo Ark; Pam Caragol is executive producer of Planet of the Whales; and Kevin Tao Mohs is executive producer of Yellowstone Live and Hostile Planet.
Janet Han Vissering is SVP Natural History Development and Production.