TV: Prehistoric Planet ‘can capture any viewer’s imagination’

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough and executive produced by Jon Favreau and Mike Gunton, the award-winning natural history series thrilled viewers with the exploration of Tyrannosaurus, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Dreadnoughtus and other species when it first aired last year.

Now, a year later, a new season airing over a week on Apple TV+ offers viewers a second chance to travel back 66 million years to discover more dinosaurs and ancient habitats.

Expect the active volcanoes of India, the swamplands of Madagascar, the deep oceans near North America and beyond.

“It’s both educational and fascinating,” Walker begins. “I find it really quite poignant that if we ignore the past, we don’t know what’s to come in the future,” he says.

“Producing this kind of series about long-lost animals is a stark reminder that we are only here for a brief moment, like any organism. The dinosaurs lived in evolution for more than 150 million years and then were suddenly exterminated in a geological moment.

“We also know that interest in dinosaurs is universal. Everyone loves dinosaurs, especially when they are kids, and it’s an introduction to the world of nature.

“Showing the prehistoric planet as if we filmed it for real – not just a battle show, claws and jaws, bones and rocks, but the incredible animals that lived alongside the dinosaurs and the landscapes – can capture everyone’s imagination. ” Viewers.”

“It’s thought-provoking, like Tim said,” reflects Gunton, whose recent series include the record-breaking Planet Earth II and the animal behavior series Dynasties.

“We’re wildlife filmmakers, we love making films about wildlife, and what greater wildlife, what greater challenge is there to tell stories about extinct animals?” he asks.

“We created an experience and a performance that hopefully conveys a sense that they’re still there, or that we were able to go back to them and be with them.

“The science behind it is about asking questions, understanding and drawing conclusions to develop theories. So it’s an entertainment show, it’s a prime-time television show, but it’s also quite scientific. It is a measure of what we understand about this world in 2023.”

The new episodes – complete with Sir David’s narration and an original music score by Hans Zimmer – combine wildlife films with the latest in paleontology and cutting-edge visual effects to reveal Earth’s ancient inhabitants for a unique, immersive experience.

It’s an opportunity to meet never-before-seen apex predators like the formidable Tarchia; the giant Mosasaurus, a 55-foot long aquatic iguana that can hurtle through the water at incredible speeds; the Isaurus; and flying beasts like the giraffe-sized Quetzalcoatlus.

“The ethos of the series is to draw lines and evidence from many different directions,” Gunton says of new discoveries. “A lot of it actually stems from contemporary biology, understanding the rules of nature and life that apply today. And then use that as a telescope to look into the past.”

“We have a very good relationship with the world of paleontology; We have an embedded scientific advisor, but then we work with more than 40 different advisors worldwide, and they all talk to each other, we talk to them…” Walker says.

“And as we were creating the series, we included new aspects of research that we knew would be published soon,” he reveals. “For example, we introduced lips to many of our theropod dinosaurs, which wasn’t common four or five years ago.”

“We are privileged to swim in this amazing sea of ​​knowledge that the scientific community has given us,” adds Gunton.

“A good metaphor for the project is that what you see on screen is the tiny tip of an iceberg or the top of a pyramid. And it’s based on this absolutely insane amount of work and reasoning. It’s absolutely remarkable.

“One of the things I said when I visited David to talk about this and another project was, ‘How’s the science going?’ So I figured I would take with me all the science I have in my possession, which is two holdalls full of papers and documents. That’s the amount of information.”

“He’s not kidding!” Walker quips. “We have created large books of material research for every animal, every environment, every storyline that we follow. That’s why it’s taking so long.”

Add to that the unparalleled CGI, allowing viewers to experience the Cretaceous like never before and witness dinosaurs move with a level of realism not seen in movies or television.

To make the series as authentic as possible, the BBC Studios Natural History Unit worked with the Moving Picture Company’s visual effects team, who have worked on 3D animated films.

“We work with John Favreau, he’s the guru when it comes to that and he has these wonderful cooking analogies…” Gunton says. “So the secret of this project is the people working on it who, from a production point of view, have spent around 500 years observing and filming animals.

“So when you see something, you think, ‘That looks right’ or ‘That looks wrong.’ You could argue that it’s not a scientific filter, but it’s an incredibly good one. And that’s why the animals look so realistic, not just physically, but in every little movement, micro-gestures that you don’t realize until you’ve been doing it for a long time.”

As for the skeletons, they’re created and rebuilt in a CGI world, says Gunton: “All of the articulation, all of the movement and where the muscles attach, everything is sort of precisely created or connected.” So if you hitting the play button to make that creature move will fire all those things in a totally precise way.”

aroused your interest? In addition to watching the small screen, fans can also listen to the show’s companion podcast, aptly named Prehistoric Planet: The Official Podcast.

In the four-parter, Gunton delves into the making of the groundbreaking series.

There will be an in-depth interview with Favreau, as well as special guests including veteran paleontologists, animators and more, who will unveil the tools used to bring the magnificent habitats – and the creatures that roamed them – to life.

“The other thing that’s really important about this series compared to the last one is that they add a scientific explainer titled ‘Prehistoric Planet Uncovered’ to the end of each episode,” Gunton concludes.

“It takes a story from the episode and then deconstructs the science behind how we were able to pull it off. That is very satisfying for the audience, but also for us.”

Prehistoric Planet is available Monday, May 22 on Apple TV+.

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