By George Bate and Julie Catherine
Disney+ is the home to Darth Vader, Iron Man, Buzz Lightyear, Mickey Mouse, Elsa , and now…gigantic whales, formidable lions, African crowned eagles, and more.
The most beloved franchises in film and television are soon to be accompanied by a new National Geographic series on Disney+. This series is Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory, a funny and gripping nature series that follows the wildlife filmmaker as he embarks on journeys to some of the most unique locations in the world.
The HoloFiles recently had the opportunity to interview Bertie Gregory at D23 Expo 2022 to talk about his new show. The season has Gregory travel all over the world to capture extraordinary wildlife from lions in Zambia to gigantic whales in Antarctica. Gregory spoke about which episode, and which climate, was the toughest to film.
“Without a doubt, the most challenging episode to shoot was the fin whale gathering in Antarctica. We were based on a 75 foot sail boat [while there], which in itself presents its own challenges. We put a lot of people and a lot of food for one month on a little boat. And it smelled really bad by the end [laughs]. And we’re in Antartica so it’s really cold and the weather is really challenging. The whale gathering we were going for happens out in the middle of the ocean and not in the protection of a bay, so we were really at the mercy of the weather. And the weather was awful! But all of that combined to one meant that [filming that episode] was a real challenge, but when it’s hard it means when it comes good it feels even better. So to see on our of last days 300 whales together, the biggest gathering of Finn whales ever filmed, thousands of penguins and big snowy mountains in the background, as a wildlife filmmaker it doesn’t get better than that.”
Unfortunately, the state of the world and climate change means that it’s near impossible to make a series such as this without addressing this pressing threat to the planet. Gregory spoke about the importance of making a show like this and the responsibility to showcase the state of the natural world.
“I’m a filmmaker but I’m also a nature lover first. I think it’s our responsibility to not brush over the fact that the natural world is in big trouble. All too often it is brushed over because it’s easier. To me, it makes a more powerful story though. It’s more powerful to see that the things you’re seeing are gonna be gone soon or, in the case of the Finn whales, to focus on the positives. Because 10, 20, 30 years ago, those gatherings [of whales] did not happen because of the commercial whaling era. Finn whales were pushed almost to extinction in the southern ocean and around Antarctica. Only now because they’re long lived and slow to reproduce are they making that comeback. How exciting is that? If you protect a place, it’ll come back on that scale and look like that! Surely we’ve got to be doing that everywhere.”
As with most nature titles, there’s a complicated process and a lot of thought that goes into the best way to capture animals on film. Gregory spoke of finding the right balance and showing just the right amount of behind the scenes secrets to reveal some of the technical side, while also highlighting how everything is being filmed in a humane way and, therefore, not distressing any animals.
“It’s an interesting balance. I guess you don’t want to get too technical or boring but, at the same time, some of the techniques we use suddenly brings it all to life. That was an important and interesting part of it, not only how to use these tools to film these animals but also how to do it with respect and care. A lot of the tools we’re using have the potential to be disturbing. Like a drone flying makes a noise and it is possible to disturb an animal with a drone. So showing how we do that sensitively is really important.”
Humans’ closest related relative, the bonobo (found only in Congo), is often described as the forgotten Great Ape due to many commonly and incorrectly referring to them as chimpanzees. Gregory has worked with the latter, but says he still hopes to film bonobos one day.
“Definitely of interest! I haven’t ever filmed bonobos before, but I know their biology well because I’ve filmed chimps before. Chimps solve problems in their social structure by fighting and throwing stuff at each other, whereas bonobos solve problems with love. So that’s pretty funny.”
Fans of this new series will be delighted to hear that season two is currently in production, and Gregory gave a small tease for what’s to come.
“We’re halfway through making season two. I can’t really reveal too much about what we’re doing, but let’s just say it’s still very much an epic adventure. I hope they are even more epic and even more adventurous. That’s about all I can say right now without getting in trouble [laughs].”
Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory is now streaming on Disney+.