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Blue Planet’s Alastair Fothergill talks to TBI

Alastair Fothergill is the highest-profile producer of factual programmes in the world. The exec producer of mega-budget blue-chip docs Blue Planet and Planet Earth,  he spent most of his career at the BBC before signing a deal with Disney’s start-up feature doc unit Disneynature in 2008. He now spends half of his year working for the US company and half for the UK public broadcaster.

Why did you decide to make Frozen Planet?
It’s the first time anyone has looked at both Polar Regions in one show and there are interesting comparisons that can be made. The scale and power of the wilderness, scenery and elements is extraordinary.

Was the timing important?
We wanted to do it now because those regions are changing very fast. No-one else will have the resources to do anything similar for a long time and when they do, the landscape will have changed a lot.  

What were the standout moments while making the show?
There’s an extraordinary sequence of killer whales cooperating to wash seals off an ice flow and another of a pack of wolves hunting buffalo.

What have you got coming up with Disneynature?
First, there is African Cats, which opened on April 22, Earth Day. It will have a big release and that’s one of the joys of working with Disney, if they go for something they really go for something.

Will it appeal to an audience beyond natural history fans?
It’s the first natural history movie that you don’t have to be interested in natural history to enjoy. It’s a very strong story, in part, about a lion cub, Mara, whose mother dies.

It’s Disney – is it scripted at all?
We wrote a script, but it changed. Obviously, Disney is a family-oriented company, but it’s not talking animals. They are real stories. The idea is that Disneynature becomes known in the same way as something like Pixar.

How much more are you planning to do with Disney?
I’m currently contracted for two films. The other is a Chimpanzee idea.