On April 7th, 2022 Chip and Company got to sit down (virtually) with directors Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson to talk about their new Disneynature film Polar Bear. Polar Bear tells the story of a new mother whose memories of her youth prepare her to navigate motherhood in the increasingly challenging world that polar bears face today. Disneynature’s Polar Bear will be streaming exclusively on Disney+ starting April 22nd, 2022.
Fothergill, who’s been filming polar bears for more than 20 years, knew there was a story to tell about polar bears, and it’s only deepened in the dozen years since he first pitched the film to Disneynature. “I’ve always known that polar bears would deliver—they’re unbelievably beautiful creatures and simply dominant in their habitat,” he says. “And the landscape is amazing; it’s second to none. Plus, polar bear cubs just might be the cutest cubs on the planet, which is perfect for Disneynature”.
Wilson and Fothergill previously worked on Frozen Planet, a series for BBC’s Natural History Unit, that fueled both filmmakers’ passion for the Arctic. But filming in this part of the world brings its challenges, “it’s very cold for half of the year, it’s also dark for half of the year and we had a six-month filming window so those were our initial challenges” mentions Wilson. In the Arctic the region goes dark from early October through February-this season is known as the northern lights winter. During the other seasons, between April and August, the sun never sets and allows filmmakers to work around the clock.
“We had quite a small crew of people [helping on set]. We work with highly trained, highly expertise set of people and rightly so because were dealing with an animal that is one very rare [to find] but also very dangerous” states Wilson. While filming these highly expertise people helped the team stay safe but also find the bears because as Wilson mentions, “You can wait days or even weeks without finding any bears…And when you do come across one, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to film. That bear will choose whether they are willing to tolerate you in their presence for long enough to film—we’re very careful in these circumstances. Bears are living on the edge of survival up there so it’s not really in our interest to pursue a bear to get footage. The bear always has to accept you from the moment you appear on their horizon. Half the bears accept you and half don’t.”
Not only do the polar bears pose a big threat to the crew on set but also the land itself, in the Arctic, poses a threat on set. Wilson mentions, “Sea Ice is a very dangerous, very moveable environment to work on, and [they were] typically moving on 60 cm thick ice, that is above 500 foot of open ocean and it’s a very thin line that you are walking on or driving a vehicle on”.
Although there were risks on set, Wilson, Fothergill, and their crew spent a total of 241 days filming in the Arctic and traveled 46,336 kilometers on a skidoo. Other stats from the set include:
- 94 Days in the camp
- 147 Days on a boat
- 650 miles from filming location to the North Pole
- 1,747 packets of freeze-dried food consumed
- 2,040 Yorkshire tea bags consumed
- 210 days in editing
Chip and Company would like to thank Fothergill and Wilson for sitting down and chatting with us about their new film, we cannot wait to stream Polar Bear on April 22, 2022, exclusively on Disney+. As always stay tuned here at Chip and Company for all things Disneynature and new movies streaming on Disney+.
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