It’s not hard to disassociate from the realities of filmmaking when you turn on your TV. But every once in a while, you’ll see something that makes you go, “How did they film that?” Particularly in nature documentaries, where visual effects aren’t in play, it’s sometimes hard to believe that a human being was that close to nature to bring us this incredible footage. That’s why I loved National Geographic’s Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory and why I continue to enjoy its follow-up series, Animals Up Close with Bertie Gregory.
The title might be different, but the format is the same. Each episode follows Betie and his team as they arrive at a new location with a goal in mind. The six-part season starts with “Antarctic Killer Waves,” named after the hunting practices of B1 orcas who work together to splash seals off sheets of sea ice to make them easier to hunt. Not only does he capture incredible killer whale behavior on film, but you get to see the dangers of gathering this footage. From nearly getting trapped in the ice to trying to navigate a drone in the midst of a windstorm, the adventure is undoubtedly epic.
I’m always fascinated by the innovative ways wildlife filmmakers go about achieving their shots. From new technology like drones and camera traps to getting up close and personal, it’s often just as incredible as the final footage. In the sixth episode, “Elephant Quest,” Bertie and his team capture incredible footage of “Tuskers,” the biggest of all male elephants, using a mix of camera traps by day and thermal cameras by night to be completely invisible to them.
Safety is always top of mind. In “Elephant Quest,” for example, Bertie meets with local elephant experts who are working to protect these majestic creatures from poachers. A calm and serene night shoot turns dangerous when gunshots are heard. In that same episode, Bertie also takes a day trip to film some primates, explaining to the viewer that he and his crew are wearing face masks to protect themselves and the animals from the risk of spreading viruses.
In between the orcas and elephants, this six-episode season takes Bertie to the Galapagos to film sea lions, Botswana to spy on wild dogs, Patagonia to track pumas, and Indonesia in search of the elusive Devil Ray. Whatever the reason may be for the show’s rebrand, these are all epic adventures that also offer up-close moments with animals. Perhaps the former title implied a show like Running Wild with Bear Grylls. What Animals Up Close with Bertie Gregory is (and what Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory was) is a reality series that follows Bertie on his animal assignments. With his enthusiasm for nature and his natural charisma, he’s a star in his own right – although the animals he documents still steal the show.
All 6 episodes of Animals Up Close with Bertie Gregory premiere Wednesday, September 13th on Disney+. Get a taste of what’s to come in the 5-episode series Epic Adventures with Bertie Gregory, streaming now.