Disneynature is about to debut its newest film, this time about polar bears. Led by Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson (who also did the previous Disneynature film “Penguins”), “Polar Bear” tells the story of a new mother whose memories of her own youth prepare her to navigate motherhood in the increasingly challenging world that polar bears face today.
Once again, the signature Disneynature narrative structure meshed with beautiful wildlife photography makes this film a fun and emotional documentary-style film.
We spoke with Fothergill and Wilson about the project in a virtual interview that we’ve posted excerpts of below.
DE: What was the biggest challenge in making “Polar Bear”?
AF: The principal challenge like all these films is capturing video of the wildlife. For “Polar Bear” it is weathering the very cold environments and traveling to places through sea ice. It’s all very unpredictable and dangerous to follow these bears for our shots.
DE: How do you come up with a storyline when you are capturing video of unpredictable/untrainable animals?
JW: There’s a preliminary script written, and we put a lot of effort into it at the beginning of making these movies. They need to have a solid narrative before we even pitch to Disney. The script itself is the culmination of 25+ years of Alastair and I working in the arctic and knowing a lot of these bears. There’s a lot of science to their behavior, too.
DE: In other words, you all already know what you’re capturing. It’s just a matter of timing to get those shots that would match your script?
AF: That’s essentially correct, and sometimes that script will change based on what we capture. The great joy of wildlife filmmaking is the natural world can present to you things that you could never imagine in your wildest dreams. That’s what is exciting about all this – the strong probability that the arctic and the bears will show you something special.
DE: You also didn’t end up giving a name to the main polar bear captured as the protagonist in the film. Previous Disneynature films would have given a name to their subject. Why didn’t you do it for this one?
JW: That’s correct, we didn’t give our polar bears names. It’ll be the first Disneynature film that is told in the First-Person perspective. And per that, First-Person storytelling never refers to him or herself by name, and to be honest, it made our project an even bigger creative challenge. In the end, we thought it worked for the better in our story.
Our special thanks to Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson for contributing to this story!