“America the Beautiful” is the newest nature docuseries to hit Disney+, but it’s unlike any nature series ever made. That’s because of the new ways of capturing the beauty of the United States like never before – like using a fighter jet.
“Aerial photography was brought in to bring a new sense of scale and scope to our Earth,” said aerial cinematographer Greg Wilson. “So a camera strapped to a (non-combat) fighter jet made sense.”
Some of the most beautiful photography in the show are the shots done with the jet, and are basically time-lapse imagery stitched together to make it feel like you’re hopping from one ecosystem to another. “It’s like a Superman effect that hasn’t been seen ever in a nature series before,” Wilson continued.
Series producers Vanessa Berlowitz and Mark Linfeld are seasoned nature documentarians having made the award-winning “Planet Earth” series for the BBC, and a few Disneynature films. However, being asked by National Geographic to create something hyper-specific and unique was the challenge they were up to.
“It’s such a beautiful continent that has every habitat and the most beautiful wildlife that we really had to be selective and yet paint a complete picture of America,” said Linfeld.
The crew was limited due to COVID, but the pandemic brought another unique benefit to shooting the show that they didn’t think would ever happen: no people in the national parks and allowing the jets with cameras into them to shoot more unique shots. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see an empty Grand Canyon, and the wildlife that essentially took back their land while we were all away,” said Berlowitz.
While the nature and the wildlife beauty of America is certainly at the forefront with the series, the creators of the show are also hoping it speaks to deeper truths about America that only film can do.
“It’s sad to see America so divided right now and walk away from the diversity that makes this country so unique, but the ‘secret’ message we have in our show is that biodiversity can really teach us all a lesson about what it means when we can live in harmony with one another,” said Berlowitz. Added Linfeld, “Michael B. Jordan (the show’s narrator) also felt very deeply about that sentiment and made him want to do the show even more.”
“This series is a powerful visual message of what our country looks like and the hopeful nature of landscape and the creatures that should be celebrated as we take it all in with awe, but hopefully with lesson learned at this critical moment,” said Wilson.
“America the Beautiful” is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.
Our special thanks to Greg Wilson, Vanessa Berlowitz, and Mark Linfeld for contributing to this story!