Disneynature's Earth: Q&A with the Directors

05/25/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Critically acclaimed duo Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield's latest endeavor is a grand undertaking, to say the least. You likely know them as the filmmakers who brought you the BBC series Planet Earth -- the highest selling HD DVD set to date. Their next project was directing Disneynature's Earth, which was commissioned alongside the TV series. The movie, filmed over the course of five years, opened nationwide on Earth Day (April 22). It's a beautiful experience both visually and audibly -- the surround sound enables the audience to hear the noise of a flower blooming, and James Earl Jones' voice resonating throughout; the wide screen HD format engulfs viewers and brings them to locations so isolated they may never have the chance to see them first hand. The directors took a few minutes for a Q&A session via phone.

AD: What challenges and restrictions did you face, if any, directing and producing for such a broad audience?

Mark Linfield: I think the first thing is obviously we wanted it to be a movie for all of the family. I didn't really think that that placed any restrictions on it at all. One of the things we were very careful about is we didn't want gratuitous blood and gore. If you take, for example, the wolf hunting the caribou, or the cheetah hunting the gazelle, we include all the interesting bits -- all the strategy of the chase and the hunt -- right up to the moment where quite clearly the end has come for the prey animal, and then we move on because we felt that you've seen the interesting bit. You don't really need to see what it looks like when an animal is cut up and the predator has blood all over its chops. And we just thought it would be a real shame if any parent thought that Earth wasn't suitable to take their child to because Alastair and I both feel that Earth's got a lot in it for children and that it's a great chance for them to see what's at stake in their planet and what a beautiful world they live on, and hopefully show them things that they may never see however long they live and however much they travel. So we didn't want to exclude anybody. That's the only, if you like, editing, that we did. However, I should also say that we there was no pressure to Disney-fy it in terms of having no hunting either. We did want to show the circle of life, and we didn't shy away from that, but we did feel there was a limit.

AD: Could you speak about why you chose the story of the sun and the three animals as the narrative?

ML: Obviously the Earth is an enormous topic and the one thing that touches every creature on Earth, wherever they are, is the sun. It's this great unifying presence across our planet and we felt that because the sun brings seasonality and drives migrations and the journey that the sun takes every year north to south was an obvious thread. And then we wanted to choose animals in key parts of the world that were especially touched by the sun.

Now, the polar bear easily stands for the north of our planet because its life is deeply influenced by sun, and not only do they hibernate their mothers and the cubs throughout the winter when it's black and there's no sun at all, but in the summer of course they run the risk that the ground literally melts beneath the feet, which is a great danger to them entirely driven by the sun in the middle of the planet close to the equator.


Planet Earth