John Downer has paid tribute to David Tennant’s narrative skills at the launch of his production company’s latest spectacular wildlife series, Spy In The Wild, coming to BBC One in January. In a Q&A with the BBC he explained how the ‘Spy’ programmes differ from other wildlife series by paying tribute to the core team working on most of the productions, including David as narrator.
“David Tennant has become a vital part of the overall experience – a natural storyteller, he has won many fans for sensitive and nuanced delivery,” he said.
He also gave a nod to regular composer, Goldfrapp’s Will Gregory, who was BAFTA nominated for his scores for previous Spy films, and to the team’s award-winning editors Stuart Napier and Imogen Pollard.
John Downer Productions are known for their use of innovatively disguised spy cameras to collect unique and intimate footage of animals in their natural environments. Launching on BBC One on Thursday 12th January, Spy In The Wild is arguably one of the most innovative natural history series ever presented. The programme makers deploy over 30 ultra-realistic animatronic Spy Creatures to go undercover in the animal world and the five-part series captures unique animal behaviour closer than ever before. Using special “spy cameras” invented by film maker John Downer’s team at John Downer Productions, the viewer is plunged into the very heart of the extraordinary lives of over thirty fascinating animals across the world, including langurs, orang-utans, meerkats and crocodiles, revealing behaviour that is remarkably like our own. To expose some of the most astonishing animal behaviour ever seen, the team of Spy Creatures go undercover. These robotic look-alikes make all the right moves to not only be accepted by animals but also interact with them, providing revelatory insights into their world.
34 different brand new Spy Creatures were created for the series: Spy Orangutan, Spy Sea Otter, Spy Bushbaby, Spy Squirrel, Spy Macaw, Spy Sloth, Spy Peccary, Spy Wild Dog pup, Spy Spider Monkey, Spy Crocodile Hatchling, Spy Prairiedog, Spy Egret, Spy Tortoise, Spy Langur, Spy Hornbill chick, Spy Sargassum Fish, Spy Macaque, Spy Tropicbird, Spy Ostrich Chick, Spy Crow, Spy Grub, Spy Bowerbird, Spy Adelie Penguin, Spy Vervet Monkey, Spy Pufferfish, Spy Wolfcub, Spy Warthog, Spy Hippo, Spy Rattlesnake, Spy Hippo, Spy Crocodile, Spy Caterpillar, Spy Cobra, Spy Meerkat. The series also used traditional long lens and remote controlled cameras while cameramen spent many weeks observing and filming over 50 species of animal from hides, often in very challenging conditions.
The series comprises four episodes exploring the different aspects of animal behaviour: Love, Intelligence, Friendships and Mischief. The fifth episode looks at how the series was made, from the creation of the Spy Creatures, their first moves and their eventual deployment in environments around the world.
Spy In The Wild begins on BBC One on Thursday 12th January at 8.00pm GMT.
Check out some production images below: