EXCLUSIVE: ‘Polar Bear’ Director Discusses Difficulty of Making the Documentary

The directors of Disney’s Polar Bear sat down with us to discuss the difficulty in helming the documentary.

Disneynature’s upcoming documentary Polar Bear is the latest installment in the film studio’s collection after 2020’s Elephant. Helmed by directors Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, the directing team behind Disneynature’s 2019’s Penguins, the documentary tells the story of a particular polar bear over a 15-year time period.

Given the immense time period and the unforgiving Arctic environment in which Polar Bear was filmed, making the documentary unsurprisingly came with extreme challenges. In an exclusive interview with Murphy’s Multiverse, director Jeff Wilson described some of these challenges, including why a 15-year time period was necessary:

We also wanted to tell this amazingly important environmental story. And to tell that over a three-year period would be dishonest and impossible. But to tell it over a fifteen-year period was absolutely the right time scale in order to kind of capture the change that would happen within a bear’s life.

Jeff Wilson

Polar Bear also specifically follows one bear, making the process that much more arduous. Wilson went on to explain why they needed a female bear to film:

[B]ear behavior is all learned from a mother bear. And so it was crucial for us to tell a story from a mother’s perspective and the story about the mother bear, because that’s where all the interesting behavior happened. That’s where the cubs learn from their mother. So we knew that we had to have a female bear.

Jeff Wilson

But finding the bear for Polar Bear—and filming in general—came with enormous environmental difficulties as well. WIlson continued:

[We] have to spend as much time in that there’s presence as we can possibly stand. And bear in mind that we’re working at the temperatures down to minus 45 degrees. And there’s only so long that you can actually, you know, physically survive in that environment before you have to go back and get a hot meal and have some sleep. And so on any given day, you will have to start from scratch and try and find that bear again and go out and try and find that mother and her cubs again. So it’s a very, very difficult process.

Jeff Wilson

The work put into to the documentary will pay off when audiences get to enjoy the film soon. Disneynature’s Polar Bear launches exclusively on Disney+ on Earth Day—April 22, 2022.

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