EXCLUSIVE: Disneynature’s ‘Polar Bear’ Director Explains It Was Impossible Not to Highlight Climate Change

The directors of Disney’s ‘Polar Bear’ documentary explain that it was impossible to avoid tackling climate change.

Film studio Disneynature is gearing up for the release of its newest documentary, Polar Bear. Narrated by two-time Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener, the film tells the story of a new mother bear whose memories of her own youth prepare her to navigate motherhood in the increasingly challenging world that polar bears face today.

Murphy’s Multiverse recently sat down with directors Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, who previously directed Disneynature’s 2019 Penguins. While following the same bear over the course of 15 years, Polar Bear undoubtedly brings the effects of climate change on the Arctic into the spotlight. Interestingly, Fothergill noted that the goal of the documentary was not to make it “an environmental movie”, but it was impossible to tell the story of a polar bear without climate change playing a major role. He stated:

[T]he movie isn’t an environmental movie, we hope it’s an entertaining and engaging family movie. It’s impossible today, honestly, to make a movie about polar bears without telling the story of the challenges they face. And that’s why we very deliberately chose to tell the story of a female bear looking back at the last 15 years…there’s been an enormous amount of change over that time period.

Alastair Fothergill

Both directors described moments in the film where they were able to catch footage of polar bear behavior that had never been documented before. But the environmental challenges the bears face created scenarios that even the veteran wildlife filmmakers were surprised by. Fothergill elaborated on that factor:

There was a very moving moment where a mother and her cub are literally going into too thick, melted mud, you know and struggling to get to make it. Now that that is reality of climate change, but we didn’t expect to film it…And a lot of moments like that were fresh. We knew the climate change was going to be the basis of the whole story. Because polar bears are [] at the cutting edge, so we expected to see it. But we were surprised by some of the detail of what we filmed.

Alastair Fothergill

Disneynature’s Polar Bear launches exclusively on Disney+ on Earth Day—April 22, 2022.

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