BBC's Frozen Planet Crew Fakes Polar Bear Scene In a Zoo

Illustration for article titled BBCs Frozen Planet Crew Fakes Polar Bear Scene In a Zoo

Like all its documentaries, the BBC's Frozen Planet is fascinating and exquisitely filmed. Their crew has captured amazing things, including the creeping ice tornado. Unfortunately, they cheated on their viewers when they faked a crucial polar bear scene in a zoo.

The fourth episode of Frozen Planet—which took four years to film—follows the life of a polar bear in the Arctic. At one point, the camera follows a polar bear mother into the cave she just excavated deep into the ice. Then the camera moves into the cave, where viewers enjoyed the tender scenes of the mom and her cubs. Needless to say, everyone melted because of the cuteness overload.


The only problem is that the cave was fake. It wasn't in the Arctic. It was built with plywood and cement in a zoo in Germany. Nowhere during the scene the BBC warned the viewers of this fact. It was presented as is, misleading everyone into believing the crew actually filmed that scene in the Arctic, like every other scene.

Sir David Attenborough, who has been accused of blurring the lines between fact and fake in the past, says that they couldn't get into the real cave, so they had to reproduce it with different bears. They didn't want to disturb the wild animals at that point. That is good. The only problem is that they don't warn the audience about the true nature of the scene.

Attenborough argues that they didn't try to mislead viewers. On their defense, they posted scenes showing how they made the cave in a behind-the-scenes web video, but I doubt many of their eight million viewers actually checked that out. [Daily Mail]

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They do this ALL the time... So many shots are virtually impossible to get - especially ones inside of burrows and caves like this. You would either a) destroy the burrow or collapse it b) not be able to get a camera/lights in there to get a shot worth looking at or c) the animals would be uncooperative and either leave or try to kill the cameraman.

Nearly all good insect shots are largely set up as well, because getting that level of detail while in flight is hard to manage in the wild, and is why insect photogs often have elaborate setups where the subjects are directed into a staged environment and the cameras are often set to go off upon detection of movement.

I dont see this as being an issue AT ALL, UNLESS they were using to somehow deceive us as to the natural behavior of polar bears - and I would venture to guess that they aren't.

So if you want to take the pigheaded "high road" where everything is 100% authentic, then documentaries arent going to be nearly as beautiful or compelling, meaning even less people will want to watch them - which in turn means that any valuable insight that could be had from said doc would be lost on many.