Rediscovering taxonomy

Rediscovering taxonomy

An exploratory series by Stephen Dunleavy with unusual pairings will quench your curiosity, says Ramya Palisetty

While shooting in Tasmania for David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, Stephen Dunleavy came across  an unknown treasure, the duck billed platypus which surprised and captivated his vivid imagination. The series has a distinct plot where bizarre and unusual animals are featured, adapting to the environment in unforseen ways. Fascinated by natural history and immersed into animal life, Stephen Dunleavy, executive producer of the finite series, is living the ultimate dream of interacting with experts, travelling to scenic locales and most of all, unraveling the mysteries of animal world.

An English veteran broadcaster and naturalist, David Attenborough unravels a series of natural curiosities by digging into the animal kingdom — armoured giants, orangutans,crafty insects, owls and crows. Attenborough is best remembered for writing and presenting Life Collection comprising nine natural history documentary series.

 “The idea was to do separate stories on each animal but while debating with the channel in UK, the creators came up with the concept of finding few animals and uniting them by a common thread”, said Dunleavy. The pairings were based on the similarity traits and the intention was to select one large prominent animal and a slightly smaller one which adds a unique element to the series.

The USP of the nature documentary series is Attenborough’s storytelling brimmed with unstated facts about animal biology. “With an unusual take on the natural world, he combines the evolution of animal history with their behavioural traits. In the first series, the strange creature, platypus who looks like a combination of different animals is shown and the curiosity lies in discovering if the species laid eggs or not over a period of eight years”, said Stephen.

Stephen Dunleavy established Humble Bee Films in 2009 after working as a producer for 15 years at the BBC Natural History Unit. After donning the director’s hat for a few episodes of the series, Stephen  found stark contrast between the role of an executive producer (EP) and a director. Said he, “As an EP, you tend to try and have a comprehensive picture of how a particular story, script and series are going to work. I have various directors who help and manage the story. The role of an EP involves making some changes in the story ocassionally . It’s a more hands-off role. I am mostly responsible for funding where I approach channels and discuss the various aspects of production. During direction, you are utterly wrapped in that particular story.”

The first series, curious hoax would be closer to his heart due to the interesting relation between Duck-billed platypus and Midwife toad. “It was a complex science story with an emotional touch to it where an individual studying Midwife toad had his career go off the rails,” said Dunleavy.

Ever since Dunleavy picked up a reproduction of a 17th century natural history book and saw extraordinary animals, monsters, dragons and mermaids, he was hooked to explore and analyse them. He began his career as a researcher working for Chris Parsons on an IMAX film about plant-animal relationships. He then went on to join the BBC Natural History Unit where he worked with Nigel Marven before becoming a producer in his own right. “The journey from a researcher to a producer has been rather fruitful. As a filmmaker, every single programme has a different story. One has to be quick-witted  to become an expert on each animal. As I progressed in my career and went on from researching to directing and eventually programmes and one day, theories as well”, said Dunleavy.

David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities, which has been sold to more than 40 countries worldwide garnered positive feedback and encouraging reviews from the audience. With the advent of social media platforms, the feedback has been instantaneous. “In the age group of 16 to mid 30’s, there is wide viewership who appreciate the information and facts that can be imbibed from the show. A lot of people were surprised to know about the undisclosed versions as they didn’t even know that some of these animals existed. The best part about it is the feedback we have received from across the globe with separate perceptions and interpretations”, said he.

The Indian audience will have an enjoyable time discovering a whole new world of animals that they were unaware about. 

(The show will air on weekdays at 9pm on Sony BBC Earth. It will air on January 20, 2018 from 11am to 2:30pm)



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