A new five-part series from BBC Earth, Dynasties delivers the most intimate and intense stories about five of the world’s most celebrated but endangered animals. Each episode will tell stories of politics, battles, alliances, take-overs, rivalries and family feuds within the animal kingdom. Produced by Dr Mike Gunton and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Dynasties focuses in never-seen-before detail on one particular family from each species per episode: Emperor penguins in the frozen wastes of Antarctica, chimpanzees on the edge of the Sahara in Senegal, lions on the savannahs of Kenya’s Masai Mara, painted wolves on the floodplains of the great Zambezi river in Zimbabwe and tigers in the jungles of Bandhavgarh, India. Here are four interesting things about this show Gunton would like you to know.
When Sir David Attenborough first heard about Dynasties, he thought Gunton and his team was mad.
“He thought I was mad because it was too risky. What if you go to Kenya and nothing happens for two years, or if you go to see the chimps and they all die? Fortunately, plenty did happen. We knew there would be trouble, and that there would be drama. We spent two years just filming following the drama. The result of doing that exceeded our expectations because the amount of drama Is incredible.”
To give themselves the best chance of getting a good story, Gunton collaborated closely with scientists, biologists and other experts who have studied these animals for many years. In turn, they were able to get Gunton’s teams closer to these animals than ever before, to follow them every day, whatever the conditions, to understand who was who in each family and to interpret the significance of their every move. Despite Attenborough’s concerns, this gamble paid off.
Dynasties is cast like a drama, and it’s almost like a wildlife version of Game of Thrones.
“When we first put the promo out, a huge number of people told me it reminded them so much of Game of Thrones. And when you think about it, it’s not a bad analogy – unlike Hollywood movies, where you know the heroes don’t die, in Game of Thrones anyone can die and I think that sense of realism has worked for the show. That’s the case with Dynasties, too.
“I also chose the animals because they are endangered, and that adds an urgency – they have very tough lives and how much a struggle it is to control and protect your families. Nature itself, of course, but added to that is the way human activity is adding to their problems and that’s the twist in their tale, too. So yes, all very Game of Thrones.”
In each episode, the cameras get very close and you feel like viewers are part of what’s going on, but the animals are telling you their story – but there’s no Disneyfication here, no expected happy ending. But although the individual may stories contain tragedies in them, each and every family represents such heroism and willingness to survive so endings are incredible life-affirming.
It gets into lots of detail.
“I felt that very often, we spend a short span of time with these animals when in actuality there’s so much more of their stories that we should be telling. I wanted to do something more longform, so to speak. So, I thought we could make a series about animal families, focusing on one leader, about the struggles they face in keeping their families together. In that way, Dynasties is is almost Shakespearean.” This meant spending from 100 days to two full years at a single, iconic location, each home to one of our animals.
Gunton and his team are ready for Dynasties, part 2.
“I have got another five animals ready, so if this is a massive success and everyone asks for a second series, we’re sorted,” he quips. He’s not revealing his list yet, but there’s a good chance Southeast animal is on the list. “Orangutans would definitely be interesting, they are such compelling creatures and really quite easy to relate to.”
See the trailer here:
'Dynasties' will premiere exclusively in Malaysia on BBC Earth (unifi TV - channel 501) on Sunday, 11 November at the same time as the UK (8.30pm GMT), with an encore telecast Monday, Nov 12 at 9.55pm.