‘Fake’ Frozen Planet footage row rages on as Sir David Attenborough defends show

by Lynn Connolly

As we reported yesterday, fans of BBC nature extravaganza Frozen Planet were angered when it transpired that some footage for the show had in fact been filmed in a zoo rather than, as viewers claim they were led to believe, in the wild.

However, today, Sir David Attenborough, who of course narrates the series, has defended the use of “splicing” in footage that’s not necessarily filmed on location, saying that to validate where every scene was filmed would “ruin” the atmosphere of the show.

Speaking to the Daily Mirror, he also went on to say that using archive footage and other similar scenes was routinely done to enhance episodes of the series.

He said, “The question is, during the middle of this scene when you are trying to paint what it is like in the middle of winter at the pole, to say ‘Oh, by the way, this was filmed in a zoo’…

“It ruins the atmosphere, and destroys the pleasure of the viewers and destroys the atmosphere you are trying to create.

“It’s not a falsehood and we don’t keep it secret either. But to say actually in the middle of that sequence, I mean how far do you take this?

“Do you say this is a penguin, but actually it was a different penguin colony than this one and this one is a different one?

“Come on, we were making movies.”

And it seems in the wake of the whole polar bear-gate, it was revealed that in an earlier episode of Frozen Planet, footage of a caterpillar dying was in fact filmed in specially made box rather than out in the wild.

During the episode, Sir David said, “Beneath the rock the caterpillar is out of the wind, but the cold penetrates deep into the ground.

“Soon it’s heart stops beating, it ceases to breathe, and it’s body starts to freeze – first it’s gut, then it’s blood.”

The footage then panned to a wide shot of the caterpillar’s natural habitat, and a close-up of the insect beginning to freeze under the snow and ice. However, that snow and ice was inside the box mentioned above.

And yet another scene featuring the formation of snowflakes was artificially manufactured for the show.

A BBC spokesperson said, “There’s a sequence with snowflakes which is set up – it’s filmed in a controlled situation, so they can get really close footage.

“And there’s another section with a woolly caterpillar, but the vast majority of it is filmed in the wild.

“While the great majority of footage for Frozen Planet is filmed entirely in the wild, on occasion certain sequences need to be filmed in controlled conditions – otherwise we wouldn’t be able to bring these stories to our audiences.

“This type of filming is standard practice across the industry when creating natural history programmes.”

So, what’s your view on this debacle?

Do you agree with Sir David that a certain amount of omission is forgivable to enhance the show? Or do you think such series should only feature genuine footage filmed in the wild?

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.