Two potent forces – Covid and Disney – could have blunted the National Geographic Channel.
Or not. Courteney Monroe, president of National Geographic Content, told the Television Critics Association that her projects are bigger and busier than ever. She announced a flurry of them — some global (including a new version of the 2010 “Great Migrations,” shown here) and one stretching for a decade.
All of those will go straight to the Disney+ streaming service, skipping the linear outlets — National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild. But Monroe insisted that neither channel will be trimmed back “and shows from the linear channels will find their forever homes on Disney+.”
The channels often have generic reality shows; a typical prime time might have folksy veterinarians or ominous sharks or frigid survivors. But Monroe has also been injecting some epic documentaries, plus a few scripted mini-series. Then:
— Disney+ debuted in November of 2019. Disney, the majority owner of the National Geographic TV arm, likes to funnel its best projects to the streaming service.
— Covid hit, early in 2020. “We shut down more than 70 productions around the world,” Monroe said.
Those are back to full production, she said, with changes that could be a good thing. Unable to fly its usual people overseas “we turned to local talent …. We have discovered an amazing staple of diverse production talent.”
Now she has ordered large projects for Disney+, many involving Hollywood people. The projects – some soon, others years away — include:
— Three from “Titanic” director James Cameron. “Super/Natural” will be a series, looking at super senses in nature. The others are films with Earth Day debuts – elephants in 2023 and octopus in 2024.
— Three linking with British filmmakers. One is a fresh version of “Great Migrations,” a seven-hour, 2010 film …. Another, with BBC Studios, aims to be a decade-long portrait of life on Earth, simply called “Home” … The third, “Lion,” links the BBC with Jon Favreau, the director of “The Mandalorian” and the “Lion King” and “Jungle Book” remakes.
— Three from Darren Aronofsky, the “Pi” and “Black Swan” producer. One is called “Sentient”; another is “Limitless,” with Chris Hemsworth. The third re-unites Aronofsky with Will Smith; they previously did “One Strange Rock” and “Welcome to Earth” and will now go “Pole to Pole.”
— Two from Jimmy Chinn, a National Geographic photographer. One will look at other photographers; another, “Edge of the Unknown,” meets climbers, mountain skiers, skateboarders and more.
— And others. Ron Howard will profile chef Jose Andres … David Blaine will take a global look at magicians, oracles, shamans and such … Michael B. Jordan will narrate “America the Beautiful” … “The Deepest Cave” will follow underground explorers … a young explorer will host “Epic Adventures of Bertie Gregory” … the “Biggest Little Farm” documentary will become a series … and the lone scripted film will focus on the 27-year-old secretary who risked her life to hide Anne Frank’s family.