Our winter may be mild but the cold breeze off Lincoln Center last week for the premiere of Frozen Planet was distinct, in the teeth-chattering presence of cool sculptures of an ice waterfall and ice penguins. And inside Alice Tully Hall, the temperature was brisk too. The Discovery Channel’s documentary series Frozen Planet, “The Ends of the Earth” to air on March 18, proves that good storytelling features sex and violence, even if it is family entertainment. As Alec Baldwin narrates, giant polar bears can sniff the scent of a female seven miles away, and stepping through the snow in her footsteps, they stalk her, often mounting her bloodied, having successfully fought off a contender.
The Lion King prepared us for “the circle of life.” But the vision of a hapless seal being shaken off an ice floe by a school of hungry Orca whales is, eh, chilling. Or a pack of arctic wolves strategizing, isolating a bison, or a penguin becoming some creature’s happy meal. And that’s just above the sea’s surface. Below are bizarre underwater stalactites. The series also features 18 million sea birds filmed in the Bering Sea. 150 scientific collaborators from 18 countries worked to create this impressive series filming for the first time, for example, the killer whale “wave wash” hunting technique. According to the program, transportation to film required 38 sled dogs, 28 helicopters, 12 reindeer, and a Royal Navy ship. Four years in production, crews spent 2,356 days in the field.
Penguins, Pete and Penny, from SeaWorld were on hand, one with puffed breast ready for his close up, upstaging more famous attendees including Glenn Close, Jim Cramer, Josh Bernstein, Amir Bar-Lev, James Toback, and Barbara Kopple. The expanse of Alice Tully Hall’s Grand Foyer was packed for an after party featuring sushi. Many joked that we were consuming the film’s extras. Others worried for the polar bear returning to the female to learn through DNA testing that those aren’t his kids after all. Isn’t life in the coldest place on the planet --where the photographers in a safe remove need ultra warm suits just to capture these riveting moments in a place where few dare go-- just like ours?