The Hunt, BBC1, TV review: Ants take centre stage in Sir David Attenborough's exceptional show

When nature is this good, who needs Disney?

Amy Burns
Monday 30 November 2015 00:52
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A Nile crocodile launches itself at a thirsty wildebeest on the banks of the Grumeti river in Tanzania
A Nile crocodile launches itself at a thirsty wildebeest on the banks of the Grumeti river in Tanzania

I think I’ve finally figured out how Disney does it. The incredibly cute yet lifelike animated creatures, I mean. They’ve obviously been studying the same fancy slow-motion cameras as used on The Hunt all along.

This exceptional piece of kit, as explained by the operative during last night’s episode, actually slows down the footage as it captures it, allowing for a much more detailed, intricate sequence. The end result was that every creature captured looked like a perfectly animated version of itself. Slowed down and close-up even the ants – as they tackled wind, sand, soaring temperatures (up to 70C) and a variety of sneaky predators – were cute. Their strong, writhing bodies were exactly like a scene from A Bug’s Life and the daily battle they faced just to get food was worthy of a film in itself.

The action – narrated by the brilliant Sir David Attenborough – took place in the plains, deserts and grasslands that make up half of the land on our planet. They also offer little cover for those struggling to survive there. But if there’s no cover for the hunted, there’s no cover for the hunters either. As Sir David explained, in this exposed landscape 60 per cent of hunts end in failure – and success comes down to strategy, not strength. Scenes around the watering-hole, filmed during the hottest part of the day when the animals know the lions will be too tired to attack, could have come straight out of The Lion King. Even the cheetahs looked like cuddly toys – albeit cuddly toys that can run like the wind and tear you to pieces.

Less Disney-friendly however, was a pack of lions’ pursuit of a lone buffalo – these guys were less Simba, more Satan. More incredible than their sheer strength however, was that despite being outnumbered three-to-one the bull – dripping with blood and peppered with wounds – was able to right himself again, gore one of the exhausted, over-heated lions and escape with its life.

This BBC series has billed itself as “an intimate and detailed look at the remarkable strategies employed by hunters to catch their prey and the hunted to escape”. And it couldn’t be more intimate or detailed. Footage during the episode, subtitled “Nowhere to Hide”, included close-ups of a caracal – a wild cat with incredibly beautiful giant ears. So intricate was the portrait of this extraordinary bird-catcher, that I swear I could see how its nose turned up ever so slightly at the end. And the slow-mo footage of it jumping up to catch a guinea fowl was spellbinding. When nature is this good, who needs Disney?

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