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INTERVIEW – The Filmmakers Behind Disneynature’s ‘Tiger’

Disneynature Tiger Interview min

In celebration of Earth Day 2024, Disneynature is releasing a feature film documentary on one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring animals in the world, the tiger. Narrated by Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Disneynature’s Tiger provides an unprecedented intimate and in-depth look at the regal feline.

In anticipation of the film’s release, Senior Writer Jorgie spoke with some of the filmmakers, Mark Linfield (director), Vanessa Berlowitz (co-director) and Roy Conli (producer).

Berlowitz shared that Disney had approached them about this project over a decade ago, but they declined because the circumstances were not right for such a film.

“Tigers are the hardest animals to film in the world. It’s the reason why we were very nervous to take on making a film about a tiger. Disney asked us to do this twelve years ago, and we said no. Not until the camera technology is right, we’ve got the right access and everything has come together in the right tiger, which it finally did. But you know it’s really challenging, they’re really secretive, they’re very elusive and, what did we learn along the way?” Berlowitz said, asking her filmmaking partner and husband Linfield.

“I think we learned that tigers are more sentient, emotional, if you like, nuanced in their behavior. They’re incredibly, in many aspects, they’re incredibly like us. The cubs have very different personalities, they might be shy, they might be bold or clumsy, all the adjectives you would use for a human child…I think we realized theres’s an awful lot more to tiger behavior than had generally been thought of before,” Linfield said. “And for me, the stereotype of the lone hunter who is aggressive and to be feared, there’s so much more to tigers than that and I do feel that we’ve managed, or our teams have managed, to capture that with this documentary. and I hope other people feel that too. It’s a rich social tale, set in a beautiful and varied jungle.”

As Linfield said, tigers are much more like humans that people may realize, including the need to eventually give their children the necessary nudge to grow up and become independent.

“I actually loved the scene when Ambar has to push her cubs out and make them leave home. We’ve got a teenage son, he’s 15. He’s going to have to get pushed out but maybe not, maybe I’ll just keep him at home. But for us, we weren’t expecting to get that scene, it’s so emotional and so powerful, where you see her having to show really tough love. She’s got to be super mean to the cubs and make them feel like she could really kill them to drive them away so that was a really special scene for me,” Berlowitz said.”

Tiger Digital KA v4 Lg min 1
Key art for Disneynature’s Tiger

Veteran producer Roy Conli, who has produced animated films like Big Hero 6 and Strange World, as well as nature films like Penguins and Polar Bear, talked about the challenges of making a feature film on the notoriously secretive tigers.

“Tigers was an interesting proposition because we had talked about doing this years ago. The tiger is probably the most elusive of animals. A lot of big cats are elusive, but tigers don’t like being around humans very much. So that presented a problem and really, if it wasn’t for some of the advances in technology and camera equipment, we couldn’t have made this film the way it is. You really see tigers in this film like you’ve never seen them before,” Conli said.

Ultimately, Conli and the filmmaking team were thrilled with the story they were able to weave together thanks to some very welcome surprises during filming.

“You’re always finding little twists in your story. For instance, in our story, there’s that amazing scene where Shankar takes down the sloth bear. It’s very rare when that happens. In fact, I don’t think they’ve ever gotten that on screen before. And that really shaped the whole end of our film. Because when he presented that as a gift, it was definitely something that was magical and totally surprised everyone in the field. So it’s those beautiful happenstances that happen that you’re able to utilize in terms of making the story rich,” Conli said.

Watch our full interviews below.

Disneynature’s Tiger premieres on Earth Day, April 22, 2024 on Disney+.

POC Culture Interviews with Mark Linfield, Vanessa Berlowitz and Roy Conli on Disneynature’s Tiger

About Disneynature’s Tiger:

Disneynature’s “Tiger” will launch on Disney+ this Earth Day, April 22, 2024—exactly 15 years after the label’s first release, “Earth.” Also revealed today, Priyanka Chopra Jonas will narrate the compelling story, which lifts the veil on our planet’s most revered and charismatic animal, inviting viewers to journey alongside Ambar, a young tigress raising her cubs in the fabled forests of India. “It’s just wonderful to be able to be a part of something so special and to tell the story of this magnificent animal that comes from my country—I was very honored,” Chopra Jonas said. “I have always loved tigers and I feel a kinship with the female tiger—I feel very protective of my family. Ambar’s journey is something I think every mom would really relate to.”

In the film, the cubs—curious, rambunctious and at times a bit clumsy—have a lot to learn from their savvy mother who will do all she can to keep them safe from pythons, bears and marauding male tigers. Directed by Mark Linfield, co-directed by Vanessa Berlowitz and Rob Sullivan, and produced by Linfield, Berlowitz and Roy Conli, “Tiger” is the groundbreaking culmination of 1,500 days of filming. Combining fast-paced action with remarkably intimate moments, Disneynature’s all-new original feature film streams on Disney+ beginning on Earth Day, April 22, 2024.

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Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture.  He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.

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