As National Geographic ramps up its presence on Disney Plus, the natural history, science and adventure network added and renewed several series as well as extended deals with creators, the network said Wednesday during its virtual sessions at the Television Critics Association summer press tour.
Nat Geo has signed a five-year, first-look deal with Will Smith and his Westbrook Studios. The first project from the studio is Welcome to Earth, which will premiere on Disney Plus later this year. Welcome to Earth stars Smith and is co-produced by Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa Pictures and Jane Root’s Nutopia, which also produced Limitless with Chris Hemsworth for the network.
In the series, Smith travels with National Geographic Explorers to different corners of the globe and does such things as climb into a live volcano, traverse a waterfall and take a submersible more than 3,000 feet below the sea’s surface.
“Having spent the past two years working with Will and the team at Westbrook Studios (along with Darren Aronofsky and Nutopia) on Welcome to Earth, we are thrilled to be expanding our relationship with them and entering into a long-term partnership to produce blockbuster nonfiction content,” said Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Content, in a statement. “Will and Westbrook share our passion for telling bold, best-in-class stories that ignite curiosity and inspire people to explore and care about our world, and we can’t wait to see where our next adventures together take us.”
“Will and I are thrilled to partner with National Geographic to bring the astonishing imagery of nature and science to screens around the world. We strive to empower artists to tell stories that connect humanity, and Courteney and the entire Nat Geo team share that vision,” said Westbrook Studios Co-President and Head of Television Terence Carter, also in a statement. “Through these stories, we invite audiences to see the wonder and beauty of the world around us and to experience the endless adventure and exploration that’s possible on our humbling planet.”
Along those lines, Nat Geo greenlit three new unscripted series: Life Below Zero: First Alaskans, which is a spinoff of Life Below Zero that will have a cast of native Alaskans; The Seven Toughest Days on Earth, featuring survivor Dwayne Fields as he navigates some of Earth’s toughest landscapes during their most difficult times; and Appetite for Adventure, starring pitmaster and Navy veteran Big Moe Cason as he explores and enjoys rare flavors in remote locations. All three series start production over the next several months.
“These new series are exciting additions to our stable of popular, returnable, scalable series led by charismatic personalities,” stated Monroe. “The talent at the center of each of these series have unique voices and perspectives that will undoubtedly inspire the explorer in all of us.”
Sticking with the theme of adventure content with a charismatic star, Nat Geo greenlit three-part docu-series On the Edge with Alex Honnold, the climber at the center of Oscar-winning documentary Free Solo. In On the Edge, Honnold will explore Greenland, considered by many to be the last great climbing frontier as well as a country that has become a crucible in the global climate crisis.
Nat Geo also renewed Trafficked with Mariana Van Zeller for a third season ahead of the show’s 10-episode second-season premiere on National Geographic on Dec. 1 with episodes available to watch the next day on Disney-owned streaming service Hulu. In Trafficked, van Zeller explores the underworld’s black markets and their shadow economies.
“Filming a whole season of Trafficked during a global pandemic was extremely challenging, but there’s been an explosion of black markets over the past year, and I think we all quickly realized that this series has become more relevant than ever,” said van Zeller in a statement. ”With this second season, we’ve managed to dive even deeper and gain even more access into underworld networks around the world.”
Finally, Thanksgiving will again be turned into “Vetsgiving” at Nat Geo Wild, with vet-themed programming running Monday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 28. Shows to be included in the line-up are Heartland Docs, DVM; Critter Fixers: Country Vets; Hatcher Family Dairy; The Incredible Dr. Pol; Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet and Vets on the Beach. Nat Geo Wild also will offer a sneak peek of new series Pop Goes the Vet with Dr. Joya, which involves popping pet zits, removing impacted ear wax and other gross-out animal cases.
“Veterinarians deserve recognition for the important work they do to care for our pets, livestock and wildlife,” said Janet Han Vissering, senior vice president of development and production at National Geographic Partners, in a statement. “Nat Geo Wild’s ‘Vetsgiving’ is our way of showing them how much they are appreciated, especially the dedicated professionals featured in our veterinarian-focused programs.”
Meanwhile, National Geographic will air six-episode limited series The Hot Zone: Anthrax, starring Daniel Dae Kim and Tony Goldwyn, over three nights starting Sunday, Nov. 28.