With the debut this weekend of “Patagonia: Life on the Edge of the World,” CNN will air a first-of-its-kind production for the network starting on Sunday, July 10. It’s a six-part wildlife documentary series, something CNN has never attempted before, and one that relied on crews across two countries and in five different habitats — as well as on underwater rigs, helicopters, drones, GoPros and time-lapse setups to capture the wildlife on land and underwater that make Patagonia’s one of the most breathtaking and singular natural ecosystems on the planet.
Narrated by “The Mandalorian’s” Pedro Pascal, the series was filmed over the course of a year. And, in keeping with its focus on the natural world and threats to it that include climate change, “Patagonia” was also a fully carbon negative production.
The six episodes kick off Sunday with “The Desert Coast,” with succeeding episodes airing weekly. For CNN, in the words of executive vice president Amy Entelis, this was an ambitious project that breaks new ground for the CNN Originals brand and takes the network “on a new journey into the longform nonfiction space.”
Pascal’s narration helps quickly sets the scene. “At the ends of the earth is a land of extremes. Home to spectacular wildlife.
“For centuries, people and animals have battled for supremacy. But now, enemies are becoming allies. Together, they face new challenges in a rapidly changing world.”
Viewers are treated to a rapid succession of sights from this more than 1,000-mile stretch of land through Chile (where Pascal was born) and Argentina. There are swooping, wide-angle shots of a verdant forest, of the white spray of a roaring waterfall, of barren land and blue sea. Eventually, drone footage of a pod of 6-ton Orca whales — skimming the surface of the ocean — becomes the center of attention.
Over the succeeding episodes, “Patagonia” introduces the fullness of a place at the edge of the world that’s wild, isolated, and pristine. It’s home to animals like condors, pumas, penguins, and where new species of insects, birds, and other animals are discovered each year. And the terrains here span forests, deserts, fjordlands, and more.
“With state-of-the-art cameras and help from local experts granting unprecedented access, this immersive docuseries showcases the wildlife, the scientists who study it, and the people of the region who have evolved to live in these varied habitats,” CNN announced about the series.
The CNN crew not only had access to scientists, fisherman, and members of local communities, but it also secured several “firsts” during filming. For example, CNN’s was the first wildlife crew to get footage of the rare Chilean dolphin, which is native to Patagonia. This was also the first crew to obtain footage of South America’s smallest cat, the rare kodkod — as well as the rare stone fly known as the Patagonian Ice Dragon.
In “The Desert Coast,” viewers will meet a shark hunter-turned-shark conservationist. Gargantuan elephant seals that look like creatures from the Star Wars cantina will battle each other for the chance to breed with nearby females. Tens of thousands of parrots are shown dodging the peregrine falcon, the fastest creature on earth. And viewers will watch orcas pull off a dangerous maneuver — beaching themselves — in order to catch their prey.
Where the series especially shines is in the smaller moments, in the sometimes messy clash of humanity with the natural world — an intermingling that, as we see throughout the series, results in conservationists and the like scrambling to save and document their fascinating corner of the planet.
“I’m so in love with these animals,” a conservationist named Mauricio tells the CNN crew at one point during Episode 1, a grin on his face, as he raves about burrowing parrots.
The birds, with their brilliant colors and penetrating eyes, are memorable enough in their own right. But Mauricio explains how, the more he studied them, the more it touched something inside him. It’s a recurring theme throughout this series, of local residents feeling a kinship with this land and its inhabitants.
“We are so similar,” he says of the birds. “They are very social. They love talking, communicating. And their relationships with others are really important.
Beaming, he continued: “I’m the same. I can’t live without my friends and family.”