Sir David Attenborough is a man who needs no introduction. The most well known and respected nature documentary commentator, he has helped research, produce and narrate hundreds of films for the BBC dating back to the early 1950’s and continuing today.
He is a man who has lived the dream and walked the walk. A life dedicated to environmental education, a sharing of his passion with the world like no other person ever has in the public eye.
Sir David Attenborough talks about the global amphibian crisis
It is our goal to look at the remarkable and extensive work of Sir David, highlighting all of his films and projects over the decades.
Certainly if you are a fan of his, you will aim to collect (or at least see) all of his documentaries as they cover decades of cutting edge wildlife and nature film making.
Sir David Attenborough is the most widely recognised and respected nature documentary narrator in history. During his time at the BBC he has narrated and produced hundreds of documentaries of the highest quality. Your collection is not complete until you have all of Sir David’s masterpieces!
Watch Michael Palin speak about the legendary Sir David Attenborough:
List of David Attenborough Documentaries
In the 1950’s, David was involved in his first series of nature films – Zoo Quest. These episodes introduced the world to animals that few people at the time were aware of, let alone seen.
Although attitudes at the time towards film making with animals, treatment of wildlife and the purpose and operation of zoos differ considerably from today, Zoo Quest remains a legendary and historic milestone for the BBC and Sir David.
Zoo Quest is the result of expeditions arranged by London Zoo, because in the 1950s zoos were populated with animals directly taken from the wild – actions which are obviously not acceptable in the modern day. But back then, that was how it was done. Needless to say, a lot of us do find the old concepts and parts of Zoo Quest downright disturbing – such as the chasing down of wild animals for capture. Sir David himself quite clearly today acknowledges that Zoo Quest was a product of its time.
Until now, only the grainy black and white footage of Zoo Quest was available, which while no doubt historically important, does little to immerse us in the often lush rainforest environments where the films were made with a very young David Attenborough.
However, this all changed in early 2016. It’s hard to believe that for over 60 years footage of Zoo Quest has been sitting in a vault at the BBC Natural History Unit, only to be accidentally discovered one day in 2016 by an archivist who came across the original film reels from Zoo Quest while she was searching for interesting footage to include in a tribute for Sir David’s 90th birthday celebration. But she found much more than she bargained for.
Totalling more than 6 hours of footage. It would be enough to find them in such excellent condition as they were, but the real bonus of these film reels is that they contained colour footage. Until now, nobody had seen Zoo Quest in its full color glory. Not even David Attenboruough himself, who was just as astonished at the finding as everyone else. For reasons unknown, everyone believed that the series had been filmed in black and white, as was the standard for the day with colour film being in its very early infancy. Despite the fact it was filmed in colour, televisions in the 50s were still only capable of broadcasting black and white. It was revealed that the only reason the series was filmed mostly in color was due to Sir David insisting on a certain type of film being used as he prefered the quality. Remarkably, experts at the BBC state that despite the age of the footage and technology used, little work was required to bring it up to modern day standards. Miles Barton, who put the new Zoo Quest in Colour together, stated that “It looks like colour film from the 90s. The amount of cleaning up we had to do was really very small – 90 per cent of it is exactly as it was originally filmed.”
And while technology in the 1950s pales in comparison to today, BBC’s expertise at retouching and revitalizing old footage meant that the film reels could not be in better hands. Suddenly it was possible to bring Zoo Quest back to life. Not only the remarkable footage of wildlife and a young David, but these are places that have often changed considerbaly – much of the wild lands of the time have devastatingly disappeared today. Additionally, cultural footage of indigenous people add to the important historic record that Zoo Quest provides – made all the more noteworthy when seen in colour.
Thanks to this wonderful discovery, a new book has also been released (in 2018) about Zoo Quest titled Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions by David Attenborough himelf.
Zoo Quest in Colour has recently been released on DVD. Producers have selected 90 minutes of the best parts of the 6+ hours of footage on the newly found reels.