Hidden Kingdoms

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Under Open Skies

Series 1 - Episode 1 Under Open Skies



There are shots in this programme that take the breath away - a slow-motion, movie-esque image of a rattlesnake striking at a mouse in the Arizona desert, for instance, is extraordinary. The trouble is, we’re never quite sure what is happening for real and what has been cut and pasted together by clever filming and digital trickery.

The film-makers built “stages” for much of their action, to help show the world from the point of view of small creatures in the wild. So an enormous elephant’s foot lands inches from a twitching shrew in the undergrowth, whom we’ve earlier seen whizzing underneath a lion’s belly (with added “vroom” noises for good measure).

The result ends up being both remarkable in its storyboarded mini-dramas and mildly frustrating – for an adult viewer at least. For kids (who may also relate to the “heroes come in all sizes” theme), it’s brilliant.


Documentary revealing the survival techniques used by the animal kingdom's smallest creatures. North America's Sonoran Desert is home to the grasshopper mouse, which is capable of disarming scorpions and centipedes twice its size, and displays a power and athleticism that enables it to avoid the attentions of rattlesnakes and tarantulas. In Africa, the elephant shrew, known as the sengi, employs speed to keep its distance from predators, following a meticulously constructed - and maintained - network of tiny racetracks in the savannah. The film concludes with Hidden Kingdoms Revealed, a 10-minute report on how the documentary was made. Narrated by Stephen Fry.

Cast & Crew

Narrator Stephen Fry
Executive Producer Michael Gunton
Producer Simon Bell
Series Producer Mark Brownlow