On the great savannah of southern Africa, the dry season is tightening its grip on a small watering hole. Here, a group of gladiators – big and small – are being drawn into dangerous proximity. Lions and elephants vie for territorial supremacy, whilst a honey badger engages in a dangerous battle with a venomous scorpion and puff adder. All the while, a group of marauding Matabele ants plots an audacious raid on a termite mound. As the days get hotter and drier, conflict becomes inevitable. There will be winners and losers. But who will prevail in the battle of the bushveldt?
Australia, a land cast adrift at the time of the dinosaurs. Isolated for millions of years, the animals here are like nowhere else on Earth. Evolution has transformed them into freaks of nature…and the wiliest gladiators on the planet. But life here is getting tougher - the continent is becoming hotter and drier and ravaged by bushfires. Each December when the summer heat arrives, it’s fight or die! We follow a new generation of gladiators as they learn the tricks to adapt to this extreme arena. As conditions worsen, these animals must gather resources fast if they are to ensure their survival.
Across the tropical Americas, a dense and vibrant jungle dominates. Here, a group of young gladiators are looking to earn their stripes. As the changing season heralds a brief respite from the tropical deluge, they make their play in this jungle arena. To retain his supremacy, secure a female and protect his young, poison dart frog will fight to the bitter end. Jaguar and caiman tussle for territory and to be crowned the ultimate king of the jungle; whilst a coati matriarch must fight to protect her band of sisters as they battle for the jungle’s ripest fruit; forcing them right into the path of the jungle’s most iconic arachnid; tarantula.
In America’s far North, shrouded by forests and encircled by jagged peaks, lies a tidal arena of rivers, marshes and shorelines. The animals here are the ultimate fighters. They are nature’s elites and battle-hardened warriors. The tidelands they rule are gripped by snow and ice for over half the year. But when spring arrives, nature provides in abundance. In this brief window of fair weather, these wise, old, animal gladiators go on the offensive to seize what they can. Their opportunities are fleeting, so as the clock runs down on this time of plenty, it’s do or die.
The Gladiators team was tasked with delivering blue chip, premium natural history content in an exceptionally tight production time frame. Filming animals up close is one thing, but capturing rare and exciting interactions in a single season is a real challenge, especially when loss of photographic quality isn't an option. Our production team, led by Alex Hemingway, are the best in the business, planning their shoots in forensic detail. We had to maximise our chances!
Gladiators was delivered using a combination of stunning location cinematography, set work and digital enhancement. We employed some of the best cinematographers around the world, in very carefully controlled locations. We wanted to show the greatest animal rivalries at every scale, casting animals big and small, and we developed some ingenious rigs for getting into their world.
A key tactic in our story was to use the latest digital enhancement technology to slow down the highest-octane interactions so that the viewer can experience 'impossible shots', revealing unseen moments in slow-motion.
A key Talesmith motto is 'story first' and we set out to break the natural history mold by taking the viewer on a character-led journey with each of our hero animals.
The end result is a gripping series that will have you on the edge of your seat, rooting for your favourite characters!
Narrator: Sean Bean
Showrunner: Alex Hemingway
Directors: Amabel Adcock & Will Benson
Production Manager: Jolene Filmer
Executive Producers: Ruth Roberts & Martin Williams
Composer: Raphaelle Thibaut
Assistant Producer: Mariana Kneppers
Production Coordinator: Hannah Cross
Researcher: Marcus Widger