Over 30 animatronic creatures were created for Spy in the Wild, the PBS and BBC co-produced wild animal mini-series, including a sloth, a warthog, a squirrel, an otter, a cobra, and an orangutan. Designer John Nolan gave each animal a hidden camera eye, and used his animatronic experience from movies like Where the Wild Things Are and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to make them look as real as possible.
This project, however, posed a very specific challenge: The movements of these spy creatures needed to be lifelike enough to not scare the animals they were trying to film. In the Nature on PBS clip above, the animals’ electronics and servos are revealed: Getting Under a Spy Creature’s Skin.
And here’s how it worked in the wild: Spy meerkat helps babysit.
This is also fascinating: Robot ‘Spy Sloth’ Meets Real Sloth.
And behind-the-scenes with a spy otter, here’s how they made the creatures look furry and real:
The goal of the project was to not only entertain, but to capture new footage that might help advance scientific understanding of animal behaviors and how they’re connected to their ecosystems. From BBC One, director John Downer and producer Rob Pilley talk about making the series:
Related watching: A Spy in the Wild video playlist.
h/t Laughing Squid.