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About WildFilmHistory

Photo: Alan and Joan Root filming spitting cobra

Welcome to WildFilmHistory, a unique multi-media guide to the history and heritage of wildlife filmmaking.

Although one of the world's most popular cinema and television genres, many of the ground-breaking films and landmark productions have long been archived by broadcasters and forgotten by individuals. WildFilmHistory is making this ‘lost and forgotten’ material available once again.

As well as bringing together the most important wildlife films, the project is collecting ‘behind the scenes’ photographs, and recording oral histories with industry pioneers. This historically valuable material has been donated by the most famous names Photo: Mike Richards filming king penguins while being watched by an elephant seal during filming for Life in the Freezer (1992) in Natural History broadcasting, as well as from a whole host of specialist and private collections. The resulting collection is freely available at as an interactive multi-media resource, and is being stored at high resolution in the WildFilmHistory media vault for the benefit of future generations.

WildFilmHistory is the latest Wildscreen initiative - the natural home for such a collection, as the organisation’s founding fathers, Sir Peter Scott and Christopher Parsons OBE, were instrumental in developing many of the earliest wildlife television programmes. In addition, through running its international wildlife film festival, Wildscreen has over twenty five years' experience working with the greats of the wildlife filmmaking industry.

“This is a terrific resource for everyone who enjoys watching wildlife films or is interested in the history of popular television. The collection includes many of the people and programmes that inspired me to get in on the action!”

- Nick Baker, Wildlife television presenter


Photo: Richard Goss with one of the meerkats while filming for Meerkats United

Over the past one hundred years, there have been many astounding developments in wildlife filmmaking – the result of the determination, ingenuity and passion of individuals with an enthusiasm for the natural world. Whether developing new technology to film the world’s plants and animals, or finding new ways to tell their stories, these people have been instrumental in shaping the entire industry.

WildFilmHistory captures these achievements by bringing together the films, the people and their stories in one place, for the first time -


The classic wildlife films and television programmes, dating from 1896 to the present day, giving priority to landmark films and those most at risk of loss or deterioration. These include Rough Sea at Dover, believed by many to be the very fist natural history film ever made.

Oral histories

Videoed interviews with wildlife filmmaking pioneers telling their own personal stories. Each of the oral histories is a unique record created especially for WildFilmHistory.

With over a hundred hours of footage, the oral histories are essential viewing for any natural history film enthusiast.

Photo: David Attenborough with mountain gorillas during filming for Life on Earth (1979)
“Looking back on on my career now after 40 years – it is nearly 50 - I reckon that I’m very fortunate in that I can look back and say, “Yes, it was worthwhile.” It did something; it contributed something to the consciousness of people…all kinds of people, who say that they were moved and saw the value of natural history because of television. And that is something that you and I and the rest of us who work in this medium…can say, “Happily, the way we enjoyed ourselves proved to be not without merit as far as the rest of the world is concerned.”

- Sir David Attenborough

Image database

Hundreds of images, including ‘on location’ and 'behind the scenes' shots of our favourite wildlife TV productions and stars.

Wildscreen is very grateful to all WildFilmHistory contributors for the kind donations of films, images and stories that have made this project possible.

WildFilmHistory is an ongoing project, if you know of relevant material, please do contact us.

key events heading
1882: Muybridge's Horse in Motion
1907: Oliver Pike's In Birdland
1910: Early time-lapse study
1942: Hass uses pioneering diving equipment
1955: Look premieres on the BBC
1960: Countryman airs on Anglia TV
1963: BBC's first colour wildlife film
1979: Life on Earth premieres
1988: First live underwater broadcast