Will Smith, David Blaine and Jon Favreau Set New Disney+ Series From Nat Geo

James Cameron and Darren Aronofsky too

Lion - Nat Geo
Nat Geo for Disney+

That Nat Geo tile on Disney+ just upped its star power. At Monday’s Television Critics Association (TCA) Winter Press Tour, National Geographic unveiled 13 new original projects being produced for the streaming service, including shows from Will Smith, Jon Favreau and David Blaine.

Smith’s new series, “Pole to Pole,” comes under his Westbrook company’s first-look deal with Nat Geo. “Pole to Pole” follows Smith as he journeys 26,000 miles over 100 days from the South Pole to the North Pole.

Darren Aronofsky, James Cameron and Ron Howard/Brian Grazer are each overseeing a pair of new Disney+ programs under the Nat Geo banner. One of the projects from the Imagine duo will be Howard’s “We Feed People,” which premieres at SXSW ahead of its Memorial Day streaming launch. “We Feed People” follows chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen’s mission in the disaster relief sector.

One of Cameron’s new series will be narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, Courteney Monroe, the president of National Geographic Content, revealed on Monday. On the subject of narration gigs announced by Monroe, Michael B. Jordan has been set to narrate Nat Geo’s Disney+ exclusive “American the Beautiful,” which is described as “the jaw-dropping story of North America and its amazing animals.”

“At National Geographic, our strategy is to tell bold, best-in-class stories that ignite curiosity and inspire people to explore and care about our world,” Monroe said on Monday. “With premium, creatively ambitious shows from the very best storytellers in the world, we are bringing awe and wonder to the lives of global Disney+ subscribers with wildly entertaining National Geographic documentary series, feature documentary films, epic natural history and fact-based scripted drama.” 

Below is the new slate of Nat Geo series for Disney+. The descriptions are all in Nat Geo’s own words, we just cleaned the formatting a bit.

First up, Will Smith’s return.

“Pole to Pole” (Westbrook Studios, Nutopia and Protozoa)
In his third epic project for National Geographic, actor and producer Will Smith (“Welcome to Earth,” “One Strange Rock”) leads viewers on an astounding journey from the bottom of the planet to its top — covering 26,000 miles from the South Pole to the North Pole — to unlock the mystery of Earth’s astonishing diversity and alchemy. Filming for more than 100 days, the series documents his journey across all of Earth’s biomes: polar ice, desert, jungle, mountain, savannah and swamp. In each location, the explorer Smith and his film crew will embed with local communities and experience firsthand what it is like to live in some of the most amazing and extreme landscapes on the planet. For Westbrook, Will Smith, Miguel Melendez and Terence Carter are executive producers. For Nutopia, Jane Root and Peter Lovering are executive producers. For Protozoa, Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel are executive producers.

The next eight are all natural history shows.

“Great Migrations” (Plimsoll Productions)
Our planet is on the move. Animals across every landscape embark on epic migrations in search of food, shelter and safe breeding grounds. Whether by land, sea or air, all of these journeys are full of obstacles and dangers — only those with the strength, determination and persistence go the distance. Now, using the state-of-the-art remote cameras and drones and the latest tracking technology that can break down animal behavior by the hour, we can follow the drama, jeopardy and courage every step of the way. Inspiring animal stories of endeavor and emotion are set against a backdrop of sweeping wildlife spectacles and epic landscapes. Executive producers are Tom Hugh-Jones  “Hostile Planet,” “Planet Earth II”) and Martha Holmes (“Earth Live,” “Blue Planet”). The showrunner is Sarah Gibbs (“Kingdom of the Mummies,” “Arctic Live”).

“Home” (BBC Studios Natural History Unit)
Filmed over an unprecedented decade and running an exceptional nine seasons, National Geographic and the world-leading BBC Studios Natural History Unit embark on “Home,” the most ambitious and definitive portrait of life on Earth ever attempted. Production has commenced on the first three seasons and development committed to six more seasons of what will be a cinematic spectacle of natural history across the planet, created by a multiple award-winning team. “Home” will journey through five oceans and seven continents to reveal the deeply symbiotic relationships between all living things. This ambitious blue-chip event will set a new benchmark for landmark natural history television, culminating with an examination of how our planet has adapted and transformed during the 10 years of program making. The creative team is showrunner and producer Doug Hope (“Big Blue Live,” “Endangered”), producer is Gavin Boyland (“Big Cats,” “Primates”) and editor is Simon Blakeney (“Dynasties,” “Africa,” “Life”).

“Lion” (Creator and Executive Producer Jon Favreau and BBC Studios Natural History Unit)
Currently in pre-production, acclaimed director Jon Favreau (Marvel’s “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2”, Disney’s “The Lion King”), the world’s foremost natural history producer, Mike Gunton, and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit have joined forces in a formidable creative partnership to present a landmark series about one the world’s most majestic creatures — Lions.  When principal photography begins, Lion will follow a single pride for an unprecedented four years. In this intimate and emotional series, the filmmakers will use cutting-edge technology to explore the heart-stopping challenges facing an entire species, all told through a compelling, serialized dramatic story of a single group of characters. The executive producers are Favreau and Gunton (“Planet Earth II,” “Dynasties”) and series editor is Simon Blakeney (“Life,” “Dynasties”); each brings unrivaled experience, an innate passion for emotional storytelling and a deep love of lions to this television event.

“Secrets of the Elephants” and “Secrets of the Octopus” (Executive Producer James Cameron, Oxford Scientific Films, SeaLight Pictures)
National Geographic turns its 2021 Emmy-winning “Secrets of the Whales” natural history limited series into a new annual multipart franchise presented to coincide with Earth Day each year, “Secrets Of…” with James Cameron returning as Executive Producer.Each year will focus on one species to fully explore its unique traits and culture. In 2023, the franchise will present “Secrets of the Elephants” with conservationist Dr. Paula Kahumbu, winner of the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year (2021). Elephants have long been a source of wonder and mystery with their rich emotional lives and almost supernatural ways of navigating the world. In “Secrets of the Elephants”, we travel the globe to meet different families of elephants, each with their own set of remarkable cultural behaviors which they’ve adapted to suit the environment in which they live. This series deploys the latest science and brand-new camera technology to reveal the elephant’s secret world, revealing not just how truly extraordinary they are in their own right but also how similar they are to humans. Desert elephants, forest elephants, Asian elephants and African savannah elephants each have an incredible story of intelligence, grace and survival to tell.

For “Secrets of the Elephants”, Emmy Award-winners James Cameron and Maria Wilhelm for Earthship are executive producers. Lucinda Axelsson is the executive producer for Oxford Scientific Films. Her credits include “China: Nature’s Ancient Kingdom,” “Serengeti,” “Wild Brazil,” “Elephant Diaries,” “Elephants of Samburu,” “Meerkat Manor,” “Spy in the Wild.” “Secrets of the Octopus” will be presented by wildlife scientist Dr. Alexandra Schnell. It is executive produced by Emmy Award-winners James Cameron and Maria Wilhelm for Earthship, two-time Emmy Award nominee Colette Beaudry and Emmy Award Honoree Adam Geiger for SeaLight Pictures.

“Sentient” (Executive Producer Darren Aronosky’s Protozoa and Wildstar Films)
If monkeys do math, whales mourn their dead, bees draw maps and the largest communication network on Earth is run by mushrooms — how special are we? For centuries we’ve set ourselves apart from nature because of the way we think and feel and learn, but the latest revelations from the fields of animal behavior, cognition and psychology reveal some astonishing truths about the other minds with which we share our planet. “Sentient” will show that life at all scales — plants, animals and arguably, entire ecosystems — has aspects of sentience and will ask us to rethink our place in nature. Executive producers for Protozoa are Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. Executive Producers for Wildstar Films are Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz. (“Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet”). The showrunner is Hannah Gibson (“Savage Kingdom” and “Earth From Space”).

“Super/Natural” (Executive Producer James Cameron and Plimsoll Productions, Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch)
Executive-produced by James Cameron and narrated by Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA Award-winning actor Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game,” “Patrick Melrose”), this new series will utilize the latest scientific innovations and leading-edge filmmaking technology to reveal the secret powers and super-senses of the world’s most extraordinary animals, inviting viewers to see and hear beyond normal human perception to experience the natural world as a specific species does — from seeing flowers in bee-vision to eavesdropping on a conversation between elephant seals to soaring the length of a football field with glow-in-the-dark squirrels. Set to premiere later this year, the series is executive produced by Emmy Award-winners James Cameron and Maria Wilhelm for Earthship and multiple Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning executive producers Martha Holmes (“Earth Live,” “Blue Planet”) and Tom Hugh-Jones (“Hostile Planet,” “Planet Earth II”). The showrunners are Matt Brandon (“Dogs – the Untold Story,” “Cities: Nature’s New Wild”) and Bill Markham (“Animal,” “Night on Earth”).

“The Biggest Little Farm Series” (FarmLore Films in Association With Apricot Lane Farms and Neon)
After previously announcing a special for this year’s Earth Day based on the award-winning feature documentary about John and Molly Chester, who abandon their Los Angeles urban life to instead live on a dried-up farm in Ventura County, National Geographic has announced it will expand into a series for Disney+. Over the course of 14 years, the Chesters transformed that farm into Apricot Lane Farms, a magical working farm that reflects the biodiversity of our planet and continued to document the whole process in a new heartwarming series that’s akin to a real-life “Charlotte’s Web.” The series will introduce the audience to the animals on the farm, including Georgie, the gopher-eating egret, Walter, the rooster who protects injured chickens, and an adorable lamb named Moe who befriends the family. The executive producers are Erica Messer, Sandra Keats and John Chester. The series is directed by John Chester.

Finally, Nat Geo has ordered a trio of new adventure series.

“Beyond Belief With David Blaine” (Executive Producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard and Imagine Documentaries)
“Beyond Belief With David Blaine” presents a rarely seen side of magician and endurance artist David Blaine. This new documentary adventure series brings viewers along as Blaine goes on a global odyssey across remote cultures, each embedded with unique histories and practices. He will hunt for extraordinary people — including shamans, fakirs and magicians who perform magic that defies what doctors and scientists think is possible — and convince them to share their secrets. Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, David Blaine, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes and Matthew Akers are executive producers. Toby Oppenheimer is the executive producer and showrunner.

“The Epic Adventures of Bertie Gregory” (Wildstar Films)
The face of a new generation of aspirational adventurers and natural history filmmakers, 27-year-old Bertie Gregory takes viewers on an epic and nail-biting journey that pushes into the most spectacular and secretive corners of our wild world. Armed with leading-edge film technology, Bertie breaks the mold of the traditional natural history program by telling extraordinary, real-life animal stories and taking viewers with him for every beat of the action. For weeks at a time, the charismatic BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer immerses himself into the animals’ lives to capture the untold stories of iconic creatures living in some of the harshest environments on our planet. This season will see Bertie braving the icy worlds of Antarctica in search of the biggest gathering of whales ever filmed and coming face-to-face with specialist buffalo-hunting lions in Zambia. In this multipart adventure series, he will take audiences on an ambitious odyssey across the globe, showcasing the natural world at a time when it faces its greatest challenges. Set to premiere later this year, the series has also been picked up for a second season, which is filming now. Executive producers for Wildstar Films are BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Vanessa Berlowitz (“Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet”), and Anwar Mamon (“Life at the Waterhole,” “Day on Earth”). The showrunner is James Brickell (“Planet Earth II,” “Welcome to Earth”).

“Photographer” (Executive Producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin and Their Production Company, Little Monster Films)
A stunning and intimate documentary series from Academy and Emmy Award-winners E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (“Free Solo,” “The Rescue”), “Photographer” will tell the intensely personal stories of the world’s greatest visual storytellers and artists, from how they found themselves behind a camera to how they dedicate themselves to the endless pursuit of perfecting their craft. Spanning diverse genres of photography, each episode will profile an extraordinary photographer, taking viewers on a journey to discover just what it takes to produce the world’s most iconic images and providing an immersive ride on what it feels like to be a photographer behind the lens during extraordinary moments. Each episode will be directed by a different filmmaker, who will partner with a photographer to tell the story of his or her life. Vasarhelyi and Chin directed the first episode featuring conservation photographers Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier.