Close-up of a tiger’s face as it walks through a field in a scene from Tiger

Disneynature Roars into Earth Day with Tiger: A Wildlife Spectacle

By Cecilia Sarantopoulos

In the heart of the Indian forest roams the most regal of creatures: the tiger. Disneynature’s documentary Tiger, debuting on Earth Day, April 22, on Disney+, is the culmination of 1,500 days of capturing the essence of Ambar, a young tigress who would do anything to protect her four curious, clumsy, and adorable cubs. That includes keeping them safe from the territory she shares with bears, reptiles, and other tigers.

Director Mark Linfield, co-directors Vanessa Berlowitz and Rob Sullivan, and producer Roy Conli assembled a dedicated team of filmmakers to embark on a quest to chronicle Ambar’s journey through motherhood, as she and her cubs navigate the fable forests of India. With a blend of exhilarating action and tender moments, Tiger intimately portrays the dynamics and distinct personalities of Ambar’s family. The 90-minute documentary is narrated by Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

In a scene from Tiger, a tigress is lying down while a cub is playing with its mother’s ear

Though the filming of Tiger started “approximately six and a half years ago,” says Linfield during a press event for the new Disneynature film, the idea of such a project was born much earlier. “Nine years ago, I did a little straw poll in the animation studio I was working at about what my co-workers’ favorite animal was. It was hands down the tiger,” recalls Conli.

Linfield’s involvement traces back even further, spanning over a decade. “Eleven years ago, Disney approached us to create a tiger film, but we declined due to technological limitations and unsuitable tiger habitats,” he explains, adding that “it was just not the right time.” However, the desire for a tiger-themed project persisted. “Everyone wanted to see a tiger film,” says Linfield.

Years later, several favorable factors aligned providing further incentive for the project—the tiger population had increased, and Indian locals expressed enthusiasm for involvement, coupled with the presence of a pregnant tigress amidst the picturesque landscapes and beautiful rivers, streams, and woodlands. Linfield and Berlowitz realized that the timing was perfect to revisit the potential of this highly anticipated project.

Now, the team could leverage cutting-edge camera technology, including remote-controlled MōVi Carbon cameras, to observe tigers in their natural habitat without disturbing them. “Setting up remote cameras… was a game changer,” notes Linfield. Stabilized cameras mounted on jeeps and camera traps were also employed to document wildlife with minimal intrusion.

In a scene from Tigers on the Rise, two filmmakers are recording wildlife in the back of a jeep recording wildlife in a darkened landscape. The outline of trees is visible behind them.

The film is not without a palpable sense of some iconic Disney tigers. “There is a definitely a Shere Khan essence found in Shankar,” says Conli, drawing parallels between the beloved Jungle Book character to the huge male tiger in Tiger who’s almost twice Ambar’s size. “However, I don’t think of Shankar as a villain,” he adds. “Shankar is just patrolling his territory. When all is said and done, he has a pretty big heart.” Conversely, Ambar’s loyal and protective nature may remind viewers of Rajah, Jasmine’s faithful pet tiger from the Aladdin franchise.

In conjunction with Tiger, Disneynature presents a companion film, Tigers on the Rise, narrated by Blair Underwood. Directed by Sullivan, co-directed by Alistair Tones, and produced by Sullivan, Berlowitz, Linfield, and Conli, Tigers on the Rise focuses on the tireless efforts to ensure the harmonious coexistence of tigers and humans.