© Alice Zrodlo
For those of you who just can't get enough meerkat-on-meerkat action:
In September Discovery Films, along with Animal Planet, Oxford Scientific Films and the sales company Southern Star, began shooting an untitled documentary featuring some of the “Whiskers” meerkat family of the “Meerkat Manor” television series at home in their Kalahari colony.
Not to be outdone, the Weinstein Company in New York, along with BBC Films and the BBC Natural History Unit, got busy in November with “The Meerkats,” a documentary with its own take on the little diggers.(...)
“Animals in a documentary go a long way with audiences,” Jack Foley, president of distribution for Focus Features, said in a telephone interview. Mr. Foley pointed out that “March of the Penguins” was not simply an outsize success in its own right, but also helped pave the way for “Happy Feet,” an animated penguin story that has been a major hit for Warner Brothers this season.
If meerkats are indeed the new penguins, that may owe something to the animals’ inherent charisma. Pam Bennett-Wallberg, a meerkat expert and executive director of Fellow Earthlings’ Wildlife Center in Morongo Valley, Calif., cast that appeal in the very grandest terms.
“I think people have become interested in meerkats,” she said, “because they are reminiscent of what is best in our own society and what is worst in our own society. They are incredibly courageous in defending family and friends, and they have the ultimate Napoleon complex. They’re small but mighty.”(...)
The Whiskers family of “Meerkat Manor” has been under observation at a remote resort owned by Cambridge University in the Northern Cape of South Africa for about 3,000 hours over three years. That family has already worked its way into pop culture through the Animal Planet television show. The feature documentary in which those and other meerkats will star “will be, at times,” said Billy Campbell, president of Discovery Networks, “a little bit of ‘Desperate Housewives’ meets ‘Father Knows Best.’ ”
By contrast, James Honeyborne, director of the Weinstein/BBC project, appears focused on the animals’ wilder side, which he said would be easier to capture outside of a colony. “This is the opportunity for us to make a stand-alone, blue-chip wildlife film from the ground up,” he said. “It will be immersive. There will be a huge sense of place on a massive scale. You will really see real wild animals.”
If you can't wait, or if you want to familiarize yourself with meerkats a little more, I recommend Animals Are Beautiful People, an earlier film by the same director as The Gods Must Be Crazy, and very similar in style and charm, if not content.