It went viral within seconds of going out on television, won a Bafta for ‘Must see tv moment’ and was used to open the biggest chatshow in America.
But the iconic iguana chase scene from Planet Earth II – which left people cowering behind their sofas – might have not been all it seemed.
The producer behind the nail-biting, snake versus lizard clip has revealed that it was ‘stitched’ together using several different takes, and was not – as viewers were led to believe – one iguana making a desperate dash to safety.
Elizabeth White, who was in charge of the ‘Islands’ episode, shocked the audience at the Media Production Show yesterday when saying: ‘It wasn’t the same iguana no, and often we have to augment it with other clips.
‘Unfortunately lizards, snakes and iguanas aren’t good at ‘takes’.’
She went on to explain that the Bafta-winning moment was the product of two cameras, which were both trained on the beach in the Galapagos as the newly-hatched marine iguanas were chased by racer snakes.
She added: ‘For continuity, it was better to crop the scenes together based off of the two cameras we had at the time to create the best possible scene.’
At the Bafta TV awards last month it picked up two awards, for best specialist factual programme and Virgin TV’s Must See Moment, which was voted for by the public.
Elizabeth White explained that it was better to ‘crop the scenes together’ for continuity
The chase proved so popular that American chat show host Ellen DeGeneres used it as a metaphor for hope when starting her post-US election show in November, saying it was proof that ‘things can turn out to be OK’.
Planet Earth II, which was narrated by Sir David Attenborough, became the most watched natural history programme for at least 15 years and the ‘Mountains’ episode was the eighth most popular show in 2016.
Series producer Tom Hughes-Jones shed some light on how a series of that scale was financed, suggesting it had cost in the region of £7million.
Planet Earth II, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, was the most watched natural history programme of the last 15 years
New technology, including ultra high-definition cameras and drones, was used to get the highest quality shots, and the crews travelled around the world gathering footage.
He said: ‘For wildlife shows only about 12 per cent of it is paid by licence fees.
‘BBC Worldwide invests heavily in wildlife shows because they know they can stick a voice from Kazakhstan or a voice from China and it would translate very well.
‘They are a really good money maker for worldwide and so there isn’t really much money going on it.
The ‘Islands’ episode featuring iguanas was one of the highlights of the series
‘I won’t say what it was for Planet Earth II, but for big landmark shows like this, you are looking at £1million per episode.’
It is not the first time the BBC has been accused of misleading viewers in one of its flagship nature programmes.
In 2011, an episode of Frozen Planet featured dramatic footage of a polar bear tending to her cubs in the snow.
Eight million viewers were led to believe the scene had been captured by BBC cameramen inside an underground cave in the brutal sub-zero temperatures of the Arctic wildernes.
It was fact filmed in a den made of plaster and wood in a wildlife enclosure at a Dutch zoo, sparking criticism from the Commons culture, media and sports committee, that viewers had been misled.