In the Footsteps of Elephant” follows filmmakers as they capture the epic journey of African elephants across the Kalahari desert for Disneynature’s “Elephant.” The team faces extreme weather, inaccessible terrain, crocodile-infested waters and close encounters with lions in order to shine a light on these remarkable creatures and their ancient migrations. Filming the world’s largest terrestrial animal is no easy task. To embark on their 1,000-mile, round-trip adventure, the Disneynature team must first transport the crew, along with five tons of camera gear, to the heart of the Okavango Delta, a remote oasis where elephants gather annually. Their next challenge is finding elephants. And despite their incredible size, locating an elephant in an area that’s nearly 4,000 square miles is like finding a needle in a haystack. Fortunately for filmmakers, a local biologist who tracks elephant populations lends a hand. The team identifies its herd and it’s off the races … literally.
A family of elephants can travel up to 30 miles a day on their quest to reach paradise and the crew simply can’t keep up. However, out of adversity comes opportunity. They mount a stabilized camera, normally used for aerial filming, to their truck and a whole new way of telling their story is born. Cinematographers are eager to capture a migration that’s never been shown before but filming in the African wilderness comes with its own unique set of risks. Crew members come face-to-face with crocodiles while drift diving, discover lions hunting impala in the middle of camp, and film a nighttime confrontation between a lion and a mother elephant and calf — from the open back of a truck. However, the rewards far outweigh the risks. Filmmakers reminisce about their favorite production moments. From the playful: a young calf splashing and chasing lechwes and egrets; to the poignant: an elephant herd honoring the bones of a fallen relative; to the awe-inspiring: a newborn elephant taking its first steps. After a year of filming, the team has fallen in love with the elephants, and all their unique and endearing eccentricities. When they return to where their journey began, they patiently, anxiously await the return of the herd.<