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From the early exploits of Teddy Roosevelt in Africa to blockbuster films such as March of the Penguins, Gregg Mitman's Reel Nature reveals how changing values, scientific developments, and new technologies have come to shape American encounters with wildlife on and off the big screen. Whether crafted to elicit thrills or to educate audiences about the real-life drama of threatened wildlife, nature films then and now have had an enormous impact on how Americans see, think about, consume, and struggle to protect animals across the globe.
1 / Hunting with the Camera
2 / Science versus Showmanship on the Silent Screen
3 / Zooming In on Animals' Private Lives
4 / Wildlife Conservation through a Wide-Angle Lens
5 / Disney's True-Life Adventures
6 / Domesticating Nature on the Television Set
7 / A Ringside Seat in the Making of a Pet Star
8 / Global Visions, Tourist Dreams
Gregg Mitman is William Coleman Professor of the History of Science and Interim Director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"Gregg Mitman's Reel Nature isn't a book about natural history filmmaking, it's the book: it's the one I recommend to all our students."
– Lloyd Spencer Davis, Centre for Science Communication, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
"As the popularity of natural history television continues to soar, we need a book like this to help us understand the influences that this 'electronic environment' may have on the ultimate survival of our natural one."
– Thomas Veltre, Wildlife Conservation Society
"A wonderful book that takes the reader into the worlds of dog and dolphin TV stars, on-screen wildlife conservation, and popular nature films. Readers will never see their animal familiars in the same way again."
– Donna Haraway, University of California, Santa Cruz
"Few books offer greater insight into the cultural history of American ideas of nature during the twentieth century than this one. Whether one cares about the history of filmmaking, the evolution of American environmental attitudes, or the ways that science, commerce, and entertainment have shaped each other in the creation of American consumer culture, Reel Nature is essential reading."
– William Cronon, from the Foreword
"Mitman's research, nuanced and satisfying, contributes to both film theory and ecocritical theory and explores the ways in which they should not be separated."
– Stephanie Lyells, Journal of Ecocriticism, January 2012
"How the wildlife documentary got from Roosevelt to Disneyworld is a story of charlatans, hucksters, crooks, imaginative cameramen, brilliant zoology and shameless appeal to the sex and violence of life as cinema audiences have grown to expect it to be. Mitman [...] tells the American version of this lurid celluloid safari."
– Tim Radford, The Guardian
"American wildlife film-makers [...] abandoned truth in favor of more alluring lode stars. Reel Nature is an admirable history of why they did so [...] Very well told."
– Stephen Mills, Times Literary Supplement
"While nature films have had a positive impact on our understanding of nature, the whole truth about our place in the web of life has been left on the cutting-room floor."