Entertainment & Arts

David Attenborough early wildlife films to screen in colour

Sir David Attenborough
Image caption Zoo Quest ran for nine years from 1954 and was first shown in black and white

Sir David Attenborough's early natural history films are to be shown in colour for the first time to mark the broadcaster's 90th birthday.

The 1950s series Zoo Quest originally aired in black and white, but when footage was unearthed by the BBC Natural History Unit last year it was found to have been shot in colour.

Sir David said he was "astonished" at the discovery.

Zoo Quest In Colour will be screened on BBC Four on 11 May.

The special programme has been made using footage from the first three episodes and will feature the best footage from Zoo Quest trips to Western Africa and South America.

It will also include the best scenes from Zoo Quest for a Dragon, in which a komodo dragon was filmed in the wild for the first time.

Sir David said: "I was astonished when someone said we've got nearly all the film of the first three expeditions you did in colour. I said, 'it's impossible, we shot in black and white'."

Image caption Sir David in 1956 while on a journey to Komodo
Image caption Sir David in pursuit of a giant anteater in the Rupununi Savannah, British Guiana, in 1955

Charles Lagus, Sir David's cameraman at the time, said he too was surprised by the newly-discovered 16mm film.

"At its best it's as good as any colour you see now, quite staggering for the period that it was filmed in," he added.

Zoo Quest ran for nine years from 1954 and was considered groundbreaking as it brought never-before-filmed wildlife into British homes.

The special programme - which will be broadcast three days after Sir David's birthday - is part of a week of programming to celebrate Sir David's landmark birthday.

Other shows to be screened include Attenborough's Passion Projects, featuring Sir David's four favourite films from his catalogue of work.

There will be a BBC One celebratory special entitled Attenborough At 90, which will see presenter Kirsty Young talking to the broadcaster about his career.

Meanwhile BBC Two's Life That Glows will see Sir David looking at creatures such as glow worms, fire flies and luminous plankton to guide viewers through the world of bioluminescence.

Image caption Sir David plays back recordings to astonished Bundu Tribeswomen in Sierra Leone in 1954. The women had never heard themselves on a tape recorder before.

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