Imax has boarded production on a new nature documentary, The Elephant Odyssey, chronicling 16 wild Asian elephants’ improbable journey across China’s Yunnan province. Filmed with Imax cameras and slated for release across the Imax theater network in 2024, the 90-minute documentary is currently in production in China. Co-producers with Imax are Singapore’s Beach House Pictures and a Beijing-based company called China Review Studio of China International Communications Group.
The producers say the film will offer “a completely new story on humanity’s relationship with the elephant,” with a narrative built around the real-life story that unfolded in 2020 when a group of wild Asian elephants left their habitat in China’s Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve. The elephants’ journey was captured by drone cameras and live-streamed, captivating viewers in China and elsewhere. For 18 months, the elephants traveled over 1,000 kilometers (over 620 miles) on a wildlife journey that included “impromptu village feasts, riotous raids on grain stores, messy mud fights and even giving birth on the road.”
“The 18-month journey of the Yunnan elephants at the height of the pandemic was a hopeful antidote to the lockdowns many of us were enduring,” said John Turner, head of documentaries for Imax. “We wanted to know more about these animals and why it happened.”
The film is directed by filmmaker Alice Gu (The Donut King) with Clair Popkin (Free Solo) serving as the director of photography. Imax’s John Turner and Daniel Manwaring, Beach House’s Donovan Chan and Jocelyn Little, and China Review Studio’s Chen Fang executive produce.
Added China Review Studio’s director, Chen: “The Elephant Odyssey is a deep exploration that goes beyond the fascinating journey of the Asian elephants that moved north and south, uncovering previously unknown, touching stories. We very much look forward to telling a distinctive Chinese story to audiences worldwide, together with Imax and Beach House Pictures.”