As Man vs. Bear pits the raw power and strength of the grizzly bear against some of the best human athletes in Discovery's groundbreaking new series, wildlife expert and host Casey Anderson hopes viewers will get a "different view" on what these beautiful bears are actually like. Ahead of the Wednesday, Dec. 4 series premiere, Anderson opened up to PopCulture.com about what drew him to Man vs. Bear after living with bears for most of his life and advocating for their safety through the Montana Grizzly Encounter.
After spending 25 years as a wildlife filmmaker, Anderson explained he saw an opportunity to reach people who haven't had close encounters with grizzlies through this "wild idea," as opposed his documentaries, which he likened to "preaching to the choir."
"This is genius, because you gotta watch it! There's no way you're going to change the channel," he explained of the competitive premise of the show. "If one person watches it and changes their mind, it will be worth it."
Breaking through people's view of the grizzly as a dangerous, scary animal to their individual personalities and tendency to act like "big clowns," Anderson wants viewers to be able to get to know Bart, Honey Bump and Tank in the same close and personal way that people talk about their dogs or cats.
"It really changes how you view the wild," he explained to PopCulture.com. "I do believe when you walk away from this show, you're going to have a different view of the grizzly bear, and a much more real one."
As for getting the bears to compete against the human athletes, Anderson worked closely with a team of wildlife experts to design challenges that are naturally how the bears have fun. That, paired with the cheers of people they love and a natural drive to compete, made it easy for the bears to get into the challenge in a similar way to their human counterparts.
"They're a predator, they're an animal that has to have some kind of innate competition instinct," Anderson explained. "You try harder, it makes the bear try harder. ... It was always very positive."
Despite the fun environment for the bears and athletes, there were also layers of safety precautions built in to keep the bears and the untrained humans separated, keeping everyone involved aware that a wild animal is still just that — wild.
"Even if you take all the safety precautions, it's still scary standing on the same ground as a 1,400-lb. grizzly bear," Anderson noted, adding that in competition, humans' brains are the only thing keeping them from being beaten easily at every turn."The only tool we have is our brain, and that's the one thing you see is for [the athletes] to strategize," he explained. "Never to really win, but to last the longest or lose the least."
Not that Anderson was rooting for the humans anyways, he admitted: "I was 100 percent team bear all the way."
Don't miss the premiere of Man Vs. Bear, airing Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery. Catch up every week on the Discovery GO app.
Photo credit: Discovery