As any spy or FBI thriller tells us, if you want to infiltrate just about any group, first you have to become one of them. That’s what a group of BBC filmmakers did to get an intimate look at life inside a penguin community.
In order to get maximum access for its documentary Penguins: Spy in the Huddle, BBC filmmakers created robotic, remote-controlled penguin simulacra. These ciphers—and also some faux penguin eggs—were then outfitted with cameras and sent out among the flightless birds. Somehow these Antarctic Donnie Brascos were accepted into the fold, where they captured some invasively intimate shots.
All in all, 50 animatronic penguins were made for the BBC series. While we’ll never know whether the birds sensed that there were interlopers among them, like the lead characters in John Carpenter’s They Live, it appears that the ruse had its intended effect, allowing filmmakers to capture the penguins with their guards down and revealing much about their interpenguinal dynamics.
Watch the trailer for the documentary below and look through images from it in the slide show above.