Emmy-nominated filmmaker Nick Mollé says his latest "Nature of the Beasts" is a love song to the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is also a clever word play alluding to …
Emmy-nominated filmmaker Nick Mollé says his latest "Nature of the Beasts" is a love song to the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is also a clever word play alluding to the fauna within the park as well as the people from without who flock there year after year.
The Estes Park Trail-Gazette (Colorado) notes, "Nick believes that honest art and true science both are born from the passion within us for a selfless examination of the world around us - in this case the wonders of our wilderness."
According to Mollé, five million people visited Rocky Mountain National Park last year. Think of it in terms of filling up Chicago Cub's Wrigley Field 90 times or Boston Red Sock's Fenway Park 135 times -- in one year.
"I love national parks, I love what it's all about," enthuses Mollé. "I've never had to be told I would enjoy a walk in the world." Rocky Mountain is one of 61 National parks, and is comprised of 265,769 acres or 358 square miles.
Mollé and producer Jerry Kennell live in Estes Park, Colorado, the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. The town is inundated with people bottlenecking it to the great outdoors. Some locals criticize Mollé because "Nature of the Beasts" will only bring more people through the town. But for the buoyant film maker, the exposure means more and more people will experience the incredible beauty of the American Southwest.
"Nature of the Beast," one of a series in Mollé's "A Walk in the Park," will be released to 300 PBS stations in August. Mollé owns and operates Rocky Mountain's EPTV Channel 8 broadcast out of Estes Park.
"It doesn't necessarily take an activist view but really tries to take a look at simply what are the realities and where does this all come together in terms of the visitors' experience and the flora and fauna of the park," remarks Kennell.
The film revolves around the park's inestimable beauty with two questions: How can the park manage a positive visitor experience, and what is happening in terms of global climate change within the microcosm of the Rocky Mountains? "It doesn't answer all the questions in the world but in a gorgeous setting, just kind of lays out where we are and where we might go," says Kennell.
Now for the star - spotlight on, enter stage left, the film's mascot -- introducing the pika. "The pika is so stupidly cute it is ridiculous. They are lovingly evasive," says Mollé. Kennell jokes that one of the film's scientists called the pika "a big potato with ears." Adorable as it is, the pika evolved as the film's bellwether for a changing climate, the canary in the mine, as Kennel elucidates. "Once you learn their patterns, they are easy to film," says Mollé.
They are small mountain-dwelling mammals, the fur is long and soft like their relative, the rabbit. Unlike the rabbit and hare, the hind limbs are not appreciable longer and they weight between 125 to 200 grams. Pikas live high up in the tundra's snowpack.
Colorado State climatologist Scott Denning is one of the experts in the "Nature of the Beasts." He studies climate change unceasingly and is still optimistic that we can produce viable sources of fuel that won't bring the planet to its knees.
When asked just how bad global warming is, he replied, "It's not that bad yet, but it has the potential to be the worst problem, almost without bounds. We can't let that happen. People have risen to challenging times before. They dug deep and they did heroic things."
That's what is heartening about "Nature of the Beasts." The central players are passionate, talented, upbeat and at the top of their game. Everyone I talked to eschews the we-are-going-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket mantra. The facts are laid out by three or four experts, exaggeration is not a prerogative and a solution is possible.
According to Mollé, the pika's population is declining at lower elevations. The critical thing about the critters is unlike other mammals they don't hibernate, so if the snow melts, there goes the neighborhood. They become caught out and cannot survive without the snow's shelter. It might be said that the populations living at higher elevations are beating Darwin's odds. But so far there is no evidence of hightailing it up the mountain, according to Mollé.
"We are trying to educate more and more people - we love national parks. You go into the woods and you feel good," says down-to-earth Mollé.
"This is all passion, it's not some boring film; it's a complete adventure," says Denning.
Some of the places in the park bear Arapaho names like Roku Crags, or Rocks Where the Eagles Nest, and Kawuneechee, or Coyote Valley.
Jack London is one of Mollé's favorite authors. In "The Call of the Wild" London writes, "But especially he loved to run in the dim twilight of the summer midnight's, listening to the subdued and sleepy murmurs of the forest, reading signs and sounds as a man may read a book, and seeking for the mysterious something that called - called, waking or sleeping, at all times, for him to come."
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