While I was out of town, I happened to be flipping through the nightly staple of cable programming, when I stumbled across an Animal Planet program, which featured a topic that I thought would be of lukewarm interest at best… Mermaids. I will confess, I was flatly wrong. Animal Planet knocked one out of the park with their realistic science fiction special “Mermaids: The Body Found.”
The two hour sci-fi documentary/drama follows the exploits of three research scientists on their journey to uncover the truth after they discover the remains of what appears to be a mermaid. Mermaids have been described by people and societies around the globe since the dawn of history. So, why is this particular story any different?
Animal Planet did a very interesting thing. By blending mythology with fact, they have made a compelling and entertaining program. What enhances the show is the use of amateur video, photographs, and sound recordings.
The feature begins in 1997 with scientists from NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) who are called in to investigate a mysterious whale beaching in Washington State. It seems, the Navy has been testing a new type of Sonar which causes brain and organ damage in the large mammals. However, these creatures are not the only ones affected. Before the scientists arrived, two boys had stumbled across a mysterious shape next to the whales in a small pile of seaweed. One of the boys records video of a slowly moving humanlike hand with webbed fingers on his cell phone.
“Mermaids: The Body Found” delves into the Aquatic Ape Theory, which lends credence to the mermaid myth. Spectacular CGI animates a world where mermaids really do swim below the water’s surface, cooperatively hunt with dolphins and may continue to survive in an intricate society where they stay hidden in fear of their Earth-bound relatives.
Later, the scientists from NOAA make their own discovery. In South Africa, a fisherman catches a great white shark, and in its belly are the remains of what appears to be a mermaid. The NOAA scientists, along with a few colleagues, autopsy the body. Experiments, specimens, and documents are generated by the team. Unfortunately, the South African government raids the laboratory and confiscates all of their work. It seems all of the governments of the world are in league in order to cover up the existence of mermaids.
With compiled amateur footage, including photos and video shot by deep-sea fishermen that have never been shown in the US, as well as cinema-quality CGI, “Mermaids: The Body Found” argues how a mythical creature – one of humankind’s most enduring legends – may be real. It depicts how mermaids may have evolved from the early human family tree and persisted into the present day.
There is a moment at the end of the program where the team talks to the two boys who discovered the mermaid at the Washington State whale beaching. The U.S. Government had interviewed the kids and had convinced them that what they saw wasn’t a mermaid. The two boys capitulate and step in line with the authorities, but one of the young men has held something back, and reveals this evidence to the NOAA team. Although brief, it turns out to be quite a surprise.
Find it on DVD, on-line, or watch a repeat showing through your local cable service. This program is entertaining and well-worth catching.
“Mermaids: The Body Found” is produced by Darlow Smithson for Animal Planet, and stars Sean Cameron Michael, Andre Louis Weideman, Candice D’Arcy, and David Soul (narrator (voice.)) Tom Brisley is executive producer for Darlow Smithson. For Animal Planet, Charlie Foley is executive producer, creator, and writer. For Animal Planet, Vaibhav Bhatt is co-writer, and supervising producer, while Jamie Dugger is producer. The director of animation is Steve Gomez, from Bandito Films. Sid Bennett directs.