120 mins - Smithsonian Channel
Wide-Eyed Entertainment - 2011
58 million years ago the largest snake the world has ever known slithered through the swampy jungles of South America. Weighing more than a tonne and measuring 50 foot long it swallowed giant crocodiles for breakfast! We went to find it - buried at the bottom of an open-cast coal mine in modern day Colombia.
The Cerrejon mine was a world of giants - massive fish, turtles and crocodiles lived alongside Titanoboa. Many of them the snake would have considered prey. This is the story of the scientists attempts to recreate the world of Titanoboa and to get to grips with the life cycle of this enormous reptile. How did it come to be so big? As they discover the surprising answer would rewrite the rule book on climate change in the tropics.
To tell the story we recreated the snake and its world in CGI - intercutting that with the modern day action in the field. As well as filming at the dig, no easy task since Cerrejon is still very much a working mine, we also went in search of Titanoboa's modern cousins. In the Venezuela's Llanos we waded through knee high swamp in search of Anaconda. The easiest way to find them being to step on them (gently) with your bare feet. We filmed and captured for tagging 28 snakes. The very first ones were part of a huge mating ball - one female and five male anacondas. An extremely rare find and the first time it has been caught properly on film before. Also caught on film the moment when one of the scientists learnt what it might have felt like to be a prey item. One paleontologist who suddenly came to realise that fossils can bite back.
It wasn't just Titanoboa that was massive with this project. The Smithsonian have put considerable effort behind the promotion of the series with a major website (see above), an iphone app and the staging of a major exhibit, including the life sized model of Titanoboa made for the film, at Grand Central Station in New York.