BBC to air early David Attenborough documentaries in colour

'Zoo Quest' was shown in black and white during the early 1950s.

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Sir David Attenborough has been making natural history and wildlife documentaries for more than 60 years. One of his earliest productions, Zoo Quest, was broadcast in the early 1950s, before colour TVs were a household staple. Now, decades later, a BBC archivist has discovered six hours of Zoo Quest footage shot in gorgeous colour. It was a complete surprise because everyone, including Attenborough, had assumed the films were captured in monochrome. As he tells the BBC:

"I was astonished when someone said we've got nearly all the film of the first three expeditions you did in colour. I said it's impossible -- we shot in black and white."

As Radio Times reports, the film canisters were found in the library of the BBC's Natural History Unit in Bristol. The labels simply read "Attenborough," which is presumably why no-one had noticed them or thought to play them back. "The most experienced archive researcher who's been here 30 years didn't know about them," Miles Barton, Attenborough's filmmaking partner said. "They were uncatalogued and unlabelled. I find it unbelievable myself. I was totally amazed."

The newly discovered footage will be edited into a 90-minute special and and broadcast on BBC Four next month. It'll be called Zoo Quest in Color and feature new commentary from Attenborough and his cameraman Charles Lagus. Three documentaries will feature -- Zoo Quest to West Africa, Zoo Quest to Guiana, and Zoo Quest for a Dragon -- hopefully providing a new perspective on Attenborough's prestigious career.

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