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Vancouver Island wildlife stars in Netflix series Island of the Sea Wolves

Will Arnett narrates the three-episode series, which arrives Tuesday on Netflix
Island of the Sea Wolves is a three-part Netflix series shot on Vancouver Island. NETFLIX

Will Arnett often steals every movie or television show in which he appears, but he suffered a rare defeat as the narrator of Island of the Sea Wolves. His elocution was no match for the stunning vistas and rugged animal habitats of Vancouver Island, where the natural history documentary series is exclusively based.

The former Arrested Development funnyman lends his voice to the three-episode series, which arrives Tuesday on Netflix. Island of the Sea Wolves is from Princeton, B.C. filmmaker Jeff Turner, whose resume includes work on the IMAX feature film, The Great Bear Rainforest, which was also based on Vancouver Island. Because of his prior work in the area, Turner and his co-director, daughter Chelsea Turner, knew where to go to find moving stories.

“We weren’t coming to the Island cold,” he said. “We knew people to talk to and places to go, in order to start the process. But even knowing all that, it was a huge investment of time, waiting and watching for things to happen.”

The series consists of a trio of 45-minute episodes and covers a year in the lives of main characters Cedar the wolf, Spiro the eagle, and Sky the sea otter — three of the dozens of species which appear in the series. Filming took place all over Vancouver Island, including in Victoria and Port Renfrew, Turner said.

“Vancouver Island is a big place, but in some sense it’s all connected. We didn’t get heavy into the geography of Vancouver Island, and focus more on the general environments of where the characters were living.”

Turner said local viewers will be surprised by the scale of the scenery, which rarely resembles the Vancouver Island that is familiar to most residents. Marmots, bears, and sea wolves also play prominent roles and their lives are told during a spring-summer-fall storyline. “Vancouver Island has a lot of habitats and interesting characters and unique stuff going on. When you really get into it and peel back the layers a little bit, and look really closely at what’s there, you see things you don’t necessarily always expect.”

Island of the Sea Wolves required 600 filming days over the nine-month shoot, “a big investment of time,” according to Turner. But not every day of shooting was buzzing with activity, which is the reality facing filmmakers who shoot in natural environments. “You piece the story together as you go along,” he said.

Island of the Sea Wolves arrives Tuesday on Netflix.

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