National Geographic Announces Ambitious, Premium Content Slate Exclusively for Disney+
Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Content, announced 13 new original projects being produced exclusively for Disney+.
[via press release from National Geographic Partners]
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ANNOUNCES AMBITIOUS, PREMIUM CONTENT SLATE EXCLUSIVELY FOR DISNEY+
NEW SERIES HAIL FROM DARREN ARONOFSKY, DAVID BLAINE, JAMES CAMERON, JIMMY CHIN, JON FAVREAU, SUSANNA FOGEL, BRIAN GRAZER, CHRIS HEMSWORTH, RON HOWARD, TONY PHELAN, JOAN RATER, E. CHAI VASARHELYI AND WILL SMITH
AUDACIOUS NEW NATURAL HISTORY SLATE INCLUDES HOME – AN EPIC 10 YEAR, NINE SEASON ODYSSEY ACROSS OUR PLANET FROM BBC STUDIOS NATURAL HISTORY UNIT
NEW GREENLIGHTS INCLUDE:
Blockbuster Non-Fiction Series
· POLE TO POLE – Will Smith Traverses from the South Pole to the North Pole; From Westbrook, Jane Root’s Nutopia and Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa
Unprecedented Eight Epic Natural History Series
· GREAT MIGRATIONS – A Fresh Look at Our Planet on the Move; From Plimsoll Productions
· HOME – Definitive Portrait of Life on Earth With BBC Studios Natural History Unit
· LION – Jon Favreau and Distinctive Wildlife Cinematographers of the BBC Studios Natural History Unit Tell Profound Story of One Pride of Lions
· SECRETS OF THE ELEPHANTS and SECRETS OF THE OCTOPUS – James Cameron Executive Produced Earth Day Franchise Series
· SENTIENT – Executive Producer Darren Aronofsky and Wildstar Films Explore New Science of Sentience
· SUPER/NATURAL – Benedict Cumberbatch to Narrate Series from Executive Producer James Cameron and Plimsoll Productions, Inviting Viewers to Experience Natural World as Super-Sensing Animals and Insects Do
· THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM SERIES – Critically Acclaimed Feature Documentary About John and Molly Chester’s Biodiverse Farm, Apricot Lane Farms, Picked Up to Series
Three Adventure Series
· BEYOND BELIEF WITH DAVID BLAINE – Master Magician and Endurance Artist Traverses Globe to Reveal Closely Guarded Magic and Cultures; From Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Documentaries
· EPIC ADVENTURES OF BERTIE GREGORY – BAFTA Award-Winning Filmmaker Bertie Gregory Breaks the Mold in Natural History Storytelling
· PHOTOGRAPHER – E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin Explore With World’s Greatest Photographers
Fact-Based Scripted Series
· A SMALL LIGHT – From ABC Signature in Partnership with Keshet Studios, Executive Producers Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, and DGA award winner and Emmy(R) nominated Director Susanna Fogel, the Life Story of Miep Gies, Who Played Critical Role in Hiding Anne Frank (Previously Announced)
(WASHINGTON, D.C. / NEW YORK, NY – Feb. 7, 2022) – National Geographic, which has a dedicated tile on Disney+, showcased the full range of its brand and programming to the Television Critics Association today, with visually spectacular natural history shows from world-class filmmakers as its centerpiece.
Courteney Monroe, president, National Geographic Content, announced 13 new original projects being produced exclusively for Disney+ that reflect a significant investment in National Geographic’s industry-leading portfolio of natural history series and specials, its acclaimed nonfiction and feature documentaries, and its fact-based scripted series about historical figures who epitomize the strength and triumphs of humankind.
Each new Disney+ project continues National Geographic’s alliance with visionary filmmakers, passionate conservationists and marquee talent, including Darren Aronofsky, David Blaine, James Cameron, Jimmy Chin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jon Favreau, Brian Grazer, Chris Hemsworth, Ron Howard, Michael B. Jordan, Tony Phelan, Joan Rater, E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Susanne Fogel and Will Smith. Collectively, a shared passion for storytelling is what unites this incredible slate of talent with the future of National Geographic on Disney+.
“At National Geographic, our strategy is to tell bold, best-in-class stories that ignite curiosity and inspire people to explore and care about our world,” said Monroe. “With premium, creatively ambitious shows from the very best storytellers in the world, we are bringing awe and wonder to the lives of global Disney+ subscribers with wildly entertaining National Geographic documentary series, feature documentary films, epic natural history and fact-based scripted drama.”
Today’s announcements expand upon the previously announced slate of Disney+ Originals from National Geographic, which include this year’s LIMITLESS WITH CHRIS HEMSWORTH and AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL and future series A REAL BUG’S LIFE, QUEENS and OCEANXPLORERS. Monroe also announced that actor Michael B. Jordan (Marvel’s “Black Panther”) will narrate AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, and Benedict Cumberbatch (Marvel’s “Dr. Strange”) will narrate SUPER/NATURAL.
Finally, Monroe announced that the next documentary from the award-winning National Geographic Documentary Films banner will be Ron Howard’s WE FEED PEOPLE. After a festival run, beginning with its global premiere at SXSW, the film will launch on Disney+ Memorial Day weekend, Friday, May 27.
New projects announced today include the following (all titles are working titles):
Blockbuster Non-fiction Series
POLE TO POLE (Westbrook Studios, Nutopia and Protozoa)
In his third epic project for National Geographic, actor and producer Will Smith (“Welcome to Earth,” “One Strange Rock”) leads viewers on an astounding journey from the bottom of the planet to its top – covering 26,000 miles from the South Pole to the North Pole – to unlock the mystery of Earth’s astonishing diversity and alchemy. Filming for more than 100 days, the series documents his journey across all of Earth’s biomes: polar ice, desert, jungle, mountain, savannah and swamp. In each location, the explorer Smith and his film crew will embed with local communities and experience firsthand what it is like to live in some of the most amazing and extreme landscapes on the planet. For Westbrook, Will Smith, Miguel Melendez and Terence Carter are executive producers. For Nutopia, Jane Root and Peter Lovering are executive producers. For Protozoa, Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel are executive producers.
Epic Natural History Series
GREAT MIGRATIONS (Plimsoll Productions)
Our planet is on the move. Animals across every landscape embark on epic migrations in search of food, shelter and safe breeding grounds. Whether by land, sea or air, all of these journeys are full of obstacles and dangers – only those with the strength, determination and persistence go the distance. Now, using the state-of-the-art remote cameras and drones and the latest tracking technology that can break down animal behavior by the hour, we can follow the drama, jeopardy and courage every step of the way. Inspiring animal stories of endeavor and emotion are set against a backdrop of sweeping wildlife spectacles and epic landscapes. Executive producers are Tom Hugh-Jones “Hostile Planet,” “Planet Earth II”) and Martha Holmes (“Earth Live,” “Blue Planet”). The showrunner is Sarah Gibbs (“Kingdom of the Mummies,” “Arctic Live”).
HOME (BBC Studios Natural History Unit)
Filmed over an unprecedented decade and running an exceptional nine seasons, National Geographic and the world-leading BBC Studios Natural History Unit embark on HOME, the most ambitious and definitive portrait of life on Earth ever attempted. Production has commenced on the first three seasons and development committed to six more seasons of what will be a cinematic spectacle of natural history across the planet, created by a multiple award-winning team. HOME will journey through five oceans and seven continents to reveal the deeply symbiotic relationships between all living things. This ambitious blue-chip event will set a new benchmark for landmark natural history television, culminating with an examination of how our planet has adapted and transformed during the 10 years of program making. The creative team is showrunner and producer Doug Hope (“Big Blue Live,” “Endangered”), producer is Gavin Boyland (“Big Cats,” “Primates”) and editor is Simon Blakeney (“Dynasties,” “Africa,” “Life”).
LION (Creator and Executive Producer Jon Favreau and BBC Studios Natural History Unit)
Currently in pre-production, acclaimed director Jon Favreau (Marvel’s “Iron Man” and “Iron Man 2”, Disney’s “The Lion King”), the world’s foremost natural history producer, Mike Gunton, and the BBC Studios Natural History Unit have joined forces in a formidable creative partnership to present a landmark series about one the world’s most majestic creatures – Lions. When principal photography begins, Lion will follow a single pride for an unprecedented four years. In this intimate and emotional series, the filmmakers will use cutting-edge technology to explore the heart-stopping challenges facing an entire species, all told through a compelling, serialized dramatic story of a single group of characters. The executive producers are Favreau and Gunton (“Planet Earth II,” “Dynasties”) and series editor is Simon Blakeney (“Life,” “Dynasties”); each brings unrivaled experience, an innate passion for emotional storytelling and a deep love of lions to this television event.
SECRETS OF THE ELEPHANTS and SECRETS OF THE OCTOPUS (Executive Producer James Cameron, Oxford Scientific Films, SeaLight Pictures)
National Geographic turns its 2021 Emmy(R)-winning SECRETS OF THE WHALES natural history limited series into a new annual multipart franchise presented to coincide with Earth Day each year, SECRETS OF… with James Cameron returning as Executive Producer. Each year will focus on one species to fully explore its unique traits and culture. In 2023, the franchise will present SECRETS OF THE ELEPHANTS with conservationist Dr. Paula Kahumbu, winner of the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year (2021). Elephants have long been a source of wonder and mystery with their rich emotional lives and almost supernatural ways of navigating the world. In SECRETS OF THE ELEPHANTS, we travel the globe to meet different families of elephants, each with their own set of remarkable cultural behaviors which they’ve adapted to suit the environment in which they live. This series deploys the latest science and brand-new camera technology to reveal the elephant’s secret world, revealing not just how truly extraordinary they are in their own right but also how similar they are to humans. Desert elephants, forest elephants, Asian elephants and African savannah elephants each have an incredible story of intelligence, grace and survival to tell.
For SECRETS OF THE ELEPHANTS, Emmy Award-winners James Cameron and Maria Wilhelm for Earthship are executive producers. Lucinda Axelsson is the executive producer for Oxford Scientific Films. Her credits include “China: Nature’s Ancient Kingdom,” “Serengeti,” “Wild Brazil,” “Elephant Diaries,” “Elephants of Samburu,” “Meerkat Manor,” “Spy in the Wild.” SECRETS OF THE OCTOPUS will be presented by wildlife scientist Dr. Alexandra Schnell. It is executive produced by Emmy Award-winners James Cameron and Maria Wilhelm for Earthship, two-time Emmy Award nominee Colette Beaudry and Emmy Award Honoree Adam Geiger for SeaLight Pictures.
SENTIENT (Executive Producer Darren Aronosky’s Protozoa and Wildstar Films)
If monkeys do math, whales mourn their dead, bees draw maps and the largest communication network on Earth is run by mushrooms – how special are we? For centuries we’ve set ourselves apart from nature because of the way we think and feel and learn, but the latest revelations from the fields of animal behavior, cognition and psychology reveal some astonishing truths about the other minds with which we share our planet. SENTIENT will show that life at all scales – plants, animals and arguably, entire ecosystems – has aspects of sentience and will ask us to rethink our place in nature. Executive producers for Protozoa are Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel. Executive Producers for Wildstar Films are Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz. (“Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet”). The showrunner is Hannah Gibson (“Savage Kingdom” and “Earth From Space”).
SUPER/NATURAL (Executive Producer James Cameron and Plimsoll Productions)
Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch
Executive-produced by James Cameron and narrated by Academy Award(R)-nominated and BAFTA Award-winning actor Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game,” “Patrick Melrose”), this new series will utilize the latest scientific innovations and leading-edge filmmaking technology to reveal the secret powers and super-senses of the world’s most extraordinary animals, inviting viewers to see and hear beyond normal human perception to experience the natural world as a specific species does – from seeing flowers in bee-vision to eavesdropping on a conversation between elephant seals to soaring the length of a football field with glow-in-the-dark squirrels. Set to premiere later this year, the series is executive produced by Emmy Award-winners James Cameron and Maria Wilhelm for Earthship and multiple Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning executive producers Martha Holmes (“Earth Live,” “Blue Planet”) and Tom Hugh-Jones (“Hostile Planet,” “Planet Earth II”). The showrunners are Matt Brandon (“Dogs – the Untold Story,” “Cities: Nature’s New Wild”) and Bill Markham (“Animal,” “Night on Earth”).
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM SERIES (FarmLore Films in Association With Apricot Lane Farms and Neon)
After previously announcing a special for this year’s Earth Day based on the award-winning feature documentary about John and Molly Chester, who abandon their Los Angeles urban life to instead live on a dried-up farm in Ventura County, National Geographic has announced it will expand into a series for Disney+. Over the course of 14 years, the Chesters transformed that farm into Apricot Lane Farms, a magical working farm that reflects the biodiversity of our planet and continued to document the whole process in a new heartwarming series that’s akin to a real-life “Charlotte’s Web.” The series will introduce the audience to the animals on the farm, including Georgie, the gopher-eating egret, Walter, the rooster who protects injured chickens, and an adorable lamb named Moe who befriends the family. The executive producers are Erica Messer, Sandra Keats and John Chester. The series is directed by John Chester.
BEYOND BELIEF WITH DAVID BLAINE (Executive Producers Brian Grazer and Ron Howard and Imagine Documentaries)
BEYOND BELIEF WITH DAVID BLAINE presents a rarely seen side of magician and endurance artist David Blaine. This new documentary adventure series brings viewers along as Blaine goes on a global odyssey across remote cultures, each embedded with unique histories and practices. He will hunt for extraordinary people – including shamans, fakirs and magicians who perform magic that defies what doctors and scientists think is possible – and convince them to share their secrets. Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, David Blaine, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes and Matthew Akers are executive producers. Toby Oppenheimer is the executive producer and showrunner.
THE EPIC ADVENTURES OF BERTIE GREGORY (Wildstar Films)
The face of a new generation of aspirational adventurers and natural history filmmakers, 27-year-old Bertie Gregory takes viewers on an epic and nail-biting journey that pushes into the most spectacular and secretive corners of our wild world. Armed with leading-edge film technology, Bertie breaks the mold of the traditional natural history program by telling extraordinary, real-life animal stories and taking viewers with him for every beat of the action. For weeks at a time, the charismatic BAFTA Award-winning cinematographer immerses himself into the animals’ lives to capture the untold stories of iconic creatures living in some of the harshest environments on our planet. This season will see Bertie braving the icy worlds of Antarctica in search of the biggest gathering of whales ever filmed and coming face-to-face with specialist buffalo-hunting lions in Zambia. In this multipart adventure series, he will take audiences on an ambitious odyssey across the globe, showcasing the natural world at a time when it faces its greatest challenges. Set to premiere later this year, the series has also been picked up for a second season, which is filming now. Executive producers for Wildstar Films are BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Vanessa Berlowitz (“Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet”), and Anwar Mamon (“Life at the Waterhole,” “Day on Earth”). The showrunner is James Brickell (“Planet Earth II,” “Welcome to Earth”).
PHOTOGRAPHER (Executive Producers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin and Their Production Company, Little Monster Films)
A stunning and intimate documentary series from Academy and Emmy Award-winners E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin (“Free Solo,” “The Rescue”), PHOTOGRAPHER will tell the intensely personal stories of the world’s greatest visual storytellers and artists, from how they found themselves behind a camera to how they dedicate themselves to the endless pursuit of perfecting their craft. Spanning diverse genres of photography, each episode will profile an extraordinary photographer, taking viewers on a journey to discover just what it takes to produce the world’s most iconic images and providing an immersive ride on what it feels like to be a photographer behind the lens during extraordinary moments. Each episode will be directed by a different filmmaker, who will partner with a photographer to tell the story of his or her life. Vasarhelyi and Chin directed the first episode featuring conservation photographers Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier.
Scripted Series (Previously Announced)
A SMALL LIGHT (Executive Producers and Writers Joan Rater and Tony Phelan, Executive Producer and Director Susanna Fogel) From ABC Signature in partnership with Keshet Studios
A powerful limited scripted series tells the remarkable story of twentysomething Miep Gies who, when her boss Otto Frank came to her and asked her to hide his family from the Nazis during World War II, didn’t hesitate. For the next two years, Miep, her husband Jan, and the other helpers watched over the eight souls in hiding in the Secret Annex. And it was Miep who found Anne’s Diary and preserved it so that she and Otto could later share it with the world.
Gies, who died in 2010 at the age of 100, was an amazing and unlikely heroine whose story is inspiring, and deeply humanistic. The series title comes from something Gies said late in her life: “I don’t like being called a hero because no one should ever think you have to be special to help others. Even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can turn on a small light in a dark room.”
The screenwriters are Joan Rater and Tony Phelan (ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Madam Secretary”). DGA award winner and Emmy(R) nominated Susanna Fogel (“The Flight Attendant,” “Cat Person”) will direct multiple episodes. The Disney+ Original limited series A SMALL LIGHT, from National Geographic, will be produced by ABC Signature in partnership with Keshet Studios. Executive producers are Joan Rater, Tony Phelan, Susanna Fogel; Keshet Studios’ Peter Traugott, Keshet International’s Alon Shtruzman and Keshet Media Group’s Avi Nir. Executive producers are Joan Rater, Tony Phelan, Susanna Fogel; Keshet Studios’ Peter Traugott, Keshet International’s Alon Shtruzman and Keshet Media Group’s Avi Nir.
National Geographic Documentary Films
WE FEED PEOPLE (From Director Ron Howard and Producers Brian Grazer and Imagine Documentaries)
Premieres Friday, May 27
WE FEED PEOPLE spotlights renowned chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen’s incredible mission and evolution over 12 years, from being a scrappy group of grassroots volunteers to becoming one of the most highly regarded humanitarian aid organizations in the disaster relief sector. As the world’s most prominent food-focused first responders, Andrés and the World Central Kitchen team have snapped into action, combating hunger in the wake of crisis by serving over 60 million meals to date. Featuring exclusive access to World Central Kitchen’s initiatives and archives, the documentary follows Andrés and his team around the globe as they address the increasing environmental and humanitarian crises that devastate our world the best way they know how: through food. The film takes an in-depth look at World Central Kitchen’s collaborations with local chefs to feed affected people and first responders, which has instilled an extraordinary sense of hope in these communities. From the front lines of a crisis to the backrooms of the kitchen, the film examines the restoration of community and the activation of change, one meal at a time. Joining Brian Grazer and Ron Howard as producers are Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Walter Matteson and Meredith Kaulfers. For Imagine Entertainment, Michael Rosenberg and Louisa Velis are executive producers. For World Central Kitchen, Nate Mook and Richard Wolffe are executive producers. Sam Pollard is a consulting producer and Andrew Morreale is the editor.
Previously Announced Series
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL (Wildstar Films)
Narrated by Michael B. Jordan
From the award-winning producers of “Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet” and the “Disneynature” films, AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL, narrated by Michael B. Jordan, is the jaw-dropping story of our homeland and its amazing animals. North America is the most diverse and extreme continent on Earth. The only place where you can find every landscape, from Arctic icecap to baking desert and everything in-between. We take a journey through America’s most spectacular regions – the mountainous Northwest, the steamy South, the arid West and the endless Heartland. Whatever the neighborhood, there’s a hero who can make it a home. Smart, tough, brave, you name it, the animals of North America have what it takes to overcome the elements and thrive. In our closing episode, we meet the human heroes fighting to preserve our wildlife and wild places for future generations. Executive producers for Wildstar Films are multi-BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning team of Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz. (“Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet”). The showrunner is Dan Rees (“Frozen Planet,” “Atlantic”).
A REAL BUG’S LIFE (Plimsoll Productions)
A REAL BUG’S LIFE will be one of the most ambitious and innovative natural history series ever to be made. Only now, with recent advancements in camera technology, can we meet these extraordinary little characters and see our colossal world through their tiny eyes. A REAL BUG’S LIFE takes viewers on an unforgettable journey that exposes how these microsized creatures keep our world turning while facing monstrous forces and threats. From the savannas of Africa and the Australian Outback to the streets of New York and your own backyard, each episode immerses the viewer inside a microcosm, where tiny-yet-extraordinary creatures rely on their mighty abilities to make it through the day. In ten spellbinding episodes, we take you on adventures into a world beyond your imagination to show you what life is like on planet Earth from a bug’s eye view. Set to premiere in 2023, the series boasts multiple Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning executive producers: Tom Hugh-Jones (“Hostile Planet,” “Tiny World”) and Martha Holmes (“Earth Live,” “Blue Planet”). Showrunners are Helen Williamson (“How The Universe Works,” “The Great American Eclipse”) and Nat Sharman (“Welcome to Earth,” “One Strange Rock”).
LIMITLESS WITH CHRIS HEMSWORTH (Executive Producer Darren Aronofsky and Protozoa and Executive Producer Jane Root and Nutopia)
What if you could combat aging and discover the full potential of the human body? Global movie star Chris Hemsworth (“Extraction,” “Thor,” “The Avengers”) explores this revolutionary idea in the new National Geographic original series LIMITLESS WITH CHRIS HEMSWORTH, created by Darren Aronofsky and hailing from his production company Protozoa and Jane Root’s Nutopia. New scientific research is shattering conventional wisdom about the human body and offering fascinating insights into how we can all unlock our body’s superpowers to fight illness, perform better and even reverse the aging process! This science is put to the test by Hemsworth, who, despite being in peak superhero condition, is on a personal mission to learn how to extend our health, strength and intellect further into our later years. Undergoing a series of epic trials and extraordinary challenges in order to understand the limits of the human body, he’ll learn firsthand how we can live better for longer by discovering ways to regenerate damage, maximize strength, build resilience, supercharge memory and confront mortality. Entertaining, immersive and life-changing, LIMITLESS will rewrite the rulebook on living better for longer. Chris Hemsworth and Ben Grayson are executive producers. For Protozoa, Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel and Scott Franklin are executive producers. For Nutopia, Jane Root, Arif Nurmohamed and Ruth Shurman are executive producers.
OCEANXPLORERS (Executive Producer James Cameron, OceanX and BBC Studios Natural History Unit)
From National Geographic Explorer James Cameron (“Avatar”), OceanX and BBC Studios Natural History Unit (“Blue Planet II”) comes the most ambitious ocean adventure ever filmed. OCEANXPLORERS takes audiences aboard an advanced scientific research vessel, OceanXplorer, to investigate the farthest frontiers of the world’s oceans, 95% of which are entirely unexplored. Combining a high-end, science-driven documentary with breathtaking sequences to capture the drama and thrill of exploration, the six-part series is a high-stakes adventure in ocean discovery. James Cameron and Maria Wilhelm are executive producers. For BBC Studios Natural History Unit, Roger Webb and Orla Doherty are executive producers. For OceanX, Ray Dalio, Mark Dalio and Joe Ruffolo are executive producers. For Brian Catalina Entertainment, Brian Catalina is executive producer.
QUEENS (Wildstar Films)
Six mighty sisterhoods, six epic worlds. Meet the most powerful queens in nature, from the peace-loving bonobo chimps of the Congo basin to the ruthless jewel bees of Costa Rica. Whether they rule with love, wisdom or brute force, all would sacrifice everything for their family. This is the first natural history series to focus on matriarchal societies and put female animal leaders in the spotlight. For the first time, a female-led camera and production team draws on their feminine intuition to capture a revelatory view of the natural world. QUEENS is also dedicated to training and supporting women around the planet to help change the face of wildlife TV. Executive producer for Wildstar Films is BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Vanessa Berlowitz, (“Planet Earth,” “Frozen Planet”). The showrunner is Chloe Sarosh (“Earth from Space,” “Nature’s Weirdest Events”).
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