'Playing With Sharks' Trailer: The World's Greatest Shark Photographer Gets Her Own Disney+ Documentary

Sharks are terrifying. They represent something primordial, these creatures unchanged since the dinosaurs roamed. Their eyes are black pits, and their rows of teeth create a gnashing nightmare maw.

Shark researcher and underwater filmmaking pioneer Valerie Taylor doesn't see them that way. She's the center of the new Disney+ and National Geographic documentary, Playing With Sharks, coming July 23 to Disney+.

"It's like any animal, once you get to know it and understand it, you have a different attitude altogether," Taylor says in the trailer.

The Shark Whisperer

Taylor's love of sharks began when she was a competitive spear-hunter in the 1950s. In a sport that was about 1% women, she stood out. Instead of shooting the sharks with her speargun, however, she decided to start shooting them with her camera. Her underwater shark footage became so well known internationally that Universal Pictures sent her and her husband Ron copies of an unpublished script for feedback. That script went on to become Jaws, and the Taylors were hired to shoot all of the actual shark footage.

Taylor told the Sydney Morning Herald that she sometimes regretted the way audiences "overreacted" to Jaws. She has been a vocal advocate for the rights of these underwater creatures, despite having been "nipped" four times in her life.

"I don't think a shark swims around thinking, 'aha there's a human, I must swim up at and eat him'," she jokes in the trailer. "Sharks are fighting to survive, they want to live just as you or I want to live."

The trailer then shows her feeding and petting a Great White. Her affection for the animals is obvious, and the variety of footage in the two minute clip is astonishing. Taylor and her comrades are seen engaging with all kinds of the toothy fishes, and it's clear Taylor has no fear of them whatsoever.

"We realized a shark can learn faster than you can teach a dog," she says, before effortlessly getting a shark to move into a better position for the camera.

Doc Details

Playing with Sharks was written and directed by Sally Aitken, best known for her documentary series about Captain Cook, The Pacific: In the Wake of Captain Cook with Sam Neill. It had its world premiere in January at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, and is part of Nat Geo's ninth annual SharkFest. SharkFest begins on July 5 with the premiere of Shark Beach with Chris Hemsworth on National Geographic.