Glen Zipper, producer of the Netflix animal docuseries Dogs and Cat People, said he hopes the new seasons of both series, which premiere on Wednesday, would bring viewers together.
“Dogs are one of the few things in life that brings us all together,” Zipper said over the phone. “One of the guiding principles of this show was to use dogs as a relatable element, to show us how much we have in common.”
Dogs, now in its second season, has four new groups of canines and their owners. Cat People’s first season accomplishes the same thing with six feline owners.
Season 2 of Dogs includes Butler University mascot Trip III, Brazilian priest and dog rescuer Father Joao, astronaut Leland Melvin and his two Rhodesian Ridgebacks, and Air Force veteran Tara, who rescues a dog from Iraq.
Zipper said these four stories represent people with diverse backgrounds who share the common goal of caring for dogs.
“By showing a diversity of characters from all around the world, from every race, gender, ethnicity and so on, it only redoubles that messaging,” Zipper said. “If we can pour our love into that one thing together, there are probably some other things that we can pour our love in.”
Season 1 of Dogs premiered in 2018 on Netflix. The streaming service renewed the series in 2019.
Zipper said narrowing down the four stories for Season 2 took a year, and then filming those stories during the COVID-19 pandemic complicated production.
“To find stories that have a real journey to them, that you can tell in real time with a beginning, middle and end is actually quite hard,” Zipper added.
Dogs followed Trip in his final season before Butler University brought in Trip IV. Michael Kaltenmark, Trip’s handler, had a kidney transplant at the same time.
Zipper stated that he chose stories with likely happy endings. He said he might try a riskier subject in the future, but has so far drawn towards success tales in Dogs.
“We do want these stories to be hopeful, happy and leave audiences feeling good,” Zipper said. “Life is hard and when people come home at the end of the day and they turn on a show like Dogs or Cat People, they’re not looking to be made sad.”
After Season 1 of Dogs premiered, Zipper said fans pressured him on social media to create a similar show for cats. He said he used the same criteria to select stories of cats and their owners.
“The love that people have for their cats is every bit as strong as the love that people have for their dogs,” Zipper said. “The bonds are just as strong as well.”
Zipper’s crew found that cats were less cooperative with their cameras than dogs. They adapted to make cats comfortable with the film crews.
“We needed to set up the equipment and just let it be there for a while and let the crew just be there for a while to pass the cat sniff test,” Zipper said. “Once the cats were feeling comfortable and bored of us being there, then they just went back to being cats.”
Women who train cats to do gymnastics and music, Japanese artist Sachi, who produces 3D cat portraits called Wakuneco, a surfing support cat, cat rapper Moshow, and other Cat People stories are shown. Zipper picked two rescue groups to follow as well.
“Our obligation as storytellers is to tell the most compelling story,” Zipper added. “The rescue organisations that have the ability to offer those stories that we can in turn offer to our audiences, those are the rescue organisations that we would go with.”
Zipper got his start in the business by rescuing animals. In 2003, he spotted his pit bull puppy, Anthony, on the streets of New Jersey and left his job as a criminal prosecutor to work at the animal shelter.
“After about six months, I had a strange feeling that I couldn’t identify,” Zipper said. “Finally, my brother told me, ‘Yeah, that feeling you’re experiencing is called happiness.'”
Zipper relocated to California after six months of animal rescue. Since 2010, he has begun making documentaries. Zipper was working on Season 2 of Dogs when Anthony died at the start of the epidemic.
“Anthony was my whole life,” Zipper said. “If I didn’t have Dogs to work on after his life, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Zipper’s next production, UFO, will air on Showtime on Aug. 8. Zipper collaborated with J.J. Abrams’ company, Bad Robot, to produce the series about government and private forces potentially covering up UFO sightings.
“UFO is much more journalistic and investigative piece,” Zipper said. “When you’re telling factual stories, they’re even more compelling than science fiction or any other type of fiction because it’s reality. The stakes are real.”
Dogs and Cat People premiere Wednesday on Netflix.