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Bernheim forest giant makes Hollywood debut in Netflix series

Morning of Media day celebrating the completion of the first Forest Giant.
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
Morning of Media day celebrating the completion of the first Forest Giant.

A ragtag bunch of toys who are helping a lost stuffed rabbit, named Ollie, encounter their biggest foe yet while making their way through Bernheim Arboretum: a forest giant.

Little Nis, one of three forest giants at Bernheim, looks at his reflection in the lake in front of him, unaware of the impending attack. The toys then realize Little Nis isn’t a real forest giant. He’s made of wood. 

This is how Netflix’s audiences are introduced to Little Nis in the limited series “Lost Ollie.” The show follows the journey of Ollie as he travels around Louisville and surrounding areas, trying to find his way home.

Shannon Tindle, a Shepherdsville local who created the show, was familiar with Bernheim and their forest giants. The arboretum’s director of communications, Amy Landon, said that allowed the forest to be included in the project.

“I think he had come out to see the forest giants, and he was just as awestruck as other people coming out,” Landon said. “He just thought it would be a perfect fit in a story of a lost animal trying to find his way home.”

All of the scenes featuring Little Nis take place at night, so crews came to film in the dark in March 2021.

“It was a really long process of just capturing Nis from every possible angle, with every possible light and shadow hitting him, so that they knew it would feel so realistic and just like it is here when they show it on screen,” Landon said. 

Officials at Bernheim said they hope Little Nis’ appearance in the show will bring more eyes to the arboretum and the other forest giants.

“We hope it opens up a sense of curiosity, you know, around this area. People from all over the world watch Netflix,” Landon said. “Some of them may or may not recognize the sites specifically, but we hope they kind of look into it and are like ‘Well, that looks like fun,’ and, you know, it really opens their eyes to some new things.”

Little Nis is one of three sculptures at Bernheim. They’re part of a larger project by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, entitled “The Great Story of the Little People and Giant Trolls.” 

He created giant troll sculptures from recycled materials in several locations around the world, with the purpose of getting people to explore nature and recognize how they impact it.

“I really feel like the work invites us to think about our own trash and where it is going, and what we can do to turn it into something beautiful and fun,” said Jenny Zeller, Bernheim’s Arts in Nature Curator. 

Bernheim got its trolls in 2019 for the arboretum’s 90th anniversary. 

All over the forest, there are different sculptures and pieces for visitors to discover. The trolls have been among the most popular installations. 

“I appreciate that the giants have reinvigorated people’s desire to spend time in nature and to come back, bring their family and make memories in the natural world,” Zeller said. “I just think people are so enamored by them, they’re just really so accessible, whimsical and fun.”

Zeller said spending time in nature can be beneficial for physical and mental health, something that is especially needed now, more than two years into the pandemic.

She said if Little Nis’ appearance on Netflix can get people into the arboretum or even their own backyard, it would be a success.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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