It's no secret that kids love Dinosaurs - those big, scaly,
scary, and controversial beasts that once roamed the earth
millions of years ago. So it would seem like the perfect idea to
take footage from the extremely popular show Walking With
Dinosaurs, and add a little education and kiddy comedy that
only narrator Ben Stiller can provide, to create one hip kids
show. And you know what? It worked.
Prehistoric Planet - The Complete Dino Dynasty is the
highly entertaining and educational award-winning BBC television
series that gives as much eye candy as it does teach. The
computer animation used throughout this series gives a stunningly
realistic interpretation of what these giant reptiles must have
looked and acted like during their lengthy tenure of Earth
domination. And Ben Stiller offers just the right touch of humor
and sarcasm to help children and adults alike feel well at ease
with this often boring subject matter.
Prehistoric Planet offers six separate episodes that
takes us back in time 220 million years ago to the late Triassic
period, giving us a brief glimpse of various dinosaurs along the
way, up until their tragic demise 65 million years ago at the end
of the Cretaceous period. We're always reminded what Dino period
we're in during the show, so we can mentally comprehend which
dinosaurs lived during which period - a wonderful touch. We learn
that there were many giant reptiles roaming the earth during the
Triassic period that weren't dinosaurs, and we learn that
individual leg and hip placement was the main characteristic
differentiating the two. And we learn interesting facts, like how
the big mean, sharp-toothed carnivores - like the Tyrannosaurus
Rex - eventually made their slow ascension to the top of the food
chain through millions of years of evolution.
But the real stars of the show are the dinosaurs themselves. And
thankfully, Prehistoric Planet does a fantastic job of
introducing each one in a very controlled and palpable manner.
Each time a new dinosaur is introduced, a mini bio menu pops into
the screen, giving three distinguishing characteristics of that
particular animal. This makes the information a lot easier for
young children to swallow, as well as follow. We then watch them
interact in what could have been the daily life of that dinosaur.
Throughout the three dino periods - Triassic, Jurassic, and
Cretaceous - we get introduced to a multitude of fascinating
creatures like the plant-eating Diplodocus, who at 90-feet-long,
was the longest creature to ever roam the Earth. And the water
fairing Liopleurodon, who grew up to 80-feet-long, weighed more
than 50 great white sharks combined, and had 10 foot long teeth. As well as the high-flying
Ornithocheirus, who was as tall as a basketball hoop, had wingspan wider than a
small airplane, and could fly over the then smaller Atlantic
Ocean like it was a weekend drive to the grocery store.
Prehistoric Planet is the best children's educational
series about dinosaurs I've ever seen. The visuals are fantastic,
and the narration is perfect for the audience it is catering to.
However if you already own the Walking With Dinosaurs
DVD series, than you should be well advised to skip this disc, as
the footage is identical, with the exception of some fancy
editing. If you have children at home, and you do not already own
Walking With Dinosaurs, then this disc is a must-have.
Prehistoric Planet is presented in 1.33:1 full screen.
Generally the video quality is decent, but will not stand up well
to large screen displays, as it suffers from a fair amount of
graininess and pixelation. Edge enhancement halos can also be
seen throughout the feature, but if you're sitting a normal
distance away they shouldn't bother you. As most of the footage
is computer animated, I was expecting the picture to be sharper,
but the abundant sight of pixelation ruined those expectations.
Colors however look wonderful, and despite the faults of this
transfer, kids will no doubt be mesmerized by all the amazing
Included is your average Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. This
sounds like your typical Television soundtrack, with nothing
special to offer, and nothing horrible to condemn. The dialogue
narration is perfectly audible at all times, and the background
score is pleasantly muffled in the background, always ready to
let the viewer know when a tense scene will be coming up. Overall
I would call this audio track slightly below average, but far
short of disastrous.
Prehistoric Planet comes with a couple of great special
features that I was thrilled to see included. Here they are:
Fact Files: This test selection feature lets you
peruse through stats of all the dinosaurs identified in this
series. They are even divided into their period subcategories to
help you remember which dinosaur lived at which time. For a
learning tool, I found this feature to be a welcome addition.
3-D Dinosaur Photo Gallery: This is a large
gallery of 3-D photos that, through the use of the included 3-D
glasses, lets you enjoy these wonderful creatures in an entirely
different light. Some of the pictures didn't effectively pop off
the screen as well as others, but the ones that did were quite
amazing. And usually attempts at onscreen 3-D applications don't
work very well, so I was amazed at how successful some of the
pictures were at looking three dimensional. This is a feature
definitely worth checking out.
Short Film: Blue: This is a five minute short film derived
from footage from the BBC TV series, "The Blue Planet."
The visuals are simply breathtaking, and made me want to see
more. After watching this teaser, you'll most definitely want to
check out the series from which it came.
DVD Rom Content: Here we have some cutesy
dinosaur games, as well as a Dinosaur Screen Saver.
Even though Prehistoric Planet is geared toward
children, I enjoyed it immensely. I feel young children simply
won't be able to get enough of this wonderful educational
series that offers tons of facts, action, and humor to their TV
set. But be cautious of children who may be too young for such
content. My three-year-old daughter was often scared of the
dinosaurs on the screen, so if you have real young ones at home,
they might be as well.
So if you love dinosaurs and have children, you can do no wrong
by picking up this disc. And at under $15, the price is right. Highly