The two DVD set includes four stories of fictional dinosaur accounts, all based on recent discoveries by paleontologists. By using findings and extrapolating data, the stage is set to provide some "good guesses" as to the way some dinosaurs lived, in these cases between 70 and 80 million years ago. The main focus of the shows seems to be to personalize the dinosaurs in such a way as to make them more understandable to a mass audience, giving them names that were in line with what you'd expect of a family pet as much as anything. Here's a brief synopsis of each story, as provided by the Discovery Channel and a bit of explanation by me:
White Tip's Journey:
Little Das' Hunt:
Okay, I'm a big fan of dinosaurs and documentaries so this one appealed to me on several levels. It addressed environmental issues as well as provided some up to date extrapolations on modern findings, all tied together with some fanciful fiction. There were a number of explanations interspersed throughout the show where people like famed paleontologist Scott Sampson would provide some historical information, tying in such things as fossil records and comparisons to modern day creatures, to help explain how the stories were able to make the leaps in logic needed for a credible factual basis. The narration by popular actor Christian Slater might've been a mistake, his lisp and general inability to convey a sense of wonder his biggest failings, but that was a small problem. The other weakness was the animation style itself, with some aspects looking far more realistic than others. The Discovery Channel's initial efforts were better looking but even though CGI has seen tremendous improvements in the intervening time, the show was not as technically advanced, opening itself up for criticism in this area.
So, how do you rate a show that provided some decent entertainment and educational value, with the above limitations? As always, it's a judgment call and I think it's worth a solid Recommended. The limited extras, narration, and dated CGI kept this otherwise fun show from achieving its place in the upper ranks of the similar releases by the Discovery Channel.
Picture: The picture was presented in anamorphic widescreen color with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, as originally shot. The colors were solid, the details sharp and the entire thing often looked nearly as though it were shot in real life (the shadows, footprints in the sand, and textures were exemplary) although at times it looked somewhat flat too. I saw no compression artifacts and any edge enhancement was minimal.
Sound: The audio was presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital surround English. There were no subtitles, other language choices, or closed captions. It sounded crisp and clear with appropriate music and sound effects. My biggest complaint with the audio was with the narration, my personal preferences leaning towards Avery Brooks or Kenneth Branagh (various versions of Walking With Dinosaurs). In any case, there was some use of the rear channels, if not a lot.
Extras: The extras were limited to a trailer and some dinosaur facts, with a paper insert included in the DVD case.
Final Thoughts: Dinosaur Planet is a DVD set I can easily Recommend as an informative and fun way to learn more about dinosaurs. The science behind the show seemed reasonable and the stories well written with some care taken on the technical issues. The audio and picture were solid so check this one out if you have any interest in the wonderful world of dinosaurs.