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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Wildlife Specials
Wildlife Specials
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // April 1, 2008
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted May 6, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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The Show:

You know, it's kind of funny when you stop to think about it. Not too long ago nature documentaries were getting kind of bad press, mostly due to low budgets and cheesy presentations. How many times have you flipped through the channels can caught some commentator in the outback talking about a lion tearing into a gazelle? I'm not going to lie; I personally had a great distaste for documentaries of this type up until a few years ago. When I caught a semi-recent BBC production I was blown away by the quality and ever since then I have actually gone out of my way to check out the latest and greatest parts of the world that I haven't seen.

Riding the wave of popularity created by Planet Earth's DVD release, David Attenborough: Wildlife Specials seeks to capture the same audience. If you consider yourself a lover of documentaries and enjoy Attenborough's narrations then chances are very good that you'll want to add this to your collection as well. While this series is not quite as prolific or epic as Planet Earth or even Blue Planet there's no denying that the six specials contained in this release will entertain you just the same.

Before his most recent additions to the genre, Attenborough worked on the award winning Wildlife Specials over ten years ago. With some intermittent episodes and productions the show has stayed alive for quite some time and in total there have been eighteen episodes (the most recent of which was broadcast this year). There haven't been any announcements as of yet for the remaining twelve but for the time being BBC has provided us with six documentaries from the acclaimed series that should fit into your collection quite nicely.

Presented on two discs, these six documentaries are roughly 50 minutes apiece and were originally produced in 1997 towards the beginning of the program. Each documentary features a different animal but throughout each the same high quality production and entertainment value can be found. The six episodes included here are "Polar Bear - Arctic Warrior", "Crocodile - Smiling Predator", "Leopard - Agent of Darkness", "Eagle - Master of the Skies", "Humpback Whale - Giant of the Oceans", and "Wolf - Legendary Outlaw".

In every one of these you'll find that the BBC's production team did an amazing job but there are a few reasons that this series proves to be as successful as it is. Attenborough adds his impossible to resist charm to each of these documentaries and it's his voice and presence that helps to draw you in. In addition to Attenborough another feather in the cap for this show is the manner with which its shot. The production team employed some rather interesting techniques to give us rare glimpses at these critters in their habitat. Rather than just nestling a camera off in the distance and zooming in Wildlife Specials features some rather startling photography. There were moments scattered throughout this release that were simply jaw dropping and that's a testament to some strong cinematography.

Probably the biggest reason that Wildlife Specials is successful and has been around for a while is the fact that it's easily accessible to most every age group. The content is appropriate for children who are seeking to learn more about a particular animal but the presentation is not brought down. Older viewers can get just as much out of each of these episodes and that says something about the way it was made. While it may not have been shot in HD or took as many chances as Planet Earth, Wildlife Specials proves to be good educational family viewing.

If you've finished watching your stack of BBC nature documentaries and you're looking for something else to chew on then give Wildlife Specials a deserving look. Like I said, this series may not be as grandiose as Planet Earth but it's a solid production that will entertain and educate all who watch it. The six episodes here are fantastic and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the other documentaries will be released sometime soon. If you love this kind of stuff then you won't want to miss it!

The DVD:

Video:

After watching Planet Earth it's kind of hard not to look at a nature documentary and run a comparison. With that being said Wildlife Specials holds up surprisingly well considering the age of the source material. The full frame image retains some sharp detail and stunning vibrancy to go along with the virtually crystal clear picture. Some grain is evident and spots and a few other moments will display compression gradients but otherwise there's very little to complain about with regards to how this DVD looks. BBC Video obviously went through and did some touching up of the material and their work shows in this fine looking transfer.

Audio:

With 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo Wildlife Specials features a very detailed and nice sounding presentation. Unfortunately without 5.1 support the 2.0 soundtrack winds up coming out a little flat. Luckily that doesn't really detract from the experience as the sound recordings here are very rich and the decade old material is still crystal clear. This program basically sounds like you'd expect a television documentary series to sound like.

Extras:

Considering you're already getting six nearly hour long documentaries for an MSRP of $30 the fact that two extra documentaries have been included definitely rounds out the package. Once again these episodes are about an hour in length and feature narration by Attenborough.

"Greatest Wildlife Show on Earth" includes some stunning photography once again though the subject matter is much broader than the actual episodes of Wildlife Specials. Rather than focus on one single animal this extra documentary looks at a host of critters from penguins and flamingos to bears and the 50 million or so butterflies that migrate to Mexico each year. There are some stunning shots of these animals though Attenborough's narration is cut back somewhat to give this one more of a visual nature. The other documentary here is "Great Natural Wonders of the World" which features various locations around the world. It's a tad out of place considering the wildlife aspect of this release but it's beautiful just the same.

Final Thoughts:

When all is said and done you're getting eight high quality documentaries for $30. Add the BBC name in their along with David Attenborough as the narrator and you have a very appealing package. Each episode of Wildlife Specials feels like something, well...special. I had a great time with this show and if you appreciate nature documentaries or rare glimpses at our world then you'll definitely want to check it out. The two extra documentaries are merely an added bonus on top of the show. Let's hope the next release of this series comes out soon!


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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