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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Scenic National Parks: Grand Canyon (Blu-ray)
Scenic National Parks: Grand Canyon (Blu-ray)
Questar // Unrated // September 16, 2008 // Region A
List Price: $27.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted August 15, 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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P R I N T
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Bellevue Entertainment/Questar's Blu-ray disc of Scenic National Parks Grand Canyon is actually two shows in one: Grand Canyon, a 49-minute show produced by the Travel Channel in 2006, and National Parks of the Southwest, part of the same series with the same technical specs. Both are excellent. They accomplish several things at once: If you're thinking about vacationing there, it's a very handy guide full of great ideas of things to do and places to stay. As a travelogue, the disc is a great way to visit and experience the majesty of the American Southwest vicariously. Finally, the program is a good overall introduction to the Grand Canyon from a historical and geological perspective, entertaining and informative, something the whole family can enjoy while the kids (and adults) learn a thing or two.


This reviewer has never been to the Grand Canyon, though I've always wanted to go and passed within a couple hundred miles of it several times. Like most tourists, before watching this show I had no idea what I'd do there if I went, other than peering over some cliff and maybe riding a mule train to the bottom. The documentary goes into considerable detail about the myriad adventures one can enjoy in the Grand Canyon, from whitewater rafting to "rim-to-rim runs" for the more adventurous long-distance runner. Though obviously made in cooperation with the National Park Service (and, in this case, local Native American tribes) it never felt like an infomercial (there's even a short segment on park emergencies, rescuing and advising tourists getting in over their heads) and it's never dull and always interesting.

The well-organized show intelligently integrates interviews with park rangers, geologists, local historians and even everyday tourists that paint a broad and varied portrait of the park and its environs.

National Parks of the Southwest examines four other (relatively) nearby National Parks: Canyonlands, Arches (both in Utah), Saguaro (in Arizona), and Death Valley (California). If anything this show is even more interesting because of its great variety. The deep reds of Canyonlands, the 2,500 natural rock bridges of Arches, the 50-foot-tall cacti of Saguaro, and the isolated deserts and dunes of Death Valley. As with the other program, there's a pleasing mix of ranger and tourist interviews, and in contrast to the Grand Canyon show these parks offer more for the adrenalin-addicted adventurer, though there's plenty of peaceful and contemplative stops as well.

Video & Audio

If you're a fan of the critically-acclaimed Planet Earth, chances are you'll like this, too. We received a check test, but it seems close to final product and picture-wise the 1080p / 1.78:1 presentation is consistently outstanding, with just a few older stock footage shots filling out the newly-shot material, apparently a mix of high-def video and 35mm film.

Obviously, the Grand Canyon is an unbeatable subject for high-definition, and the show offers a very pleasing mix of spectacular aerial shots, nature footage, travelogue-type scenes, POV shots going down the rapids and peering over the end into the deep canyons. I was especially impressed by the quality of the reds of the rock and sands, and by the deep, dark blue of the clear skies. Also spectacular are shots of Angel's Window (see below), and by some of the views available at park-run lodgings, particularly the incredible Grand Canyon Lodge (I want to stay there) and El Tovar. Some historical photos are used to good effect as well.

The audio is 5.1 surround sound (with a 2.0 stereo track also included but not mentioned on the packaging), and it does a good job capturing ambient sounds. There are no alternate language and subtitle options.


Extra Features

The only supplement is the bonus program, the bottom of the bill in what's really an engaging American Southwest double feature. (See above.)

Parting Thoughts

This show gets it all right, hitting all the marks a good program of this type should. It's entertaining and informative, visually spectacular, and whether you're thinking about traveling to the Grand Canyon, want to relive the experience, or simply learn more for a school report, it's all of these things and more. Highly Recommended.

  Film historian Stuart Galbraith IV's latest book, The Toho Studios Story, is on sale now.

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