Prehistoric Planet: The Complete Dino Dynasty
BBC Worldwide // Unrated // $14.98 // April 8, 2003
Review by David Blair | posted July 30, 2003
Highly Recommended
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Graphical Version

The Movie

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 dinosaur action.

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.

Final Thoughts:
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 Recommended

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