Disneynature's 'Earth' amounts to a 90-minute trailer for the 550-minute BBC series 'Planet Earth.' Every bit of it is footage taken from the popular nature series and edited down to an hour and a half. Narration has switched from Sir David Attenborough to James Earl Jones. The film has been spliced together, more or less, to tell three stories of three separate animal families – elephants, polar bears, and humpback whales.
Walt Disney was fascinated by the animals that inhabited our planet. From 1948 – 1960 Disney produced a series of shorts and features called 'True-Life Adventures.' When the Disney Company announced its plans to go forward with an entirely new line of films that would be presented under the Disneynature label, they carried on the wishes and dreams of Walt.
As we follow the three animal families around the world in their quests for survival it's interesting to note that Disney has left in a lot of the "depressing" parts from 'Planet Earth.' For something geared more toward children, they sure retained many of the harsh realities of the animal kingdom. Sure they put the cute stuff in too, like the fuzzy ducklings throwing themselves out of a tree when they still can't fly, only to hit the ground with a comical bounce and be fine. Juxtapose that with the kill or die scenario the father Polar Bear finds himself in. The heart wrenching story finds a Polar Bear swimming the open ocean because the polar ice caps have melted sooner than he's used to. Finding an island after an exhausting swim, he tries to find food, but all he finds is a group of cranky walruses that aren't eager to become dinner. It's a terrible situation the Polar Bear finds himself in, but it does provide a springboard for parents to talk about the facts of life with their children.
'Earth' also keeps the elements of 'Planet Earth' related to the warming climate, which is another topic that can be brought up when watching this with your children. The most exciting parts of 'Planet Earth' such as the high speed footage of the Great White Sharks leaping out of the water to catch passing sea lions, or the slow motion attack of a Cheeta, are kept in for the "Wow" factor. I was excited that much of the mind-bending time lapse footage was preserved as well.
The ocean lover in me was disappointed that there was really no mention of coral reefs or their roles in the ecosystem. The spectacular Caves portion of 'Planet Earth' is also left out. I don't envy the person that had to decide what to keep and what to do without.
Overall, this more condensed version of one of the greatest nature shows is a lot more kid friendly. It abstains from the gore of the animal kingdom and really only gives the viewer glimpses of what it would be like. It does feel rushed, but that's expected considering the source material an this shorter runtime.
All in all, it's a decent presentation that encompasses the main messages that 'Planet Earth' portrays. The fragile nature of life, conservation, and protecting the environment are all presented here. 'Planet Earth' is one of my all-time favorite TV series, and I felt Disney did the series justice with the time allotted for this kid-friendly abbreviated version
Seeing that all of the video here comes from the stellar source material 'Earth's MPEG-4 AVC – encoded 1080p transfer is nothing but miraculous. 'Planet Earth' had some of the best visuals ever featured on HD, and 'Earth' is no exception. This transfer is every bit as perfect as we'd expect. Colors are bright and vibrant, blacks are perfectly balanced, and even the dreaded night-cam footage – that's usually is full of grain and noise in other productions – is stunningly clear here.
Technical problems do arise on a few minor occasions. Slight banding and noise appear during some of the ultra-slow motion scenes. White specks and errant noise come into view during some of the waterfall scenes. These problems are minor, and never really detract from the beauty on the screen. Everything else is presented with the crystal clarity befitting of such fantastic source material.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 gives this presentation an astounding lossless soundtrack. Mr. James Earl Jones' voice is featured front and center in all its deep, booming glory. One of the most memorable voices in all of cinema is given a grand stage to narrate with authority. Likewise, the surrounds do their work with efficiency, creating an ambient atmosphere with noises like howling monkeys, chirping birds, and rolling thunder. Whether it be the roar of a lion or the song of a humpback whale, 'Earth's soundtrack is clear, concise, and utterly engulfing in its effect.
I never thought that the size and scope of the 'Planet Earth' series could be cut down to a meager 90 minutes and still retain the awe and majesty that we've adored. Even though Disney does leave out a lot of material, the inherent message is still there. We must conserve and protect our environment. It’s a beautiful film, with wondrous images, and a good heart. Kids will be able to enjoy it with their short attention spans, Disney sees fit to leave out the animal kingdom blood and guts in order to keep it family friendly. Boasting some great video and audio, this title comes recommended.
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