Now, whenever someone asks me the questions "If you could be any animal what would you be?" I'll never answer flamingo. Not that I would have answered flamingo in the past, but I never knew exactly how hard and treacherous it was to be one.
Sometimes I curse nature documentaries for showing me exactly what animals go through to survive in the wilderness. When I picture flamingos I picture huge flocks of crimson-red birds all standing on one leg in an idyllic marsh without a care in the world. Boy was I wrong.
DisneyNature's 'The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos' is an eye-opening tale about how much it really sucks being a flamingo. I really can't think of a better word to describe how hard it is for them to grow to adulthood. "Sucks" works perfectly here, even though it's not considered "professional."
Tanzania is home to Lake Natron, which is a breeding ground for many of Africa's flamingo population. They flock to the lake to lay their eggs, incubate them, and raise their young. Sounds easy enough right? Not so fast.
The lake is full of salt, so much so that when the sun quickly evaporates the lake flows of solid salt begin forming into an island. An entire mound of salt seemingly appears out of thin air. The flamingos make their home on the salt flow, mate, build nests, and tend to their young.
When the hatchlings make their way out of their eggs they face a world of dangers. Predators, from humongous sickly looking vulture-type birds, to hyenas, pick off the babies one by one without much fuss put up by the other flamingos. At times they try and fend off the predators, but without much going for them in the way of evolutionary attack mechanisms they're pretty much helpless. The predators are only part of the problem. The salt proves to be too much for some of the chicks. Walking around in it, some of the chicks form hardened boots of salt on their feet which cannot be removed. Without being able to move properly the chick is now essentially waiting to die.
I mentioned that the documentary 'Oceans' would be fun for the whole family, and it is. 'Crimson Wing,' not so much. Sensitive kids will have a hard time trying to distance themselves from the young birds who are fraught with peril at every turn. Some scenes become pretty graphic, as they depict young birds being mauled by predators. This is all the circle of life, I know, but if you let your young ones enjoy 'Oceans,' you should probably have them skip this one.
'Crimson Wing's 1080p doesn't provide the dazzling array of color diversity that was offered in 'Oceans,' but that isn't its fault. The movie is shot almost entirely on a humongous, desolate bed of salt that never really proffers itself as eye candy. Nevertheless, the image here is solely sufficient for the world it's portraying. The images of bright pink flamingos juxtaposed with the dry white-brown salty landscape are beautiful in their own right. The few times that the camera ventures away from the salt-encrusted island, it does find lush green marshes that shine with clarity. Blacks are deep and add much needed depth to the picture, while shadows are stark and defined. Edges are concise even when thousands of birds gather around each other. Artifacts like aliasing are nowhere to be found, which is quite an achievement as you watch groups of birds walking together. Their legs make it look like a giant pink centipede is crossing in front of us. I would have thought for sure we would have gotten some kind of artifacting as the groups of furious legs moved in unison, but I'm glad to say we never see such problems.
While 'Crimson Wing' doesn't hold some of the wild and outlandish imagery that was captured in 'Oceans,' it holds its own beauty with a stellar looking transfer provided by Disney.
Again, compared to the remarkable audio mix that was attached to 'Oceans,' 'Crimson Wing' has a lot to live up to. 'Oceans' 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix was astounding to say the least, but its source – crashing waves, squeaking dolphins, and splashing seals – was much more inherently exciting that flocking birds and the thunder of...salt. 'Crimson Wing' is hampered a bit, because it is only covering one of the many different aspects of the animal kingdom, whereas 'Oceans' explores a wide variety of life the world's oceans offer. Does that mean that 'Crimson Wing's 5.1 DTS-HD MA mix is bad? No, quite the contrary. Taking into account what the documentary is actually trying to achieve, this is a very solid audio presentation that will envelop the listener as much as possible. Rears are always engaged with squawking birds and a heavy helping of the film's score. The ambient sound helps create a listening environment that sucks you in. Not much deep, resonant bass to be had here. LFE is reserved for some of the more intense scenes and is often a product of the musical soundtrack rather than the world of nature playing out on screen (except for the cracking thunder at the beginning). The narration is nicely corralled in the center channel and is always intelligible. It never becomes lost or muffled from the other audio elements. Overall, this is a very pleasing soundtrack, but it lacks that oomph to push it into demo-worthy territory. It's no fault of the actual mix, but just the fact that the subject being filmed isn't quite conducive to a demo-sounding audio experience.
I never knew being a flamingo was so difficult, but I guess that's what these types of documentaries set out to prove. They show us a world we would never have known about otherwise. It isn't a grand, sweeping view of nature, but rather an intimate look into the lives of flamingos. It's a fine documentary, but may be too graphic and intense for younger children. The video is near perfect, and the audio provides a rich sounding environment that accurately reflects what we're seeing on screen. There are also some nice interactive features included here. If you're a fan of Disney's nature documentaries then I'd recommend going ahead and picking this one up. To everyone else, however, I'm giving a rental recommendation. You're going to want to see it before your kids do to see if they will indeed be able to handle some of the gory and depressing subject matter.