Imagine a National Geographic survey of a natural world that hasn't existed for millions of years. The sequel to the mesmerizing Walking with Dinosaurs, one of the most imaginative explorations of the prehistoric world eve... more »r made, once again uses the technology of the Jurassic Park fantasies to re-create the "menagerie of weird and wonderful creatures" that roamed the globe after the dinosaurs. Designed as a series of survival dramas, each of the six episodes plays like a speculative Disney True Life Adventure (with appropriately resolute narration by Kenneth Branagh) centered around a day in the life of a creature or the seasonal cycle of a species: a pride of saber tooth cats, a herd of woolly mammoths, a tribe of hominids. It's all supposition, of course, but it's supposition based on the best research available. The BBC production, which does not shy away from this violent world, includes computer-animated footage of mating and hunting techniques. However, any prehistory fan 7 or older should enjoy this series. --Sean Axmaker« less
John Jackson | Minneapolis, Mn. United States | 12/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"WOW!! This is one of the most amazing documentaries on prehistoric life I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of documentaries on prehistoric life)!Walking With Prehistoric Beasts starts off 50 million years ago, just a few million years after the extincion of the dinosaurs. In the beginning of the show, the narrator introduces the small mammal called Leptictidium, a swift six foot tall bird called Gastronis, and other beasts. after on, the documentary shows a primitive whale that was 30 tons and four times the length of a great white shark, the planet's largest predatory land mammal (which is interestingly enough related to ungulates like sheep and goats), a two story tall rhino which was the largest land mammal ever on earth, a nasty scavenging hog (one of the most fearsome and ugly creatures in the show), and several other weird, fearsome, and magnificent beasts that once ruled the earth. Later in the documentary, the ice age comes, as well as an amazing and somewhat hairless ape... Man.I could go on and on talking about this show, but I won't :-). Let me sumarise this amazing five star documentary to you, the reader, in three words: BUY IT NOW!!"
A risk that really succeeded
I. Westray | Minneapolis, MN USA | 06/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Walking with Dinosaurs team could probably have contented itself with producing spinoffs for a long time. They made one special -- "Allosaurus" -- which basically seems to be a seventh episode that didn't get included in the earlier series. If they went on producing half-hour dinosaur shows for years, they'd have had me for an audience.They didn't do that, though. Instead they traded on their success with dinos to make this great series about prehistoric animals after the dinosaurs. One of the producers mentions, in the "making of" documentary on disk two, that they knew they'd have to do the dinosaurs first because those were popular enough to draw money and attention. They seem to have made "Beasts" because they were just plain interested. Thank goodness someone's letting curiosity drive the work, you know?This series works a lot like "Walking with Dinosaurs" did. There are six episodes, and each one's a storyline involving a particular species of animal and the world in which it lives. There's no "talking head" side to these shows; they're nonstop film of the (animated) animals living in their worlds, without other graphics. Kenneth Branagh narrates them very much like any other animal documentary, only you're seeing reconstructions of extinct animals instead of lions or elephants. The camera work is skilfully made to work like shots from modern nature shows, with a few minor conceits from the cgi animators thrown in for fun.The "Walking" team really raised the bar for themselves here, though. First, for some reason prehistoric mammals don't knock people out the way dinosaurs do. A couple of years ago a Japanese team announced it was trying to produce a real, live mammoth, but nobody's making movies in which a series of ... scientists get lured out to an island for mammoths to stomp on them, you know? Then too, people know how a lion or tiger looks when it moves, so animating a saber toothed cat is going to be harder to pull off, leaving alone the primates. Also, and it's a simple thing, mammals have hair, which is hard to make right on a computer.Well, it works again. The shows are wonderfully written, with an extremely good sense of timing and a nice range to each episode. The animals are stunning. Seeing a brontotherium browsing the shrubs is just dazzling. There's almost more evolutionary interest to this one, too, because we're seeing lots of animals that have modern relations. Glyptodonts, car-sized armadillo relations, are a kick to see bumbling around in company with giant ground sloths and smilodon, the largest saber tooth.The shortcomings of Beasts are pretty similar to those of Dinosaurs. A couple of more typical documentaries on the second disk make up for the lack of hard core paleontology. The payoff of the documentary approach is worth underplaying the material you can find in more traditional programs and books. There might be a little less money behind this than the earlier show; the worlds we see are a little less lushly populated, with a handful of highlighted species the only ones we see. My only real reservation, though, would be that the complexity of human origins suffers. That's one story I don't think you can gloss over the scientific debate for... maybe another entire series would really be better.So, what I'm asking for is more. Another series, please. And I trust you to stretch yourselves, out of curiosity, to give us something even better."
Sure, you know of Saber-Toothed Cats...
Michael Valdivielso | Alexandria, VA | 01/08/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"and the Woolly Mammoth. But how about the Leptictidium? A tiny early mammal. A tiny meat eater the size of a cat, who has to keep clear of the top predator of her time, the Gastornis, a flightless bird as big as a man and just as hungry!
Or how about the Andrewsarchus, a five meter long wolf-like creature with bone crunching jaws over three feet long and related to the whale. In fact it BECAME the whales!
This is a two DVD set. The first holds six amazing episodes about six different periods of Earth's history, from right after the death of the dinosaurs to just before man starts to rule the planet. The second holds lots of fun extras: interviews, TWO 50 minute long behind-the-scene featurettes, photos, fact files and even storyboards.
Really helps fill in that space between dinosaurs and us. A must for any DVD library!"
A Must-Own DVD!
Xam | nyc | 02/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Another simply amazing documentary series from the BBC. This one definitely lives up to its predecessor- Walking with Dinosaurs, which was the first series to combine breathtaking digital effects with great scientific research and analysis, to create a lost world of creatures and times long gone. Walking with Prehistoric Beasts is actually just a continuation of where Walking with Dinosaurs left off, it begins right after the massive dinosaur extinction and ends during the ice age and the dawn of man. It looks mainly at the rise of mammals and the changing environment and earth. Some of the highlights of the series include: the first whales that actually walked on land, flightless carnivorous birds which were descendants of the dinosaurs, packs of saber-tooth cats killing and mating, huge pig like creatures that bully other carnivores, the first apes to walk on two legs, elephant ancestors that are four times bigger and really angry, herds of wooly mammoths, and much much more. And the computer graphics in this series may even rival that of Walking with Dinosaurs. The scenes and animals almost always look breathtaking and incredibly natural. Sometimes it was seriously hard to believe that these weren't real living animals. And all the sound effects matched everything perfectly, bringing it all to life. Also the music score is terrific, it really takes you on a great auditory journey along with the superb visuals. This series has brought to life a world that you could only imagine before and it does it with serious style, just like its predecessor. The 6 episode series alone packs a serious punch, but the DVD includes two 50-minute behind-the-scenes featurettes, along with some other goodies. The first featurette discusses how we know what we do about the ancient mammals, the second focuses on the evolution of man from ape and also looks at the Neanderthal briefly. Both featurettes contain informative interviews with scientists as well as behind-the scenes footage of the making of Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, and are very nice additions to an already excellent and worthwhile purchase. There are also interviews with the creators of the series, as well as fact files about the different ancient beasts (really cool), and the usual photo gallery and storyboards. You know it's exceptionally good, when you've watched all 300 minutes on the DVD in one sitting and still want more. I just hope this isn't the last we see of the "Walking With" series..."
The "Walking With..." team strikes again!
Paul McElligott | Lake Forest, CA | 03/31/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The team that brought you Walking With Dinosaurs brings you look at the world from time not long after the dinosaurs were extinct until just a few thousand years ago. Since I was reasonably familiar with dinosaurs already, this new series was a lot more informative for me.We see a world where giant birds hunt cat-sized horses, where a pig is the meanest thing on the block, where the ancestor of sheep was a carnivore, where whales had teeth and attitude. We learn that there was really no such animal as a sabre-tooth "tiger," but there a large variety of sabre-tooth cats.Technically, the team has progressed significantly, as the effects are, on the whole, much more realistic. Given that most of animals have hair now, this is a real accomplishment. There were a few moments when things didn't look real, and they had to do mostly with the early humans (austrailopithicus). These looked a little phony compared to the others, although they looked better on DVD than they did when I first watched this show on the Discovery channel.Just an aside, was I the only one, when the tribe of pre-humans was driven away from their watering hole, who expected to see a 2001 monolith teaching them how to kill things with bones?The only downside I found was the fact that there really wasn't enough room to adequately tell the human story, and many stages of human evolution where left out. I kind of wish they had left the humans out altogether and done a third special, "Walking with Early Humans," or something like that.The narration by Kenneth Branaugh is, as before, superior to the American actor they hired to redub the show for the Discovery Channel, although Stockard Channing was a lot better than Avery Brooks. Why do they feel the need to redo the narration for American television? It's not like Branaugh isn't famous over here. He's sure a lot better known than Avery Brooks.As usual, there are good supporting documentaries on the second disk. This time, these have more to do with the science involved than the production. Again, just like with "Dinosaurs," these extras are filled with as much sly good humor as good information."