Classic Nature Films! The Vanishing Prairie and The Living
Old movie fan | 10/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At least two of the films, Living Desert and Vanishing Prairie, are full length and were Academy Award winners. At the time(1950's) nature photography was quite difficult with huge, heavy, bulky cameras, long before the National Geographic channel or Animal Planet. So these films are literally the ground floor of nature photography. I am expecting a wonderful set, restoring the original color and sound. When I saw them in the 70's the color had already metamorphed into green skies, for example. Disney has promised us a full restoration. Do you remember seeing the tarantula and the birth of a buffalo calf? Through it all we have the wonderful humor of Winston Hibler's narration. I can't wait!"
Great Collecton of Old Disney Nature Films
calvinnme | 02/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These nature films, if you could find them at all, were previously only on VHS. I had already seen two of the films on the set on VHS, "The Vanishing Prairie" and "The Living Desert", and I was amazed how these old films from the 50's had such good cinematography considering the times. Now on DVD, these films have been cleaned up even more, and the video is not hard on the eyesight at all. 30 years before the Discovery Channel, it is truly amazing to see what Disney was doing in the realm of nature films.
"Seal Island", produced in 1949, is known as Disney's first nature documentary and runs 26 minutes. It studies animal life on Seal Island, which is a small island in the Bering Sea. The life cycle of the seals is the dominant theme, of course, although the documentary talks about the other animal residents of the island too. Because it was Disney's first attempt at a nature documentary, it is awkward at spots. It tends to get very slow at one point, and then picks up the tempo with a bloody battle between feuding male seals fighting for dominance that tends to be a bit graphic.
"The Living Desert" won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 1953, and its theme is a day in the wildlife of the American desert southwest. On the humorous side, the best scene involves a couple of square-dancing scorpions, and on the dramatic side the best scene is probably a fight between a tarantula and a wasp. The commentary is well done, but some people might find it just a bit too jokey at points. It runs 70 minutes.
"The Vanishing Prairie" also won the Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary in 1954 and runs 71 minutes. Again, the photography is excellent, but the narration is depressing and the conclusions no longer true. Thanks to ecology minded films such as this one, efforts were started to help insure that the prairie and its wildlife don't disappear. Thus its overall message is best taken in a historical context. There are some great shots of prairie dogs that will remind you quite a bit of Meerkat Manor. Other featured animals include bighorn sheep, the Pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, coyotes, and buffalo.
"Nature's Strangest Creatures" (1959), is the shortest of the films at only 15 minutes in length. It focuses on the wildlife of Australia 35 years before the Crocodile Hunter made these creatures more familiar to us all. Animals shown besides the requisite kangaroo include the giant bat, flying squirrel, and the duck-billed platypus.
"Islands of the Sea" (1960), was nominated for an Academy Award for that year. This 28-minute film discusses and photographs the wildlife on the islands of Galapagos, Guadelupe, the Falklands, and Midway. Of course, they show the turtles of the Galapagos, and also the penguins of the Falklands. Although overall the film focuses more on birds, there is also quite a bit on the reptile inhabitants of these islands. One of the funniest segments include a penguin attempting to "sing" and an albatross attempting a clumsy landing in what had to be one of its less graceful moments.
The extras include "Backstage with Roy Disney at Disney's Animal Kingdom: Desert Insects", which actually is more of a retrospective on Roy's movie career than anything else. "Backstage with Roy Disney at Disney's Animal Kingdom: Snakes" focuses on the Orlando Animal Kingdom theme park and its snakes. "Filmmakers' Journal" is very interesting for those of us who wondered how the filmmakers accompished some of the shots they got in the making of the five featured films. This 40 minute bonus piece talks extensively with people who actually worked on the films and they tell you how certain shots were obtained and talk about various tricks that were employed. "Collectors' Corner" is a short three minute piece in which Disney artist and historian Stacia Martin shares some promotional items tied to the DVD's films. "Trailers & Promos" is the aptly named section on the original trailers and promos for the five featured films, both when they were shown on TV and in the theatres.
This is a truly great collection of nature films. You'll probably recognize in each of them the basic Disney "formula" for such films - They generally blended very good photography and narration on the overall wildlife being spotlighted. Mixed with that will be numerous humorous moments with animals doing what appear to humans as crazy stunts along with dramatic predator/prey moments and wildlife fight scenes that often end up in tragedy for one of the animals involved. On top of this, each of the films is well scored, with the music matching the mood of the scene being shown. Highly recommended."
A Big Surprise
Harold Aurand | Jonestown, PA | 04/18/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I teach a college class in popular culture. We were reading a book on Walt Disney, and I bought True Life Adventures just to show to the class. I wasn't expecting to watch it for fun. What a mistake. This is fantastic. Today we have Animal Planet and all the other educational networks, but the Disney documentaries are just so much better from an entertainment standpoint. The scenery just brings oohs and aahs, and the humor and plotting, while maybe annoying to the scientific-minded, just make the stories flow.
What I really liked was you could watch The Vanishing Prairie, then on Disc 2 there is the segment of Disney's Wonderful World of Color, where you can see how he used the TV show to market the movie, then the Filmmakers Journal where you get some great behind the scenes footage on how the film was made. (Wait till you see the snow-mobile!)
I bought this for class. I'm getting all the others in the series for fun."
lawnslave | Middleton | 01/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Great to see the old films . A must have for Disney fans."