Dinosaurs may be extinct, but they still rule the world. When the first episode of the six-part BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs
originally aired, an estimated one out of every four Britons tuned in. What they witnessed was dinosaurs brought to life, not in the modern world as in Jurassic Park
, but in their original habitats millions of years ago. Revived using computer-generated effects that cost close to $5 million and sophisticated animatronic models, the dinosaurs look barely a day over 150 million years old. The creators present the series in classic nature-documentary style, complete with an authoritative narrator (Kenneth Branagh) to guide the viewer through the footage of dinosaurs mating, fighting, raising their young, grazing, or, in the case of carnivores, hunting. Each episode focuses on a theme, whether it is a particular era, such as the Mesozoic, or a particular type of dinosaur, like those that ruled the oceans. Each part also focuses in on the life of an individual dinosaur or family of dinosaurs. The result is a series of short dramas that both inform and entertain.
The show is so realistic that some scientists and viewers have criticized its seamless blending of fact and speculation. Those who wish to maintain a healthy skepticism about the theories set forth should watch the exclusive footage from The Making of Walking with Dinosaurs included on the DVD and available via mail-in on the VHS. In it, the scientists freely admit that some educated guesswork was involved and explain how they arrived at the dinosaurs' appearances and behavior. Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with every detail of the re-creation, it is difficult to deny that Walking with Dinosaurs succeeds in providing dinosaur lovers with an experience that can't be matched by mere images of paleontologists and fossils.
There's an extra 15 minutes of footage on the video that wasn't broadcast on TV, much of it dinosaurs attacking each other. With the violence, plus explanations of mating, cannibalism, and other terrifying things, young kids should skip it. Dinosaur enthusiasts of age 6 and up should be fine; it's far less violent than anything from the Jurassic Park films. --Eugene Wei