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The story of three animal families and their amazing journeys across the planet we all call home. The film combines rare action, unimaginable scale and impossible locations by capturing the most intimate moments of our planets wildest and most elusive creatures.
For more about Earth and the Earth Blu-ray release, see Earth Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 1, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Directors: Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield
Writers: Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield
» See full cast & crew
Earth Blu-ray Review
A documentary fit for the whole family...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 1, 2009
Earth has left a lot of filmfans scratching their heads. Culled entirely from both used and unused footage shot for the acclaimed BBC documentary series Planet Earth, Disney's first "Disneynature" production has been met with a bit of confusion, criticism, and skepticism. However, anyone who took their children to see Earth in theaters earlier this year know exactly what the family-friendly studio had in mind. While my son was bored out of his mind with Planet Earth, he was locked to the front of his seat while watching Earth. While he yawned and groaned through the BBC series' slower moments, he was absolutely taken with each of the film's personable animals and their individual quests. While he wandered off to play long before any episode of the series grabbed hold of him, he barely budged during the film, moving only when laughter and uncontainable excitement would send him careening into my arm. It may strike some as redundant, it may seem like little more than an extended trailer to others, but for parents like myself, Earth is a godsend; a film that educates as readily as it entertains; an entry-level documentary perfect for nature nuts of all ages; a Friday-night gem that families will embrace and children will adore.
Earth strips away more than seven-and-a-half hours from the BBC series and weaves an unexpectedly compelling narrative based on three families: a polar bear and her cubs, an African elephant herd, and a humpback whale and her calf. Each clan is faced with their own unique challenges -- the polar bears contend with starvation (among other things), the elephants have to navigate a dust storm and survive a night with a pride of ravenous lions, and the whales embark on a perilous trek to the feeding waters of Antarctica -- and each animal has to prove their mettle in environments that are often as dangerous as the predators that populate them. Along the way, an eclectic assortment of creatures are introduced including mandarin ducklings, great white sharks, jungle birds, walruses, speedy gazelle, dolphins, arctic wolves, deadly cheetahs, and more. But don't expect all of your kids' favorite animals to make it through their ordeals in one piece. Death is as much apart of Earth's storylines as life; tragedy is as persistent a journeyman as relief. While blood and extreme peril occur just off camera, allowing the film to retain its G-rating, children will certainly ask questions about the fates of several animals that clearly have no chance of survival. If you aren't prepared to explain the circle of life or the realities these cute-n-cuddly critters encounter on a regular basis, you may want to skip Earth until your children are older.
That being said, Earth can be an extremely rewarding experience for everyone in your family. James Earl Jones helms the film with steadiness and awe, allowing his own amusement and concern to seep through what could have been flat, unyielding narration. More importantly, every animal exudes personality. Sure, Jones' imbues the wildlife with characteristics viewers will automatically project onto every action they make, but it's all within the realm of reason. You won't find any chummy Arctic Tale nonsense here. You'll feel empathy for an elephant who can't find his way home, you'll pray for a gazelle to escape a closing cheetah's claws, you'll wish the best for a pair of tiny polar bears whose existence forever hangs in the balance. You'll actually find yourself caring whether each animal lives or dies; whether they learn to fly, or ever reach their ultimate destinations. And your kids? They'll be laughing one minute, and pondering the fragility of nature the next. Clapping when a bobbling bird attempts to catch lunch, biting their lip as a wolf closes in on a caribou. They'll cheer, they'll cower, they'll grin, they might even shed a tear. Whatever their reactions, you can be sure of one thing: they'll remember everything they've seen and immediately want to learn more about the animals they met along the way.
Hopefully, my son will have the patience to tackle Planet Earth one day with the same enthusiasm I have. Until then, I'm more than happy to let him watch Earth as often as he asks. It generates conversation, inspires him to learn more about a variety of species, and helps him understand the cycle of life and death in the natural world. As a parent, I couldn't ask for much more from a Disney documentary.
Earth Blu-ray, Video Quality
Disney's Earth boasts a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that matches the BBC's impressive Blu-ray presentation. Colors are stunning, blacks are absorbing, contrast is vibrant, and detail is, quite often, staggering. Witness the hair bristling on the back of a fleeing gazelle, the tiny flakes of dust swirling around a panicked elephant, the textured hide of a lazy walrus, and the frazzled feathers of a brazen duckling. Pay careful attention to the footage captured from the film crew's helicopters. Note the beauty of on-screen herds, the definition of individual animals, and the clarity of swaying grass and falling leaves. As overwhelming as it can be at times, the best bits of the presentation will leave your jaw on the floor. Granted, several sequences are hindered by errant noise and spiking grain (particularly nighttime shots and dust storm scenes), but every instance should be attributed to the film's source, not the quality of Disney's technical transfer. Unfortunately, it isn't all as beautiful as its most unforgettable moments. Artifacting pops up from time to time, slow-motion shots are occasionally undermined by vertical bands, minor shimmering appears throughout the presentation, and underwater scenes suffer from faint macroblocking. Each problem is relatively easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things, but some viewers will be distracted by such inconsistencies.
Still, it's difficult to complain about a transfer that, for the most part, looks fantastic. Planet Earth fans will feel right at home, newcomers will quickly adjust to the presentation's inherent shortcomings, and videophiles will be fairly pleased with the results.
Earth Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Earth features a a primed, polished, and proficient DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that enhances every aspect of the documentary it accompanies. Proving a lossless experience can make all the difference -- even when a narrator's voice is the primary element of a mix -- Disney's efforts are on full display, granting James Earl Jones' commanding voice legitimate weight and presence, enhancing the film's harsh environments with a convincing ambient atmosphere, and lending an immersiveness to the soundfield that most documentaries lack. Yes, the narration takes center stage, pushing chirping birds and rustling leaves into the background, and yes, LFE output and rear speaker activity only step up their game when the principal animal families stumble into immediate danger, but anything more aggressive would have undermined the filmmakers' intentions. Whether listening to tiny creatures hopping through the underbrush, following a frightened elephant calf into a raging dust storm, or diving beneath the icy waves with a pair of humpback whales, Earth sounds far richer and more satisfying than I expected. The mix isn't blessed with clashing robots or fiery explosions, but it does handle everything it's given with ease, creating a sonic experience documentary enthusiasts won't soon forget.
Earth Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Despite the meager list of special features listed on the back of the case, the Blu-ray edition of Earth boasts far more supplemental content than similar releases on the market. In addition to the behind-the-scenes documentary available on the standard DVD, the Blu-ray edition includes two BonusView exclusives: a Picture-in-Picture filmmakers' video commentary and an interactive main menu (dubbed a "Living Menu") that offers additional pop-up videos and trivia. In all, it's a satisfying, unexpectedly extensive package that makes Disney's disc worth exploring.
Earth Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Family-friendly documentaries may be a relative rarity in this age of Spongebob and Hannah Montana, but films like Earth give me hope for a genre resurgence. Educational, entertaining, and engrossing, kids and adults (especially those who don't have the patience to sit through nine hours of Planet Earth) will enjoy every minute. Better still, the Blu-ray edition is as enticing as the film itself. With an excellent video transfer, a surprisingly involving DTS-HD Master Audio track, and an impressive collection of supplemental materials, this G-rated documentary is worth some legitimate consideration.
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Earth Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - September 1st - September 1, 2009
There is a bit of controversy with one of today's releases, so I'm just going to get this out of the way as quickly as possible to avoid any further distraction. While not a horrible presentation, the Blu-ray release of ‘Gladiator' does not live up to the promise ...
• Earth Blu-ray from Disney in September - June 16, 2009
Disneynature, the Walt Disney Company's label specialized in big-screen nature documentaries, is set to release its first Blu-ray on September 1, day-and-date with the DVD: the BBC documentary feature 'Earth'. Video will be presented in 1.78:1 1080p, and audio ...
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