..

WHEN DINOSAURS ROAMED AMERICA

Review by Michael Jacobson

Narrator: John Goodman
Director: Pierre de Lespinois
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Family Home Entertainment/Artisan Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 90 Minutes
Release Date: August 14, 2001

Film ***1/2

Eons before there was even a concept of a place called America, our beloved country was no different than other places in the world in being home to those wondrous creatures called dinosaurs. And though the world of these prehistoric beasts is often the stuff of Hollywood fantasy or childrenís stories these days, the truth is, they were very real, they were part of an intricate ecosystemÖand they lived right in our backyards. When Dinosaurs Roamed America is a fascinated and well executed program from the Discovery Channel that takes a look at these animals by vividly recreated their world and their lives via some exemplary computer animation.

Science will never be able to answer all the questions about how these once mighty and plentiful monsters lived and interacted, but making sound estimations based on research and physical evidence, and using computers to approximate these theories, we get a vivid and probably reasonably accurate look at what life might have been like during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, as well as the events that separated each era, causing the fall of some creatures and the rise of others.

With narration by John Goodman, the program takes us into a realistically rendered three dimensional world. We go where no cameras could have gone, and we see things that only our imaginations could reproduce. Mixing the animated footage with scientific data about bone and muscle structure and environmental findings, we start to acquire an understanding about the dinosaursí world.

Some bits of live action footage expound the scientific validity: one geologist explains a section of earth that clearly indicates physical evidence that some kind of comet or asteroid fallout separated distinct periods of our planetís history.

This is the kind of entertaining and educational video that will enthrall kids and adults alike; though a word of caution is required: there are a couple of realistic depictions of meat eating dinosaurs stalking and killing their prey. These are entirely equivocal to what you might see on most nature shows on television, but parents may want to take care if they have an easily upset child.

But overall, When Dinosaurs Roamed America is a seamless blend of science and art that remains a terrific program for family viewing and discussion.

Video ****

Being a largely computer animated project, I expected the best in this department. The best was what I got. This is a gorgeous, colorful, reference quality DVD from start to finish. The animation is brilliant and imaginative, and lends itself to remarkable and startling detail, from the scales on the dinos to the leaves on the trees, to even the gentlest ripples in the water. The palate is extraordinarily wide, and the colors work together to create vividly realized scenes that by and large look extremely natural. Highest marks.

Audio ****

The 5.1 audio mix is equally impressive, and the perfect compliment to the animation to lend the view the illusion that he or she really is in prehistoric America. Quieter scenes reverberate with subtle, ambient effects like distant animal noises, wind in the trees, water running, and so forth, emanating from all channels in a well balanced mix. Action oriented sequences take on dynamic life with extra loudness and more bass from the .1 channel. Crossovers from side to side and front to back are all smoothly executed. All in all, this DVD makes for a great show-off disc for your home theatre.

Features ***

The disc contains some educational extras, including dinosaur facts and a dinosaur quiz, plus two "Behind The Scenes" offerings, an animator and a paleontologist interview, a music video, dinosaur graphics, and an isolate score.

Summary:

When Dinosaurs Roamed America marks an excellent integration of technology, art, and scientific fact to realize a long gone world and let us explore it in a way never before possible. Itís also a reference quality disc with an excellent video transfer and 5.1 audio mix. Recommended.