When ’Walking With Dinosaurs’ first aired in the U.S. last April on the Discovery Channel — and appeared in a simultaneous DVD release — it created something of a stir and stole the thunder from another CGI dinosaur fest that was just about to make its theatrical debut.
Viewers were greeted with incredibly lifelike computer generated — and more traditionally modeled — dinosaurs placed in real world environments. The result was a series that presented itself as a contemporary nature documentary — but one whose subject matter had been extinct for millions of years.
’Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special’ is a follow-up to that original series and focuses exclusively on the story of one particular dinosaur — Big Al. The first 28 minute episode, entitled ’The Ballad of Big Al,’ follows the titular Allosaurus from his birth to his death and is filled with all the wonderful touches that made the first series so enjoyable. Here we witness the progression as baby Al first hunts dragonflies then quickly grows into a more mature dinosaur capable of hunting the 30 ton Diplodocus.
The second episode on the DVD, ’Big Al Uncovered,’ offers background on the surprisingly complete Allosaurus fossil found in Montana in 1991 that served as the inspiration for the program and also takes the viewer behind-the-scenes of the production. This is a very lively documentary and has a fair share of humor as the ghost of Big Al makes frequent cameo appearances.
’Allosaurus’ is presented in anamorphic widescreen and is framed at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. While it is a made for television program, most original BBC productions are filmed in 16×9 these days. As with the original series, the image here is a real wonder to behold. Colors are incredibly vibrant, black level and contrast are accurate, and the picture is very sharp. Some compression artifacts are apparent and there is a bit of edge enhancement shimmering visible here and there but, on the whole, this is a top-notch video transfer.
Audio is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo mix that offers no surround activity whatsoever. Dynamic range is quite good, however, and some nice, deep bass accompanies Big Al’s adventures. The track is well-balanced as well with the musical score, narration, and sound effects all given their equal due with no one aspect overwhelming the rest. It’s a solid soundtrack but I will admit that the lack of a 5.1, or even 2.0 surround, mix was a bit of a letdown after witnessing the stellar video.
’Allosaurus’ also offers up a few nice bonus features. First up is a storyboard comparison, overlayed with the finished scene of the attack on the Diplodocus herd. Next up are over 50 production photos and stills. Finally, a few DVD-ROM samples drawn from the ’Walking with Dinosaurs’ CD-ROM are available including audio and video snippets; screensavers; and desktop wallpaper, icons, and cursors.
’Walking with Dinosaurs’ remains one of my favorite and most-watched DVDs and ’Allosaurus’ is a fine follow-up. This sequel matches the original in technical quality and the two episodes themselves are certainly on par with those appearing in the first series. The packaging also matches that used for the original DVD set with a clear hub holding the DVD in a folded over, glossy cardboard case — all of which slides into a glossy cardboard sleeve for safekeeping. This is a sterling example of educational programming done right and, for around 10 bucks on the street, you really can’t go wrong with this DVD.