Prehistoric Park

Prehistoric Park (2006)
Cast: Nigel Marven
Extras: Featurette, Photo Gallery, Animal Facts

Riffing on the concept of "Jurassic Park" and his Animal Planet documentary series, wildlife expert Nigel Marven has created a television mini-series that feels a lot like one of his dreams come true. "Prehistoric Park" takes Marven's love for nature and interest in the world's fauna and creates a TV series that is part documentary and part adventure movie.

Nigel wants to learn more about dinosaurs and other extinct animals and he decides to build Prehistoric Park, take a time machine, travel back into the past to gather specimens of various extinct prehistoric animals and bring them back through the time tunnel to place in his park. While this is, of course, an absurd concept the resulting TV series is captivating and educational nonetheless. In the vein of "Walking With Dinosaurs" we see lots and lots of prehistoric computer-generated animals in live action backgrounds, even interacting with humans. With his relaxed, off-the-cuff style, Marven teaches viewers about these animals, puts them on display from all kinds of angles, including their tempers, and makes each episode an exciting animal tracking adventure.

The show consists of six episodes, running about 45 minutes each. In each episode Nigel Marven is entering a different time zone to find certain animals, ranging from the formidable T-Rex, sabretooth tigers and mammoths all the way to prehistoric dragonfly's and critter, as well as a humongous prehistoric crocodile.

The show manages to strike the perfect balance between entertainment and education. Never losing its documentary style it always feels as if Marven is tracking down actual living animals while the story surrounding the entire show allows for comic relief as well as to create stronger emotional ties, making these creatures tangible animals as opposed to fossilized museum exhibits or movie monsters.

Despite its great qualities, the show does have a few drawbacks – namely the computer generated effects. "Prehistoric Park" was created in 2006 and the effects are not exactly state-of-the-art. All CG creatures are horribly soft-looking and out of focus – presumably to make them look less "digital" – and as a result shots look very inconsistent throughout. Also the design and animation of some of the creatures is flawed at times, creating dead give-aways for their being artificial. The interaction of the creatures with the environment is also comparably poor as they are visibly layered on top of background plates without properly affecting the environments. This is a TV production however with a limited budget, so these things can certainly be excused, bit I did want to point them out. Do not let these small technical glitches take away form the sheer entertainment value of this show because it really goes beyond perfect-looking CG creatures.

Coming as a 2-disc set from Brentwood Home Video the show is presented in its 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio here in a transfer that is enhanced for 16×9 TV sets. The transfer is free of blemishes or grain but sadly the material is brutally overcompressed. As a result the image seriously lacks definition and detail and compression artifacts riddle the picture on every possible occasion. With roughly 140 minutes of footage on each disc it should have been possible to create a much better looking presentation, so this comes as a disappointment. As a result of the overcompressed images, colors are also a bit muted and washed out, never fully restoring the full glory of this production.

A 5.1 channel Dolby Digital track, as well as a Dolby Stereo track are provided, both of which are well integrated and without notable problems. Frequency response on the tracks is good with deep basses and clear high ends.

As extras the release also contains a 26-minute featurette about the making of the series as well as a gallery with photos and storyboards. The release is completed by stats and facts about the animals presented in the show.

"Prehistoric Park" is a fascinating journey filled with educational and entertainment value. While the DVD may not be entirely up to snuff in terms of its technical implementation, this is nonetheless a great release for your dino-hungry kids or the entire family to check out.