After 65 million years…they're back.
When Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park opened in theaters back in 1993, who'd have thought it would create an interest in dinosaurs so huge that its aftershocks are still being felt today? Of course, there has always been an interest in those lumbering reptiles, but after Jurassic Park, it was like a tidal wave of dinos hit America. Suddenly everyone wanted in on the action! There were dinosaur toys, dinosaur books, even dinosaur bed sheets. (I sleep with stegosaurus. What do you sleep on?) Back in 2000 Artisan released The Discovery Channel's Walking With Dinosaurs. Now the lizards are back in Discovery's hot new title When Dinosaurs Roamed America on DVD!
Facts of the Case
I don't know how to really explain this movie/documentary better than the DVD case does. Hence, here is their summation:
"Faster, stronger and fiercer than ever, these dinosaurs will both amaze and frighten. By combining state-of-the-art computer animation with live-action landscapes, you'll marvel as these fearsome creatures roar to life!
Leap back in time to prehistoric American when these mighty dinosaurs ruled the continent. From New York to New Mexico, these powerful animals lived, hunted and died in the very place you call home. Watch millions of years of evolution revealed before your eyes. From the Dilophosaurus to the ferocious T-Rex and Dromaeosaur, you won't see more authentic and terrifying dinosaurs anywhere…except buried in your own backyard!"
When Dinosaurs Roamed America is broken up into four separate parts: Triassic and Jurassic, Upper Jurassic, Mid-Cretaceous, and Mid-Late Cretaceous. Each section features live action/computer effects and information about each of the dinosaurs from that period. When Dinosaurs Roamed America is narrated by John Goodman (The Flintstones, The Big Lebowski, TVs "Roseanne").
Kids love dinosaurs. I remember being eight years old and loving the lumbering Brontosaurus. Unfortunately, some scientist apparently put the skull of the Brontosaurus onto the wrong bony body. This meant that the Brontosaurus was actually not really that particular dinosaur. Instead, they did the switch and he became the Brachiosaurus. Needless to say, I was devastated. Years of therapy have helped, though I still lie awake at night crying tears of loss for my beloved "Bronty."
Loss aside, I still had to tread through Artisan's When Dinosaurs Roamed America. Kids are just going to eat this disc up like it was candy. If your child (or you) is a fan of either three Jurassic Park movies, then it's likely they're going to think this movie is "da bomb." (Stick with me folks, I'm trying to sound hip for the sake of today's youth.)
I enjoyed When Dinosaurs Roamed America, though not immensely. It's the type of thing that is interesting for 40 minutes or so, then I feel I need a break. There are only so many computer-generated dinosaurs I can watch until I want to start doing tequila shooters. This is not to say that When Dinosaurs Roamed America isn't interesting, it's just that a little definitely goes a long way.
I've always been one to quit channel surfing when I come across some animal documentary on The Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. I love it when they show nature's finest squaring off for a fight to the death. I guess it's the just the animal in me that loves a good grudge match. Luckily, you'll find plenty of that in When Dinosaurs Roamed America. Everything from the smallest dino to the biggest predator seems to become an appetizer for some other species of dinosaur during the movie.
So, is When Dinosaurs Roamed America a good DVD? I think it's something worth seeing. The movie is packed with all kinds of information about dinosaurs (including interviews with archeologists, paleontologists, and other scientists), and the effects are average to good, depending on the scenes. Since I have the memory capacity of a 1976 Apple computer, I couldn't begin to tell you a third of all the dinosaurs mentioned. However, ask any fourth grade kid and I am sure they can rattle off the list faster than you can say "triceratops."
When Dinosaurs Roamed America is presented in anamorphic widescreen. I am not sure what the aspect ratio is (as the case doesn't specify), but it appears to be about 1:85:1. The image on this disc is very nice, featuring crisp colors and deep blacks. I spotted hardly any flaws, save for some shimmer in a few spots.
Audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 as well as Dolby Surround 2.0, both in English. The 5.1 track utilized all speakers during most of the scenes, be it background noise or the roaring stomp of a vicious T-Rex. I did not detect any distortion or hiss in either the 5.1 or the 2.0 track. John Goodman's narration was clear, as were the effects and the music. English subtitles were also included.
Though it looks as if When Dinosaurs Roamed America includes a lot of extra material, it's slim pickings. To start with there are two "Behind-The-Scenes" features on When Dinosaurs Roamed America. Combined these last around five minutes in length and don't add much insight to the film. Each includes a few interviews with the creators of the film, and that's about it.
The "Music Video" is a short behind-the-scenes "video" (duh) featuring some annoying rock music. Some dinosaur facts and a dinosaur quiz are included, as well as an interview with one of the animators on When Dinosaurs Roamed America and a paleontologist.
Finally, there are some "dinosaur graphics" featuring moving pictures of the computer dinos, as well as a bio on When Dinosaurs Roamed America composer Christopher Franke.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The main problem with When Dinosaurs Roamed America is that the effects look as if they are 88 percent finished. Maybe that's just the best they could do, and if so, it is commendable. However, there were many spots where the effects just looked cheesy. Of course, I'm sure that Discovery didn't have a multi-million dollar budget to work with like Mr. Spielberg did.
Such is life.
For around fifteen bucks, When Dinosaurs Roamed America will be a nice purchase for those with curious children or dinosaur aficionados. Both entertaining and informative, kids will get a kick out of watching this disc over and over again. A decent transfer and audio options make this an above average disc from Artisan Entertainment.
When Dinosaurs Roamed America is free to go on the grounds that it would eat me if I found it guilty.
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