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Case Number 17246: Small Claims Court

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National Geographic: National Parks Collection

National Geographic // 2007 // 330 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // September 12th, 2009

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart warns: Don't confuse this with National Lampoon: National Parks Collection.

The Charge

"This is the wilderness—and the wildness…"

The Case

The National Geographic Society started exploring and recording the wilderness, not to mention the wildness, in 1888. The public has seen its work first through National Geographic, and later through television specials. Today, there's a National Geographic Channel and a line of DVDs. National Geographic: National Parks Collection features seven segments from the channel's shows that showcase national parks and monuments across the United States, from the Everglades to Hawaii.

Each segment, meant to fit an hour slot, gets its own DVD:

• "Secret Yellowstone"
Learn why Yellowstone gets so much precipitation, how fire helps renew forests, and why bison are the park's most dangerous animals.

• "Secret Yosemite"
An El Capitan climb and giant sequoias, a controlled fire to help sequoias reproduce, and a bear specialist are featured.

• "Everglades"
Experts try to save crocodiles, manatees, and other species from drought conditions while dealing with Burmese pythons and Brazilian pepper plants that have invaded the wetland.

• "Extreme Alaska: Denali National Park"
Mount McKinley's home provides a vantage point for the Aurora Borealis, and houses creatures such as a beetle that freezes for the winter and worms that can only live in icy temperatures.

• "Grand Canyon"
The fight to save the humpback chub, an archaeological dig looking for an ancient community, and the rescue of a condor that swallowed a coin are featured.

• "Death Valley"
The retiring park superintendent takes one last trip through Death Valley. Moving boulders, singing dunes, and a crystal-lined chamber are featured.

• "Hidden Hawaii"
Researchers study a threatened coral reef in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, tagging sharks and putting a Crittercam on a seal.

What you'll notice right away, as wolves, waterfalls, geysers, and dead animals flash by in the opening moments of "Secret Yellowstone," is that these aren't stodgy travelogues. There are a few quiet moments in the Everglades and Hawaii segments, admittedly, but, for the most part, these documentaries move fast, possibly too much so.

The documentaries like to shake viewers up a little bit, with footage of firefighters wrangling blazes, slabs falling thousands of feet and stirring up clouds, rafting trips, and dead animals, to name just a few topics. I found one bit, footage of a man getting thrown by a bison at Yellowstone, gratuitous, but they're playing fair. Nearly everything here has educational and informative value. New ideas about fighting forest fires, the range of conditions in Denali National Park or the Grand Canyon, and the Earth's movement in Death Valley are exciting.

As you'd expect, you'll see a lot of beautiful scenery, even with a focus on research, and it's handled well.

Most of these DVDs have DVD-ROM interactive maps, which could be handy if, even after seeing the range of scorpions in Death Valley, you're somehow still interested in a trip. The Everglades and Hawaii segments replace the map with photo galleries.

The Verdict

While guilty of the occasional excess, National Geographic: National Parks Collection acquits itself well through an interesting presentation of fascinating information.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 94

Perp Profile

Studio: National Geographic
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• English (CC)
Running Time: 330 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Interactive Maps
• Photo Galleries

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