Walking With Prehistoric Beasts
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Imagine a National Geographic survey of a natural world that hasn't existed for millions of years. The sequel to the mesmerizing Walking with Dinosaurs, one of the most imaginative explorations of the prehistoric world ever made, once again uses the technology of the Jurassic Park fantasies to re-create the "menagerie of weird and wonderful creatures" that roamed the globe after the dinosaurs. Designed as a series of survival dramas, each of the six episodes plays like a speculative Disney True Life Adventure (with appropriately resolute narration by Kenneth Branagh) centered around a day in the life of a creature or the seasonal cycle of a species: a pride of saber tooth cats, a herd of woolly mammoths, a tribe of hominids. It's all supposition, of course, but it's supposition based on the best research available. The BBC production, which does not shy away from this violent world, includes computer-animated footage of mating and hunting techniques. However, any prehistory fan 7 or older should enjoy this series. --Sean Axmaker
Don't get hung up on the "Making of" appellation branded onto the documentaries Triumph of the Beasts and The Beasts Within. These 50-minute productions are less about getting it made than getting it right; they explain the science and speculation behind the production. Scientists share their discoveries, offer their theories, and show off fossils in an effort to explain what we know of the distant past and how we know it. A supplemental "fact file" provides thumbnail profiles on every creature featured in the series, and a photo gallery offers a second look at the beasties. For those viewers more interested in the how than the why, there are six animated storyboard galleries and 23 minutes of interviews with the producers and animators. It's a perfect companion for the program, serious enough to tackle the issues of scientific speculation and spiked with a little humor just to keep it fun. --Sean Axmaker
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Anything that gets children more excited about any science is good programming in my book!