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The idea of "Walking with Beasts" was to close part of the gap between the
end of "Walking with Dinosaurs" (ending in the late Cretaceous) and
The story begins in the early Eocene (~55 million years ago). Why the Paleozoic (the 10 million years between the Cretaceous and the Eocene) have been left out I don't know. This was also a quite exciting time in Earth's history, just after the fall of the dinosaurs.
The series give a nice overlook of the animals that lived during the specified time. These are just short windows however, sometimes just single days within an epoch, which doesn't give much insight into the development of animals.
The amount of speculation in this series seems to be even greater than in "Walking with Dinosaurs". While we still don't know if the animals of the Eocene were single-coloured, or had spots or stars or stripes, most animals in this series had very distinct markings on their fur or feathers. But this goes even further with information about social behavior among early primates and tales of gases trapped within the local pond. These things all MIGHT have been, but watching the series gives you the impression that someone went back in time to study these animals (for a few years).
There are a few animals that have left us not only bones, but also fur and dung, like the mammoth, some sabre toothed cats and the giant ground sloth (megatherium). These creatures were recreated wonderfully.
This is another edutainment documentation from the BBC where the emphasis was put a little to much on the entertainment side. Just the same, it's not really bad (just not as good as "Life on Earth" was for example), a lot of fun to watch and it also contains a nice insight into the world of mammals.
Considering how many dinosaur documentaries have been made it is
to see the BBC filling the 65 Million year gap since the end of
Each episode is made in the form of a story as we follow a particular animal or group in its fight for survival. The science and behaviour of the animals is introduced as it intersects with the story.
I don't agree with one poster who commented that too much of the documentary is speculation. In fact if you check the BBC website, you can see that all claims are based on some evidence. Clearly it cannot claim to be completely accurate, and some compromises must be made. Many things, such as the colours and markings of the animals have to be guessed. However even then there are plenty of cases where there is good evidence such as cave paintings and fossilised skin. This includes Megaloceros and the Mammoth. We know so much more about mammals than dinosaurs that educated guesses about can be made using our knowledge of the appearance and behaviour of modern animals.
In most case the computer based rendering of the animals is utterly convincing. The filmmakers went to considerable trouble to integrate real locations with computer rendered animals. Real scenes with leaves rustling, splashes in the water and footprints in the snow were filmed leaving a space for the computer generated beasts afterwards. There are some less convincing ones such as the Australopithecines, which is a pity because the origin of mankind is one of the most important points on the timeline. One minor criticism is that occasionally the animals' movements look repetitive and unnatural. This is a small flaw and doesn't get in the way of the story.
Overall this is a highly enjoyable and well put together series.
Tim Haines made a real misstep in this sequel to Walking With Dinosaurs, in
that he made the doc too much of a story, and not enough of a documentary.
The smilodon segment, especially, seemed contrived, with the two "brothers"
and a lone warrior smilodon named "Half-Tooth." They also take too many
great pains to have the animals reacting to the camera.
On the other hand, the evolution of man is nicely done - and I strong recommend the Discovery Channel documentary Neanderthal as a companion piece.
Speaking of Discovery, once again they make a hash of the documentary, editing out the rougher scenes, and intercutting the Making Of... into it as well. Stockard Channing sounds robotic as the narrator as well.
I strongly suggest getting the DVD, which retains all the BBC UK stuff intact.
In terms of the age of our planet and in relation to 'Walking with
Dinosaurs' set in Earth's distant past, 'Walking With Prehistoric Beasts'
happened only last week so to speak. The series starts off with one of
first Mammals then finishing with Humans and the Giant Mammoths, with
carnivorous Wolf like animals who's nearest modern day relative are Sheep!
this is one big freak show from start to finish.
'Walking With Prehistoric Beasts' tells the story of how Mammals have come to dominate this planet we call home, with each part a different story about an individual, family or group and how they survive and cope in the harsh new Post-Dino world
If you enjoyed 'Walking with Dinosaurs' (it's predecessor) you're love this, the narration, models, FX & CGI have all improved greatly, with some of the `Beasts' in parts even interacting with the camera that is suppose to be filming them.
Great viewing for young and old
Lacking cable, I was unable to see "Walking with Prehistoric Beasts"
when it premiered last December on the Discovery Channel. Therefore, I
had to wait impatiently until February 2002 to purchase the DVD set. My
anxious wait was not in vain. "Prehistoric Beasts" is awe-inspiring,
provocative, informative, and ambitious, very nearly the equal of its
precedessor "Walking with Dinosaurs". The scientific knowledge, care,
production, and preparation the BBC crew expended on this program was
well invested and deeply appreciated, at least by this paleontology
buff. I've watched the "episode" DVD and "making of" DVD at least three
times already. I will never get tired of it.
Why a shade below "Dinosaurs"? Well, dinosaurs have a unique marquee appeal all their own - they are truly exotic, mysterious, and alien. While the creatures featured in "Beasts" were all special and impressive - from the forest ants and hopping Leptictidium to the titanic Indricotherium - they're still just a tad too familiar. Nonetheless, I enjoyed all six episodes for their professionalism, information, and naturalism (except for some self-conscious camera work, as for example when the indricothere calf knocks over a camera and a mammoth sprays mud on another one - which I actually found amusing). The CGI and animatronic work was phenomenal for the most part, especially in the mammoth sequences - they seemed just like living hairy elephants. Only some of the renditions - like the Smilodon kittens and a couple of the Australopithecines- seemed just a tad artificial. But that is definitely a minor quibble. Also, digitizing out the mating Australopithecines was a bit distracting. As with the mating stegosaurs in "When Dinosaurs Roamed America", they should have just cut away before the deed was consummated.
My favorite episodes were the "indricothere" and "woolly mammoth" ones, because I am a sucker for giant mammals (megafauna). It's a shame these creatures aren't still with us. Some, like the megatherium, doedicurus, and mammoth, were alive only a few thousand years ago!
To those who did not enjoy the "Walking.." series because it is based on speculation and conjecture, I say, suspend your disbelief and savor the daring and original attempts to re-create a lost world based on the most up-to-date information. It is so well-rendered that if it didn't actually occur that way eons ago, it should have!
Again, kudos to the BBC for both "Walking.." series and their accompanying books (which I also own). I recommend they continue this paleontological quest; they are many more prehistoric beasts to feature!
Out of 10, I would rate "Walking with Prehistoric Beasts" a 9.5!
I think WALKING WITH PREHISTORIC BEASTS is well-conceived on the whole, though some of the dramatic elements are a bit too contrived to be totally effective ( however, there are a few surprises now and then ). The biggest problem here is a feeling of "deja vu", simply because the structure mirrors the WALKING WITH DINOSAURS series, and the altogether too self-conscience gags; there is one instance per episode where the camera is played to by some action ( mud, broken lens etc. ), and the slow-motion / freeze-frame shots are hokey as well. While the fur / feather textures and animal reconstructions in CGI are quite well done, the faces of the saber-toothed cats in particular look something less than realistic. All in all, the BBC series is a worthy follow-up to DINOSAURS but slightly less. I would rate it a middle "A", compared to an "A+" for the preceding program.
Walking with Prehistoric Beast is sometimes overlooked by its most famous predecessor, but that is a great mistake. To start the stories here are more complex from the Walking with Dinosaurs and that is reasonable, if you think that mammals have more evolved brains. Anyway the location we see here is a bit creepy because many of the places that the events of the series take place are either for the most part the same or they have changed dramatically in geologically speaking (less than 65 million years ago).Also some the majority of the extinct creatures that are presented still have descenders in the modern-day and I remember felling amazed by that fact. A bonus fact is that the graphic due to the improvement of the technology from 1999 are extreme realistic and in all honest look better than Walking with Dinosaurs. In summary it is a sequel ( OK of documentary in this case) done right, so go watch it all six episodes, it is about 3 hours and after you will want to see them again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
...but I'm biased, not only because I love this subject but because a
full-length documentary exploring the vast subject of the Cenozoic era
was long overdue. I mean come-on! We currently live in a mammalian
world with only 4 surviving orders of reptiles, all of which barely
come into contact with everyday human beings. Mammals rule the
ocean...they're the biggest, smartest and even the most ferocious
(killer and sperm whales). How did all this come to be? The story is
told in Walking with Beasts. Indeed it can be said that Walking with
Dinosaurs is about interest, while Walking with Beasts is about legacy!
The era is covered in 6 six half-hour episodes, which is about as long as any such programme can hope to be. In geological terms, we have depictions of the early Eocene, late Eocene, Oligocene, Pliocene, early Pleistocene, and late Pleistocene. OK, excluding the boring Holocene...heh...we're missing two epochs (Paleocene and Miocene) which might seem less agreeable...why not do one for each??? Still one finds the amount of information covered in the programme sufficient and of course interesting. I personally wouldn't want to have missed any of them out.
Briefly, in "New Dawn" we get Leptictidium, Propalaeotherium and Ambulocetus, the latter (I'm sure a lot of you are aware) is known for its role in the evolution of the whale. The 6 foot bird Gastornis is another highlight. Forget about the ostrich, this guy was a predator and at the top of the food chain. "Whale Killer" is a follow-up centering on Basilosaurus and its survival in the late Eocene Tethys Sea (the climate change alludes to the end of the Eocene). "Land of Giants" is mainly about the giant Indricotherium (this guy was bigger than T-Rex) and Entelodont, a feisty animal related to pigs. Australopithecus was the star of the episode "Next of Kin" which also features Deinotherium. My Favorite was "Sabre tooth", which features Smilodon, the terror bird Phorusrhacos, and Megatherium, the giant sloth. Lastly, "Mammoth Journey" is complete change of climate. It depicts the ice-age inhabitants Megaloceras, wholly rhino and the mammoth...
They are all incredible animals and very realistic. You can tell that the CG was slightly better than that used for "Walking with Dinosaurs". The creation of realistic fur and feather presented a huge challenge for the team. In short, it has everything its predecessor has. Perhaps a real treat included in the DVD are the two full-length "making of..." programmes. They provide an in-depth scientific discussion of each of the subjects in the series, including a look at the fossils from the Messil pit in Germany, which provided the basis for the "New Dawn". There were also experts on each specific subject. This gave me the impression that the programme was very well-researched, and perhaps better researched than it predecessor, a claim also made by the producers.
I remember reading, either from amazon or here, that the bbc can't make documentaries. I can't disagree more with this statement. I've been watching their documentaries since I was a kid, and I've always liked their "assume an intelligent public" and "broadcast even though people care more about Big Brother" approach to documentaries. This is exactly the kind of thing that gives rise to documentaries like Blue Planet, Horizon and Planet Earth. It's a tradition the bbc should be proud of....
This series is truly awe-inspiring, besides being entertaining and educational to boot. The CGI graphics are so good that the creatures look completely real. And to the nay-sayer below who complains that `no human ever saw these creatures blah blah how do we know blah blah its like saying Thomas The Tank Engine is the real story of the British railway blah blah' I say this: First if all, palaeontologists can tell a whole lot from fossils everything from an animal's size and gait, right down to what it ate. Secondly, some of these animals (mammoths, sabre-tooth cats, woolly rhinos, giant elks) WERE seen by human eyes, and indeed cave paintings have proved to be another valuable source of information about these creatures. And thirdly, some of these creatures are so closely related to modern animals that it is possible to draw fairly sensible conclusions about what their social habits must have been like just by observing their modern relatives. Of course there's inevitably going to be an element of conjecture and speculation in a production like this, but at least it is educated, sensible and logical conjecture, and it's probably not far off the truth in most cases. My minor quibbles are pretty much the same as those already aired by other reviewers: I found it incredibly naff giving the sabre-tooth cats names - `Half Tooth' and `The Brothers'. Why not just call them Brian, Clive and Trevor instead? That would have been no more or no less silly. And some fascinating and truly bizarre prehistoric animals were completely overlooked or mentioned just briefly (the ancient horses being one example). But these are minor quibbles about an otherwise superb effort by the BBC. It gets 9 out of 10 from me.
Even has some humans in it, but none resembling Raquel Welch, nor the
It's a live-action documentary in six parts, ranging from the meteor that extirpated the dinosaurs up to the Ice Ages. The Cenozoic Era, largely overlooked, but most important in shaping today's fauna (including us!)--much more relevant than The Big Show that was the dinosaur period.
The most interesting sequences are on the giant animals of South America, the development of whales, and the battles for control of land between the survivors of the apocalypse at the end of the Cretaceous period (parts 5, 2, and 1, if I remember correctly).
This was produced by the BBC, following its big success with Walking with Dinosaurs. It's got the same mix of imagined local filmed drama, a la Wild Kingdom, with some basic paleontological exposition. The live action stuff is mostly realistic and there seems to have been considerable research on the backdrop. Each part is based on the fossil records of a particular location. I doubt this sequel was such a big hit, but for the reasons I've suggested above (and the general unfamiliarity of what you'll see), probably more valuable and educational.
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