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Click above to purchase "When Dinosaurs Roamed America" at amazon.com

 

When Dinosaurs Roamed America

review by Zach B.

 

Studio: Artisan Home Entertainment

Running Time: 90 minutes

Narrated by John Goodman

Writer: Georgann Kane

Director: Pierre de Lespinois

Retail Price: $19.98

Features: Behind The Scenes Featurettes, Animator Interview, Paleontoligist Interview, Dinosaur Quiz, Dinosaur Facts, Dinosaur Graphics, Music Video, Biographies, Music Score, Weblink

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Digital Stereo, English Closed Captions, English Subtitles, Chapter Selection (6 Chapters)

Released: August 15th, 2001

It seems lately the Discovery Channel has been known for their various, in-depth specials on dinosaurs. Even though dinosaurs have been extinct for millions of years, they still continue to draw wonder, fascination and of course, various films and documentaries on them. While Discovery Channel's specials have drawn big ratings, major publicity and awards for the network, they also capture a good audience on home video for those who do not have a feed to the channel. Artisan now brings home "When Dinosaurs Roamed America," a rather interesting look at dinosaurs lived on American soil.

This feature-length special is narrated by John Goodman (SWEET!) and he does a good job as his voice, like so many times, brings a great presence.The feature goes on to explain how America was once a giant continent, and Dinosaurs in American areas. You'll see evolution, computer animated dinosaurs in action against live-action backgrounds and learn some interesting facts along the way.

This may seem like an educational documentary, but I found it pretty interesting. It's easy to understand for all ages and can be entertaining even. The live-action backdrops and great computer animated dinosaurs blend incredibly well together, it's quite a technical marvel. There could be worse ways to kill time, so if you like the Discovery Channel specials or dinosaurs, this is worth checking out.

One might expect this to be in full frame, but Artisan has provided a lovely 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that really impressed me. Black levels are incredibly deep, while colors and fleshtones are rock solid and really well saturated. There is some grain and shimmering on the transfer, but there is not much of it and it's not distracting. This widescreen image really preserves so much beauty and gives off a fantastic sense of wonder. Detail is astonishing and a lot of it is just amazing to look at. The locations are picture perfected and look really realistic (they are real), but it puts you there. The animation is pixel perfect and has good clarity. Overall, a strong transfer, but who knows if all the young kids will like the widescreen image. For the rest of us, enjoy!

Also very impressive is the English Dolby Digital 5.1 track. This movie features a great deal of action since it's flooded with dinosaurs, but the little things count for something. Waterfalls, birds outside, insects... but the main action is really of the dinosaurs. The roars, the fighting... it sounds really good and the mix pretty creative. Split surrounds are generally good while .1 LFE bass extension is fine too. Nothing revolutionary, but you do expect to get a good experience considering the action in the feature and that's what you get here. Still, I've heard better mixes on other dinosaur-based features. This is a great Dolby Digital track though that surely pleases. Also included is a less powerful but still strong Dolby Digital Stereo track, plus English subtitles and English closed captions.

It's nice to see that this release isn't bare bones, however, I did find a lot of the material here either a bit dry, a bit promotional or not that interesting. Children and dinofreaks will like what is offered here, as it offers more on the subject and more knowledge to gain after the viewing experience. That part I like, and these supplements do fit well with the feature.

Behind The Scenes 1 plays a lot like a trailer, but it's really promotional. You'll see on location filming, storyboards, animation process and interviews with the crew and how they explain the process of making something like this. However, within the promotion and cheesy music, you'll find a decent fact or two on how all of this is done. It's a decent mix, so if you liked the feature, check it out. It's non-anamorphic widescreen, too bad it's not anamorphic.

Behind The Scenes 2 is also in non-anamorphic widescreen and feels a bit more promotional than the first. It lasts a little over two minutes, features clips, an interview or two and behind-the-scenes footage. Not much.

The Music Video combines on-location filming footage, animation, clips from the feaure and staff making it against instrumental rock music. Rather pointless, but at less than two minutes, it's painless.

You can test your dinosaur knowledge with ten questions in the Dinosaur Quiz (but the answers are given below the choices, so try not to read ahead) and the text based Dinosaur Facts explain some interesting things about the creatures.

Dinosaur Graphics are short animation tests of the dinos in the feature, while you can read text based Animator Interview (with animator Don Waller) and a Paleontoligist Interview (with Jim Kirkland and Doug Wolfe). If you're into those kind of things, they are good reads.

Finally, there's a textbased screen advertising Disocvery.com (a non DVD-ROM Weblink basically) and a text based info on the Music Score. AND THAT TEXT MENU HAS MUSIC. On another note, I found the menus a bit... jumbled. The interface is a bit annoying. And at the start, you can't skip over a Discover Channel Promo Spot.

This is a decent feature about dinosaurs, that dino fans and children should like. So if you know someone in those demographics, pick it up for them. If you've seen this and liked it, then it is really worth it. It's a nice release with a fine presentation at a decent price, so if you're interested, it's worth checking out.

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(4.5/5)

(4/5)

(1.5/5)

(3.5/5, NOT an average)

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