Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Full Screen, NTSC, Widescreen
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Number of discs: 2
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
Release Date: April 7, 2015
Run Time: 50 minutes
The popularity of the nature program skyrocketed with the success of “Planet Earth” and there have been many visually stunning imitators since its release. Advances in film technology has only made programs like this more predominant, so it should come as no surprise that BBC has begun to dip into the world of 3D visuals. Unfortunately, the release of the 44-minute short documentary film, Tiny Giants, also marks another trend: the repurposing of previously used material. Although the 3D disc is a new addition to the footage, there is no new content within the film. Just as Disneynature re-cut the footage of “Planet Earth” to make their family-friendly theatrical release, Earth, Tiny Giants is made up of footage from the three-hour BBC miniseries from 2014, “Hidden Kingdoms.” Also being released is Wings, a re-release of the Best Buy exclusive film, Winged Planet 3D.
With as much respect and accuracy as possible, movie-magic was utilized to stage some of the shots in order to capture the essence of what it feels like to be a creature as small as those contained in “Hidden Kingdoms.” This may be somewhat controversial in the world of nature photography, but it provides particular viewing spectacle for the 3D formatting. I can only imagine what this film would look like on an Imax screen, truly giving the audience an idea of what it must feel like to be small as a mouse. There are other benefits to the truncated version of the magnificent BBC series, many of which were exposed by Disneynature’s practices.
The most obvious benefit is that Tiny Giants plays out like a best-of film, focusing only on two of the most engaging creatures from the series. These include the grasshopper mouse from the first episode and the chipmunks from episode two. None of the city-dwelling creatures from the third episode are included, nor are the supporting stories from the first two. These are compelling enough to leave you wanting more, but the running-time also ensures younger audiences will be more likely to retain interest to the very end.
Even though there has been some editing to the material, thankfully some of the elements have been left untouched. The score from composer Ben Foster (The Theory of Everything) remains, as does the narration from Stephen Fry. This ensures that despite being edited down for length, the film has not been dumbed down for audiences. With that being said, even the original “
” series knew how
to blend spectacle and entertainment with educational and scientific material.
Not much needed to be toned down for children, and Fry’s light narration helps
the short film move even faster. Though hardcore viewers of nature programming
may find the content simplistic, I also can’t imagine that they would seek out
3D as a necessary asset to the educational process. You could call it nature
programming for dummies, but it just as easily could be described as
educational entertainment. Hidden
The 3D is not perfect, especially depending on the quality and size of your home theater set-up, but the strong visual style of the show lends itself to the format. The colors are bright and crisp, with plenty of camera tricks to highlight the movement in a way that’s effective. There were sets built to force perspective, small lenses utilized, and even the use of green screen in order to show the massive size of the larger creatures nearby. Some of the use of green screen reads as false, and the illusions never manage to match the impressiveness of a simple slow-motion shot, but the good far outweighs the negative in this inventive take on the nature program. I would still recommend the “HiddenKingdoms” Blu-ray over this in 3D, but children are more likely to find this truncated version more engaging.
The single disc release includes a 3D Blu-ray disc, which is also capable of playing in 2D if the proper equipment is missing. The special features also include a 9-minute making-of featurette, which is also an edited down version of a feature included for each of the episodes of “
.” Hidden Kingdom
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 5/10