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Prehistoric Planet / Allosaurus (2pk/DVD)
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This well-received Discovery Kids television series cleverly cannibalized footage from two hugely popular, BBC primetime programs Walking with Dinosaurs and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts, reworking the CGI-heavy dino-dramas into absorbing (and--shh!--educational) fare. The result was, and is, smashing. Narrated by Ben Stiller and ingeniously scripted, the series delineates epochs, species, and prehistoric environments in an entertaining effort to broaden one's detailed appreciation of ancient creatures of the land, sea, and air. Meet Ornithocheirus, a Cretaceous-period flying pterosaur whose 40-foot wingspan can carry him from the future Florida coast to Europe in a day--yet who could end up as snack food for the 80-foot aquatic monster Liopleurodon. Or the fascinating, 6-foot Leallynasaura, a 106-million-year-old denizen of Antarctica's rainforest (!) who avoids the predatory Koolasuchus (seriously) through clan cooperation. There's more to prehistoric Earth than the stylish raptor and bullying T-Rex; meet their neighbors here. --Tom Keogh
Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special
The phenomenal BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs spawned this 30-minute special. Using the same blend of computer animation, puppetry, and story-driven narration (by Kenneth Branagh), Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special centers on one particular dinosaur dubbed Big Al. Found in Wyoming in the 1980s, Big Al's fossil remains comprise the most complete allosaur skeleton ever found. Enough clues are found in the bones, 145 million years after his death, to tell the story of what might have happened from his birth to his death. The film's naturalistic approach (unlike that used in the Disney film Dinosaur, whose characters could talk) is quite spectacular, with chills (a bog turns out to be a big dinosaur threat), thrills (allosaurs chase a group of giant diplodocus), and humor (a baby allosaur seems to bump into the "camera"). A half-hour companion program, "Big Al Uncovered," illustrates how the "what-if" story of Big Al was constructed using facts uncovered by paleontologists (including the 17 injuries found in the skeleton) and filling in the gaps using the dinosaur's distant cousins (birds and crocodiles). The BBC production does not shy away from the violent world of dinosaurs, including mating and hunting techniques. However, any dinosaur fan age 7 and up should find all the Walking with Dinosaurs specials an exciting and fun education. --Doug Thomas
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