Cover Art and Menus: 8/10
The cover for Disney’s Earth is a nice collection of shots from three of the main animals that are featured in this documentary; polar bears, whales, and elephants. The photos are set above a shot of the earth itself, and it makes for a nice clean cover.
The menu for this documentary was a little bit of a shock for me, as it gave me a view of the earth, with areas that can be selected, which launch into a short video or bring up a fact sheet about the area selected. It is a rather cool little “living menu” and it is perfect for this type of documentary. Also on the main menu was an up to date clock, and weather indicator for my home town. New and different, and it shows the potential for what Blu-ray and internet connectivity can provide.
- Filmmaker Annotations – This picture in picture extra runs over the documentary itself, and offers some interesting insight as to the choices that were made in editing this down from the original BBC Planet Earth video. Not only that, but loads of information was given regarding getting the actual footage, and all sorts of gems about the making of Earth. A very quality inclusion.
- Earth Diaries: The Making Of Earth The Movie – This extra focuses more on the filming process, and the issues that the crew encountered, and overcame to bring these brethtaking shots of the animals in their natural habitats. This 43 minute feature is amazing, and presented in high definition. I almost found this as enjoyable as the main documentary, and I think everyone who has seen the movie owes it to themselves to watch this extra.
- DVD Version Of The Film – Finally, there is a regular DVD included with the Blu-ray version of the film. This is a standard feature for Disney movies, and I usually am all for the extra disc in case my kids want to watch their movies on the DVD player in our basement of on a laptop in the house, but for this type of release, I don’t think the regular DVD will see much use. The only way to view this documentary is on Blu-ray, and I am sure that the standard DVD, while a nice inclusion, will only sit in that case.
The Movie: 7/10
Earth is part of Disney’s new DisneyNature line of movies, that promises to include more spectacular releases like this one. Presented in Blu-Ray, Earth is a shorter, more kid friendly version of the BBC’s Planet Earth juggernaut, which has already been released worldwide. With James Earl Jones as the narrator, Earth follows different species through some absolutely astounding high definition footage as they go about their daily lives. The documentary and the footage include close ups and action shots that have taken months and sometimes years to collect. The final edit of this footage looks effortless, but the task by the crews that captured these shots is nothing short of monumental.
Earth looks at species as they attempt to survive, and flourish in their natural habitat. While the narration is not on the same “adult” level as was included in the Planet Earth series, it is still smart enough to be enjoyed by adults and kids, without being a problem for either. James Earl Jones is an excellent choice for this piece, as his voice is steady and commanding, and almost forces you to follow along and pay attention.
The animals that are followed include whales travelling thousands of miles to feed in Antarctica, elephants making the trek to find water for survival, and polar bears fighting to survive as the ice melts around them. There are shots of comical birds in the jungle, intermixed with serious predators attacking their prey. It is not as kid friendly as I thought it would be, with several shots of animals attacking others that I thought were a bit much for some youngsters (I have a 3 year-old), but it is probably fine for older kids.
Earth is not all about animals eating other animals though, and just like the Planet Earth series, there are some cute moments, funny moments, and breathtaking moments included as well. For those who liked Planet Earth, even if you have seen almost all of those episodes, the beautiful cinematography again is enough to keep you interested. Earth is a good, short version of that series, and the editing is well done.
Audio & Video: /10
The video for Earth is simply stunning. Taken from the same footage as the BBC Planet Earth series, the high definition shots are marvelous. Earth is presented in 1.78:1 AVC encoded widescreen. This is the type of Blu-ray that will impress your friends who keep asking you “can you really tell a difference between DVD and Blu-ray?” Overall the transfer seems spot on, and it just accentuates the amazing shots that are presented here. There are a few minor issues with what I thought were some artifacts here and there, but overall this is about as good as it gets.
The audio also was excellent. Presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Sound, the narration is great, as James Earl Jones almost commands attention through his bass filled voice. There are some ambient noises also, and the mix is great, but the standout here is the music, which adds real passion to what could have been a very dull collection of animal shots.
Earth is being packaged as a kid friendly documentary that basically takes parts from the multi disc Planet Earth and presents a shorter, more concise version of the masterpiece. Earth is definitely not a puff piece, as death and the circle of life are presented front and center, even thought they have done a nice job of keeping the blood and gore out. There are still moments that are tough to watch, but overall, Earth is a nice stepping stone to the Planet Earth series, and a great way to view the animal kingdom with children. While not for the super young, Earth is a great return to the nature shows I used to watch as a child with my parents. Overall, a brilliant looking, solid documentary the whole family can view together. Granted one watch may be enough, but it is worth watching.
Overall Score 8/10