Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 4th, 2009
Meerkat Manor is back for a fourth season on DVD. You’re invited back into the South African desert with the famous Whiskers Clan. Animal Planet has themselves a relatively big hit here with Meerkat Manor. OK, so, it’s not exactly The Sopranos or The Shield, but it does have a modestly dedicated audience. Seems that folks just can’t get enough of these fur balls. They’ve set up blogs and websites dedicated to the antics of the celebrated Whiskers. If you like them and are dying to see what these lil’ guys are up to next, wait no longer. Fast on the heels of the prequel film, The Story Begins, Meerkat Manor is here again. Of course, all of this is strictly in the interest of scientific study. Sure it is! Don’t worry, I won’t tell a soul.
Stockard Channing takes over the narration duties from Sean Astin. She’s a bit more playful and often more dramatic, but I have to admit I was partial to Astin. Expect more of the same here. Kidnapped kids to missing Commandos and, of course, the annual loss of a beloved character. It’s all par for the course on Meerkat Manor. I have to admit that as cute as these little guys are, it’s all starting to run together for me. I can’t remember which character is which or who belongs to which tribe. Maybe it’s about time to close the books on the fur balls from the African desert.
Meerkat Manor is presented in its original intended 1.78:1 aspect ratio enhanced to widescreen television screens. The picture is often stunning in detail. The crew used impressive HD camera equipment, and the result is plenty of detail and sharp images. There’s not a lot of color here, because the landscape and the meerkats are all pretty much a drab brown. What the film lacks in exciting colors it more than makes up for with detail. Black levels are nicely done as well. There is a decidedly documentary feel here, but it is definitely a step up from the nature programs we’re used to seeing.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is somewhat wasted here. For the most part we get Channing’s narration, which is always clear and easy to hear. There are some nice natural sounds, but they don’t really give us the same vast experience that the picture does. Almost everything happens in front of us. I’m sure it is equal or likely superior to that which fans of the show have come to expect from their broadcasts.
The menus are actually pretty clever. You get the show’s opening shots that introduce you to the players and offer a short description of their personality.
Honestly, I don’t know how you’d tell the seasons apart if not for the change in narration. Is Rocket Dog any different from the last 3 or 4 Whiskers Clan leaders? I’ll admit to not understanding the nuances of yet another season of the show. If you can’t get enough of these guys, then “Welcome to Meerkat Manor, The Next Generation”.