“A boy comes running up, and he asks: ‘what exactly is the ocean?’ ‘What is the sea?’ You could hit him with a lot of statistics and Latin names. But the answer isn’t something you’ll find in a book. To really know what the ocean is, you have to see it for yourself. You have to hear it. And taste it. You have to feel its power. To really know the ocean, you have to live it.”
And live it you will with Disney Nature’s latest entry into their award-winning series of natural documentaries. Walt Disney Studios is no stranger to the world of nature. While the brand is more quickly identified for its animation and other family fare, the tradition of nature specials goes back to the very roots of the company itself. For decades Disney provided some of the most exotic television documentaries on its many outlets that included The Wonderful World Of Disney. The studio was one of the first to take experienced camera crews and equipment out into some of the most remote places on Earth. And, while Disney had appeared to fall behind in the field for some decades, that all turned around with their groundbreaking Earth series. Suddenly Disney Nature was back in the forefront of frontier footage. The tradition is honored here with one of the latest entries in the family: Oceans.
This time a French film crew takes to the open waters for Disney Nature. What we get out of their efforts is some spectacular underwater photography that brings us face to face with some unusual creatures and environments. Much of the footage here is filled with the standard animals and scenes, to be sure. But you can always count on Disney to deliver a little magic with their material. There are a few moments that cause this particular piece to stand out from the many that have come our way this year. And there have been more than a few. It seems like everyone is taking their high-definition cameras out into the wilds these days.
Some of the unique aspects of this documentary are what make it the cream of the ocean crop this last year. There are a few moments when the filmmakers put some of this natural footage to whimsical music. One such instance involves the use of dolphin footage and musical pieces that create a choreographed dance of nature. It’s the kind of thing you get in Fantasia. It’s quite decidedly Disney, to say the least.
I am also quite pleased to report that there are no political agendas to be found during the entire running time. You won’t hear global warming uttered anywhere in the narration. Of course, there are warnings about human damage to the delicate ecosystem of these oceans. That is totally appropriate and important to the context of the oceans. The film never ventures into indoctrinization. They stick with the facts and provide you with a far more entertaining and educational experience than the similar pieces from the BBC and other organizations in recent years.
The time you spend watching this documentary will be time well spent. You get the traditional shots of sharks eating seals and other circle-of-life moments, so parents should use whatever caution they believe necessary with their own children. But nothing here is overly dramatized or moralized. The narration by Pierce Brosnan is matter-of-fact with just enough inflection and a touch of satire from time to time. He’s a wonderful choice and eventually disappears into the narrative itself. This one is a definite addition to my nature collection. It should be in yours as well.
Oceans is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average of almost 40 mbps. The cinematography here is often stunning. Colors are bright and virtually leap out of the water at times. The detail level gives you a new appreciation for the subtle nuances of camouflage and intriguing characteristics of some of the more oddly-designed sea creatures. There are some wonderful surface shots of breaking waves and enormous swells that give you a wonderfully vivid impression of the sheer power and beauty of the sea. This is a fine image presentation in every way. Contrast is excellent, and black levels are well defined, providing deep shadow detail throughout.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 pretty much offers narration. There are some rather nice surround elements that include crashing waves and the distant sound of gulls. The music has just the right dynamic touch to provide an entertaining backdrop to the documentary without ever intruding upon the subject matter.
Disney And Nature – Caring For The World We Share: (7:54) Disney wants children to come face to face with lions …, oh my. Actually, this is a bit of a self-congratulatory feature on Disney Nature’s tradition of quality documentaries.
Music Video: (1:50) “Make A Wish”.
DVD and Digital Copy
Somehow you get the feeling that you can trust a documentary when it bears the Disney label. I feel the same way. The studio that has spent so much transforming animals both real and imagined into human-like personalities has always been at the forefront of presenting these creatures as they really are. It’s a nice balance, really, that I think that takes advantage of their entertaining tradition to educate, as well. In reality, just as in animated fantasy, “there are places where every strange face tells a story with some unexpected twists”.