The BBC have done it again with this fascinating three-episode documentary series. Running in the U.S. on Discovery as Mini Monsters, this original UK version of the series, Hidden Kingdoms, narrated by Stephen Fry (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), spans three episodes that explore the hidden world of tiny creatures around the globe. Using cutting edge technologies and techniques, including extreme low angles, wide angles, slow-motion capture, special lenses, macrophotography and blue screen visual effects, the BBC Earth team spin an engaging tale about the tumultuous worlds of many tiny creatures, most of the time hidden from our view, as they face raindrops that fall on them like boulders, elephants appearing like massive skyscrapers, dust that stings like gravel.
Each of the three episodes mainly focuses on two separate main creatures in two distinct parts of the world, be it chipmunks in North America, rhinoceros beetles in Tokyo’s urban landscape, grasshopper mice in America’s southwest or the tiny “sengi” or elephant shrew in Africa shifting its way down its paths paved through tall blades of grass. The filmmakers make sure that the perspectives shown and the stories told are firmly rooted in biologically accurate behaviors of the animals, whether filming in the wild, with acclimated animals, or on specially built mini-sets. Some of the 10-minute, after episode featurettes, Hidden Kingdoms Revealed, that act as an addendum to each episode explain more of this in detail and help further enjoyment of the series.
A beautiful, reference quality encodement in AVC 1080p is offered up by the BBC on Blu-ray. The imagery is breathtaking, clear and detailed with life-like colors and detail and limited video noise.
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) soundtrack is nicely balanced across the soundstage with some atmospheric sound effects in the surround channels and clear dialogue in the center channel. The stereo field is wide and the dynamics are relatively wide, but the sound never gets overwhelmingly loud.
- 10-Minute Hidden Kingdoms Revealed Featurettes ending each episode
- Bonus Features (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:14:05):
- Mike Gunton introduces Hidden Kingdoms
- Creating the Shot: Compositing
- Creating the Shot: The Grasshopper Mouse
- Creating the Score
- Extended Scene: The Sengi Cleaning
- Storyboarding the Beetles
The Definitive Word
A fantastic look at the hidden tiny animal kingdom from its perspective, this unique mini-series once again declares the BBC as the firm leader in nature documentary filmmaking, offering up an engaging story with cutting edge technology used to capture awesome imagery of wildlife. Hidden Kingdoms is a great one for the whole family, and also a great one to use to show off the home theatre gear.
Additional Screen Captures