The string of proper names behind ‘Prehistoric Planet’ can make even the most hardened fan of this abused genre drool (but very profitable: that’s why ‘National Geographic’ or ‘Discovery’ are clearly among the offers that Disney or WarnerMedia do on their respective platforms). Behind her is the BBC Studios Natural History Unit, with Jon Favreau as showrunnerHans Zimmer on soundtrack, digital effects by Moving Picture Company (with Oscars for his work on ‘1917’, ‘The Life of Pi’ or ‘The Jungle Book’) and narration by veteran David Attenborough.
And it also broadcasts and co-produces Apple TV +, which is not just any detail. Not only has the quality of the documentaries on the platform been impeccable so far (some very diverse examples: ‘The art of sound’, ‘1971’, ‘Night planet’ or ‘Microworlds’, the latter also on themes related to nature ), but it is the platform of streaming with better image quality, which makes it especially appropriate for a program with these characteristics. Apple TV + has released this five-episode documentary this week and broadcasts one daily.
The documentary delves into life on our planet during the Late Cretaceous, around 66 million years ago. Although some dinosaurs, such as the stegosaurus, had become extinct, it was a time when large lizards, marine predators abounded, and also a flora with great similarities to the current one. The continents had been divided and had shapes that were already reminiscent of today. The series is the heir to two landmarks of the BBC’s dinosaur documentaries, although this one leaves them behind in visual terms: ‘Walking among dinosaurs’ and ‘Planet of the dinosaurs’, from 1999 and 2011.
The aesthetic leap, as it is easy to imagine, is absolutely impressive. From those shocking but crude digital effects we have given way to a hyper-realism in the recreation of the lizards that makes it sometimes difficult to detect details that reveal their animated origin. In that sense, and only a few years later, a giant leap has already been made in the recreation of animal life with respect to other collaborations between Moving Picture and Favreau, such as the aforementioned ‘The Jungle Book’ or ‘The King Lion’.
‘Planet Earth’ with dinosaurs
The intentions of Apple TV + are clear: to set up a documentary series of the scope and visual finish of ‘Planet Earth’, the popular and award-winning BBC documentary that has also changed the way of conceiving this type of program, spectacular, accessible, informative and with a good dose of entertainment. And nothing more spectacular than dinosaurs.
With Favreau behind it, ‘Prehistoric Planet’ makes sure to have a certain narrative structure similar to fiction. They are small pieces that tell tiny stories of survival and conflicts between gigantic animals, and that have an educational intention, but also show off their function as a fireworks display starring colossal beings. It is clear from the very conception of the series, divided into chapters that take us to different environments: deserts, coasts, fresh water, ice world or forests. Not very strict scientifically speaking, but undoubtedly attractive.
In an interview with The VergeFavreau recounted how the whole series has been raised based on the latest scientific discoveries about dinosaurs, which does not mean that in a few years it will not be proven that they were not on the right track. But for now, everything is based on proven data or well-founded assumptions.
One such assumption was made around plesiosaur flippers, for which they had no evidence whether they were stiff or rather soft. The animators proposed this last option, because it was the best animated, from an anatomical point of view and naturalness of movements. Some time later, the team of the consultant paleontologist of the series, Darren Naish, was able to confirm that everything pointed to the animators being correct in their assumption.
It’s a good summary of the series: the show above all. But his extensive documentation work and his attention to detail and realism make it a perfect one for science lovers. Something that, at least in themes related to dinosaurs, was not seen up to this point since the first ‘Jurassic Park’.