19th Dec2013

‘Walking With Dinosaurs’ roars into the mainstream

by Guest

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Over the years, there have been plenty of movies that have been adapted from television programmes. Of course, there are really famous US TV shows that come to mind – The A-Team, Star Trek, Charlie’s Angels and so on. In the UK, you might be forgiven for thinking that the same does not happen or, at least, not on the same scale. Nevertheless, even some cult British TV has even made for a successful crossover into the mainstream film going public’s consciousness. Da Ali G Show, a Channel 4 television comedy vehicle for Sacha Baron Cohen, led to the big screen version Ali G Indahouse, for example, launching his Hollywood career. The BBC show Doctor Who spawned no less than nine film spin-offs, albeit of varying quality. Another recent example would be Horrid Henry, a kids’ cartoon imbued with British culture, which made it to the silver screen in an adaptation starring Angelica Huston. And who could forget the Monty Python films which came about following their television success at the BBC?

This winter, a new BBC spin-off will hit the big screen and in a format that is novel for an adapted British television show, the popular factual show Walking With Dinosaurs will be presented in cinemas in 3D. There can’t be any precedent for a UK documentary programme reaching the big screen with a three dimensional makeover. Nevertheless, Walking With Dinosaurs, made by 20th Century Fox, is expected to be one of the hit 3D movies in cinemas this holiday season

The BBC originally came up with the format for a dinosaur-based six part documentary mini series back in 1999. Narrated by Kenneth Branagh, the show was subsequently aired in North America and has gained a growing following ever since. Due to the animation used, the series was said by many TV insiders to be the most costly documentary series ever made, per minute of output. The film version, which is said to have cost up to $85 million, has the same team behind it as the award-winning television version. In it, they take advantage of recent discoveries in palaeontology as well as the latest digital technology advances to bring a realistic dinosaur experience to cinema goers which is also based in real science.

Set in the Cretaceous period – that’s about 70 million years ago – the three dimensional movie sets computer animated dinosaurs in live action settings. The backdrops to the action are real locations on earth, which were selected by the crew to best resemble the real habitats the dinosaurs would have lived in. Alaska and New Zealand were chosen for their similarities to the prehistoric creatures’ surroundings and – for many – the 3D experience is worth it just for these wonderful vistas, alone.

In a departure from the documentary style of the TV series, the dinosaurs in the movie are voice cast and there is a narrative to follow. Kids will certainly enjoy this – along with the 3D spectacle – but adults should not be put off as the storyline is not too sentimentalised. John Leguizamo and Justin Long both put in solid voice performances as two of the main dino-characters. Walking With Dinosaurs: The 3D Movie has a release date of 20th December at Cineworld.

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