Disneynature: Oceans [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Anthony Arrigo (24th January 2011).
The Film

I’m a big fan of nature documentaries done right. Who isn’t, really? That’s almost like saying you don’t like babies. Wait, scratch that… I don’t really like babies that much. That’s like saying you don’t like “Jaws” (1975). In any case, who isn’t consistently mesmerized by the uncompromising beauty of our planet? Aside from the myriad images of sights I’m likely to never actually witness in my life, I love nature documentaries & shows because I’m practically guaranteed to learn something new every single time I see one. And if you’re looking for one to amaze you with unparalleled beauty and astounding technical feats, then you should know that Disney is often a great place to look. Walt Disney was a big fan of nature conservancy, and he made sure that nature played a large role in his company’s films. The studio has been making wildlife films for the past 40 years, and it’s great to see them continuing to do so today. Rather than focus on the life found on our shores, this time they’re focusing on the life that most of us encounter infrequently – that which is found in the ocean. Hence the title, “Oceans” (2010).

I think the footage here looks fantastic. Filmed in high-definition, you couldn’t possibly get a more clear view of these creatures unless you were actually there under the sea. Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud make sure the film spends just enough time with each animal that we can learn about their biology, how they survive and what life is like for them before moving on to the next inhabitant. There’s some impressive footage of schools of fish gliding effortlessly through the currents, dolphins rounding up a meal, seals lounging on a white sand beach… but I honestly felt like I’d seen it all before. I’m not necessarily complaining about that because it’s all great stuff, but I could’ve sworn I saw most of it on the Discovery Channel throughout the years. I don’t know whether or not that’s the case, but I do understand that since Disney turned this into a theatrical feature, they needed to spend a lot of time focusing on the “popular” sea creatures. Just like in Hollywood, even in nature you’re nothing if nobody knows who you are.

The best footage for me was, unsurprisingly, anything with a Great White Shark. I’ve seen a lot of shark shows, so I can almost tell you for certain that most of the footage was farmed from them, but it’s all such awesome stuff. The film spends a few minutes showing us a pod of seals off the Ivory Coast in Africa. I knew what that was planning to segue into because the next shot (which completely shocked and freaked out my girlfriend) is that of a Great White leaping out of the water with a seal in its mouth. I’m sure most of you have seen footage of sharks breaching with their entire body out of the water, but it’s something that never gets old. The slo-mo sight of a 17-foot shark launching out of a violent sea with an entire seal inside its jaws is scary even from the comfort of a couch. The footage that’ll probably shock everyone the most, though, is seeing people diving with Great Whites outside of a cage. Shot at Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Mexico, divers swim right alongside these 3-ton beasts without incident. It goes a long way in proving to people that sharks aren’t the mindless killing machines we think they are, and that most of the time a bite is nothing more than an exploratory action from them.

Disney managed to snag former 007 Pierce Brosnan to handle narration duties here. I don’t think you can disagree with the choice. It’s that damn soothing, masculine British accent that makes him easy on the ears. Anyone remember when Oprah Winfrey lent her pipes for a recent television nature series? It was painful. Of course, Pierce can’t run the whole show here. We don’t want to hear endless information – the images are what need to be doing most of the talking. Luckily, we’re treated to a wonderful score courtesy of composer Bruno Coulais. Each track perfectly suits the action on screen, resulting in an organic feeling to the material that gives new life to the picture. I don’t think that “Oceans” offers much to people who know a fair amount about marine science, but it’s definitely the kind of film that’s an easy watch and always a wonder to behold. There are easily thousands of new species down there that we’ve never encountered before; this is but a fraction of what’s out there. And I find that as fascinating as our voyages into space. Sure, I love the prospect that there’s life out in the cosmos on other planets we know nothing of, but we still don’t know what lurks in the depths of our oceans. That’s what we should focus on because it’s right here with us, waiting to astonish us with new sights and strange creatures we can’t even imagine. This just scratches the surface, but I find it’s also a great starting point for anyone who wants to know more about the world we live in. Some of the facts will amaze you; I know I was.

Video

If I had any complaint about the 2.40:1 1080p 24/fps AVC MPEG-4 encoded HD image, it would be that they used the “scope” aspect ratio. I get that maybe the filmmakers were going for an “epic, panoramic” type of look, but I’ve always found that nature is best viewed in a tighter framing, such as 1.78:1, simply because the more that fills the screen, the more immersed I feel as a viewer. But if that’s my biggest complaint, then you know you’re in for a visual feast. Every color of the rainbow exists under those waters, and they all leap off the screen in spectacular fashion. There’s one in particular, the blanketed octopus, which has such a kaleidoscope of color on its back that it looks unreal. The detail is exquisite when the camera is resting on the ocean floor, capturing wars between prawn and crab, mating rituals, bizarre creatures and other sights that we’d otherwise never have a chance to witness. It’s beyond stunning and will likely give you a new appreciation and respect for how beautiful and crushingly powerful the ocean can be.

Audio

No complains here about the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track mixed at 48kHz/24-bit. The biggest benefactor from having a lossless audio track is easily Coulais’ score, which subtly supports each scene throughout the film. His musical selection range from serene, string-led numbers to bombastic themes which match the chaos of the film’s action. Not that it needs much help – if you’ve ever been to the ocean, you know it has a deafening sound at times. The LFE track sees much more action than I had anticipated as waves crush and pulverize the rocky shorelines right from the start. Most of the animal noises emanate from the front speakers, but there are always some ambient sounds of the sea to transport viewers to the middle of the ocean.
French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound tracks are also included. Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, French and Spanish.

Extras

“Oceans” comes to home video via a 2-disc set containing the film on both Blu-ray and DVD. The extras on the Blu-ray are fluff pieces, though, and not worth the watch. The most useful feature is the Picture-in-Picture “Filmmaker’s Annotations” track, while the remaining featurettes are best left unviewed, also included are an interactive feature, music video and a collection of bonus trailers.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

“Filmmaker Annotations” is a Picture-in-Picture video commentary feature which features the film’s crew popping up in a small box on-screen to discuss the filming of some scenes. We are also shown some behind-the-scenes footage while we learn more about how they were able to obtain many difficult shots. Information regarding the filming locations and sea creatures seen on-screen is made available during this presentation. If you’re like me and you feel like you’ve seen these nature docs a gazillion times, this feature makes the experience much more rewarding.

“Living Menus” is an interactive guide available on the main menu via BD-Live to players hooked up to the internet. Once enabled, you can select various spots on the globe to learn more about the life found there.

“Disney & Nature: Caring for the World We Share” (1080p) is a featurette that runs for 7 minutes and 43 seconds. Representatives for the Mouse House talk about the efforts Disney makes to conserve wildlife and protect our parks & forests. It comes off as one big PR piece, but you can’t deny that they do a lot to help the planet.

“Making A Wave – Disney’s Friends for Change" music video featuring Joe Jonas & Demi Lovato (1080p) is a video that runs for 1 minute and 50 seconds. Yes, it’s as painful to watch as you’d think.

As with almost every other Disney release, this title includes an exhaustive amount of bonus trailers (1080p). Included are the following:

- “Disney 3D Blu-ray promo” runs for 1 minute and 7 seconds.
- “African Cats” runs for 1 minute and 47 seconds.
- “The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos” runs for 1 minute and 42 seconds.
- “Disney Movie Rewards promo” runs for 21 seconds.
- “Disney Home Video promo” runs for 19 seconds.
- “Disney’s Friends for Change” runs for 1 minute and 5 seconds.
- “A Christmas Carol” runs for 1 minute and 18 seconds.
- “Tangled” runs for 1 minute and 44 seconds.
- “The Lion King” runs for 1 minute and 22 seconds.
- “The Search for Santa Paws” runs for 1 minute and 37 seconds.
- “Fantasia/Fantasia 2000” runs for 1 minute and 11 seconds.

DISC TWO: DVD

“Deeper in the Ocean” contains additional behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s production by way of a few short featurettes. They can be played at once with the “play all” function, or individually. Included are the following:

- “The Sardine Run” runs for 2 minutes and 35 seconds, the film’s French crew discusses the difficulties in capturing the exciting race by dolphins and sharks to catch the school of sardines.
- “The Importance of the Ocean” runs for 2 minutes and 48 seconds, conservationists and scientists school viewers on what the ocean does and why we should be thankful to have it.
- “Activity in the Coral Reefs” runs for 48 seconds, we learn a bit about how amazing a coral reef really is, and some of the indigenous animals who live there.
- “Swimming with Great White Sharks” runs for 1 minute and 48 seconds, the film crew member talks about something interesting they learned about the feared sharks.
- “Jonas: The Torpedo Camera” runs for 2 minutes and 27 seconds. The crew was able to use a camera mounted to the rear of a torpedo to capture many shots of fish swimming through the sea.

This disc also includes the “Disney & Nature: Caring for the World We Share” featurette, as well as the “Making A Wave” music video. The same bonus trailers found on the Blu-ray are found here, too.

Packaging

The 2-disc set comes housed in a standard keep case, with each disc housed on a hub opposite the other. A shiny slip-cover with matching cover art fits snugly over the case.

Overall

Sure, it’s another movie about the ocean that you’ve probably seen before, but it’s still a wonder to behold. Plus, anyone with children will find this to be a great introductory film for them to learn about what lives in the sea. Adults might find the lack of real meaty information makes this a little boring, but the visuals and quick pace of the film should be enough to keep anyone engrossed. The video & audio quality are both top-notch, making this a great demo disc for anyone looking to sample your system. I would have appreciated some more bonus features that would complement the film, but it’s a small gripe.

The Film: B Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: C+ Overall: B

 


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