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Peter Coyote as The Narrator
The Making Of
Musical Journey Through The National Parks
The National Parks: This Is America
Contemporary Stories From America's National Parks
Dolby True HD 5.1 Surround Sound
Running Time: 750 Minutes
The following is the official description of the series:
"The national parks spring from an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most precious portions of the land should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone, for all time. Here are the stories of those magnificent places and the unforgettable people who kept them from destruction - stories of struggle and conflict, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration, set against a backdrop of stunning beauty and grandeur."
"The National Parks: America's Best Idea" is not rated.
This documentary series is kind of a mixed bag. On the positive side, the cinematography is amazing. All the scenes of Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, Carlsbad Caverns, and more look absolutely stunning in HD. The imagery is beautiful on Blu-ray and you'll definitely want to visit the parks after seeing them. But on the down side, they use some of the scenes multiple times in each episode. It's literally the same shot and it does get redundant. And as amazing as the landscapes are, it does get a tad dull over the 2 hour running time on each episode. It's like looking at a photo album or a screen saver after a while. They could use a few more animals in the scenes to break up the monotony.
One surprising element ends up spicing up the series - the history. Normally this might be one of the duller parts of the documentary, but I actually found it to be one of the highlights. We learn about the early explorers who were the first Westerners to stumble across the amazing sights of El Capitan, Old Faithful, and other cool things. It's amazing to think about what it would be like to be the first person to come across this, whether it be white man or Native American. We also learn about early encounters between these explorers and the hostile natives. We learn about how the first national parks were snuck in as innocuous legislation tacked on to other bills. We learn about how in even the earliest days of the parks, the natural resources were exploited and had to be protected. We also learn how faith and belief in God was a major part in getting these parks preserved. It's at times a dramatic story and always a lesson well learned.
As you watch the show, you'll start hearing dialogue from very recognizable voices including Tom Hanks, Adam Arkin, Tom Bodett, John Lithgow, and George Takei. Peter Coyote does an excellent job as the narrator on the show, too.
As a funny side note, the episodes have ads for GM and Bank of America which proudly announce how they're sponsors of the show. You start to think maybe they should have spent their money elsewhere!
If you like U.S. history or if you love the National Parks or nature documentaries, then this is a series you'll probably want to check out. It will put your HD home theater to good use.
There are a fair number of bonus features that cover the making of the series. Along with the "making of" video, there's a musical tour of the parks, outtakes, and more. There are also a series of short films covering the Buffalo Soldiers, Mount Rushmore, a Japanese internment camp that has been preserved, and a program to bring city kids to the parks.