Oceans (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 84 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Review Date: October 6, 2010
Walt Disney brought fantastic nature documentaries to the public in a wonderful series of shorts and features in the 1950s called True-Life Adventures, and the company collected many Academy Awards for their efforts with these movies. Those landmark productions have been packaged as 16mm films, videotapes, and DVDs for use in homes and schools for decades, and now Disney has once again entered the realm of nature documentation with their “Disneynature” series of releases. The first one, Earth, was a disappointing regurgitation of footage shot for Planet Earth with merely new narration added, but the latest one Oceans is a bracing new production with awe-inspiring cinematography and a script simple enough for even younger members of the family to enjoy. There’s something for everyone in this terrific ode of the Earth’s great underwater galaxy.
Even though there is a script, there really isn’t much of a story being told here (Pierce Brosnan serves as narrator). The production jumps from one fantastically shot sequence to the next while all manner of ocean creatures float by. Obviously there are going to be whales (humpbacks and blue whales) and dolphins and sharks (great whites and hammerheads and tiger sharks) on display, but more interesting are the other creatures: a marine iguana, horseshoe crabs, a blanket octopus, sea lions, sea slugs, jellyfish, lionfish, sea dragons, and manta rays going about their day-to-day business of living and surviving. Survival is one of the themes that permeates the entire film as we see schools of fish as easy prey for dive-bombing gulls or a moving sequence of newly hatched sea turtles racing for their lives to the ocean while being scooped up almost immediately for food by various carnivorous birds.
Two sequences really take one’s breath away. One is an eerily shot sequence on the ocean floor as we see numerous forms of marine life skittering, slithering, or hopping along, among them an astounding ribbon eel and a school of razor fish. Another moment of real awe occurs with two armies of spider crabs advancing on one another, hordes which seem to number in the thousands.
In the film’s last third, the discussion turns to one of the sea’s deadliest enemies: man. Sights of toxic pollution seen from space are horrifying, and close-up views of refuse dumped in oceans are sickening spectacles indeed, man’s indifference to the purity of the oceans a disgusting fact that needs immediate correction. There is some mention of global warming, too, as a threat to marine life, but it isn’t dwelt on. The film ends with more positive views of polar bears and penguins in their natural frosty habitats and a mother seal showing patience with her baby’s first introduction to water. Leave it to Disney to make sure the final message is one of beauty and hope and not pessimistic nagging or finger pointing.
The film has been framed at 2.40:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. There appears to be a slight turquoise blue cast over the image which during the many underwater scenes is no problem at all but which gives some of the above water shots a slightly unnatural appearance. Sharpness is everything one would wish it to be in a nature documentary of this kind with the detailed slick and scaly surfaces of the animals being in clear focus at all times while colors are stable and solid. The film has been divided into 12 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix has a nicely immersive quality to it without being overpowering except when volume is deliberately increased to emphasize the power of the ocean’s currents in one key sequence. Bruno Coulais’ music score which mixes instrumentals with choral voices is appropriately placed around the soundfield and is effective as mood setting underscore.
Filmmaker annotations can be turned on from the main menu and offer picture-in-picture commentary at specific moments from the filmmakers and selected oceanic experts showing additional footage of the scenes as they were being filmed. Also there are trivia-based pop-up text annotations connected with this bonus feature.
“Disney and Nature: Preserving the World We Share” is a self-congratulatory featurette on the efforts being made by the Disney company in conservation and preservation of the planet including certain portions of the Disneynature films’ box-office receipts that have gone into rebuilding the Brazilian rain forest and preserving coral reefs in the Caribbean. The 8-minute featurette is presented in 1080p.
“Make a Wave” is a music video starring Joe Jonas and Demi Lovato which is sung over the end credits of the movie. It runs 2 minutes in 1080p.
Living Menus is an interesting aspect of these Disneynature discs. During each of the four seasons, specific points on a world map which serves as the main menu screen will be changed to load text information and video featurettes pertaining to the oceanic climates of precise key points on the globe. The one currently active contains ten points of interest.
There are 1080p trailers for upcoming Disney 3D releases, African Cats, The Crimson Wing, Santa Paws, A Christmas Carol, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, Tangled, and The Lion King.
The second disc in the set is the DVD version of the movie.
4/5 (not an average)
It may not quite be as effervescent and audience-friendly as the True-Life Adventures of long ago, but Disneynature’s latest entry Oceans is an entertaining and absorbing portrait of our planet’s most coveted natural resource. With excellent picture and sound, the feature does make quite an impression and comes with a firm recommendation.