The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Matthew Aeberhard, Leander Ward
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 78 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French, others
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Review Date: October 7, 2010
Disney’s interest in unusual nature stories and photography continues with its latest Disneynature release The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, a title which is pretty self-explanatory. Zeroing in on a six month period of time in a specialized location and with a very narrow focus, the film might not have the overall astounding majesty of more omnibus films like Disney’s True-Life Adventure series or the recently reviewed Oceans, but in telling such a curious story of nature that has heretofore been undocumented in its entirety, The Crimson Wing is certainly one of a kind. A relatively short running time works to the film’s advantage in this case since the story is rather simple albeit undoubtedly unique and the images while impressive don't offer the variety of those more all-encompassing titles.
During mating season, the Lake Natron area of Tanzania in east Africa is host to many hundreds of thousands of flamingos who flock to the acidic soda water of Natron to scoop up the algae there (which in turn gives them their distinctive crimson color), mate, and then lay their eggs on the salt-crusted flats. After a month, the chicks are hatched, the beginning of a several months-long hazardous maturation process where natural elements such as the crushing heat and the heavy salt of the area along with the ominous predators from air (Marabou storks) and land (mongoose, hyenas) threaten their very existence, especially since their wing feathers haven’t formed yet to provide them flight from their enemies.
Basically, that’s the story the film imparts, and the images captured by Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward are occasionally breathtaking in their distinctiveness. The formation of the salt flats happens astonishingly before our eyes, and the “samba mating ritual” in which the birds flock together in ever-decreasing numbers until only a pair remains as mates is quite alluring. A newborn chick pecking its way out of a very thick shell is captured in close-up, and the directors are wise to vary their up close and personal account of the miracles of mating and new life with more majestic views of the millions of bird nomads heading across the salt flats on their march to the blue waters of Lake Tanzania where their chances of survival are greater. They don’t shy away from the tragic realities of this harsh existence, however. Sad sights of chicks eaten alive by predators as well as those whose legs get encrusted with salt and who fall so far behind the group that they’re lost are also offered to the audience as simply part of nature’s life cycle. It's a familiar story, but one whose telling seems required in this kind of birth-to-maturity saga.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Though close-ups reveal stunning colors and much detail in feathers, beaks, the salt flats, and the water, long shots and some medium shots aren’t as distinct or revealing sometimes being a bit soft and with unresolved detail. Black levels are very good indeed, and there are no video artifacts to spoil the images that are present. The film has been divided into 14 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix brings forth the glorious orchestrations of the Cinematic Orchestra’s music beautifully. While the surround elements aren’t always exploited to their optimal advantage, there are sequences where the flamingo calls as well as the booming waterfalls and a sudden thunderstorm get extensive use out of the surround channels and the LFE channel. At those moments, the audio really soars.
The Living Menus (hitched to BD-Live connectivity) change monthly with information regarding specific flamingo-focused information available in both pop-up data windows and video windows (which can be expanded to full screen). Currently, there are nine points of interest on the menu map which can be investigated.
Filmmaker annotations can be turned on from the main menu and offer picture-in-picture commentary at specific moments from the filmmakers and selected 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.
“Lake Natron Diaries” are five relatively brief featurettes produced by directors Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward and script writer Melanie Finn discussing the making of this documentary feature. The diary entries are “Life at the Camp,” “Life of the Flamingo,” “The Making of the Movie,” “Lake Natron,” and “Music.” They may be played separately or as one 19 ¾-minute segment. They’re in 1080p but windowboxed.
The Crimson Wing screensaver is actually a 5 ¼-minute montage of images from the film with the soundtrack score playing underneath.
There are 1080p trailers for African Cats, Disney on 3D, Oceans, Santa Paws, Tangled, A Christmas Carol, Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, and The Lion King.
The second disc in the set is the DVD release of the film.
3.5/5 (not an average)
An interesting and unusual story of one of nature’s miracles, The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos might not have the replay value of some of Disney’s other nature documentaries. Still, it’s a fascinating story, a very good video and audio encode, and an informative film well worth seeing at least once.