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Monkey Planet - BBC [Blu-ray]
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Monkey Planet is a stunning visual experience that explores the amazing world of primates and reveals just what makes our animal family so special.
Zoologist Dr George McGavin presents a three-hour exploration of the whole primate family, including strange lemurs, acrobatic monkeys, and the enigmatic apes.
From the snowy mountains of Japan to the windswept savannah of South Africa, this series uncovers the secrets of the primate family success: ingenious survival tactics and extraordinary physical adaptations; fascinating family lives that mirror ours in so many ways; and highly intelligent, flexible minds that show that the smartest primates are more like us than you d ever think possible.
Dr McGavin discover the ninja tarsier, a spring-loaded ambush predator the size of a tennis ball, the magnificent herds of geladas in the mountains of Ethiopia. Then there are baboons with a hunger for flamingo flesh; macaques with criminal minds; fluorescent mandrills who wear war-paint to do battle; and Ardry, a real life gremlin who 'sees' the unseeable with her 'extra-terrestrial' fingers.
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Dr George McGavin is a wonderful, warm presenter - whose wonderment at being so close to these amazing animals is clear to see.
The music is completely appropriate - for a change! I have to say this contrasts so strongly with David Attenborough's early stuff - whose bizarre electronic cacophony rendered otherwise stupendous, state-of-the-art Natural History almost unviewable.
The voice over and direct presentation to camera is provided in English by British entomologist and presenter George McGavin. He will be familiar to collectors of the Guyana and New Guinea discs where he is highlighted as the enthusiastic and knowledgeable insect specialist. Having a narrator who paces the script well and with apparent personal interest greatly enhances the enjoyment for viewer and George McGavin certainly delivers. The whole series could be summarised as being about communication and George McGavin is a supreme example of that skill.
The films themselves are HD quality throughout and can sustain close viewing distance typical of that quality. The disc is copyrighted as 2014 vintage. The image quality is striking throughout.
Each episode provides a particular focus on the vast world of the monkey family, or to be more precise, the primate family. This family, to which humans belong, includes monkeys, apes and lemurs. They share key features including forward-facing eyes giving binocular vision and, most importantly, dexterous hands with thumbs that allow for grasping. Socially, primates also give extended time and attention to nurturing their young. The series also focuses on the importance of group activities and social hierarchy.
The details and examples are too many and too varied to be covered in a review such as this but the following lists of highlighted examples encountered in the episodes will serve to give some guidance as to the scope of the project. In each case the primates highlighted have been chosen to illustrate particular characteristics of importance and the examples are drawn from all around the world.
The primates encountered in series 1, Meet the Family, are: Tarsiers; Orang-Utans; Japanese Macaques; Sifaca Lemurs; Gibbons; Geladas; Pygmy Marmosets; Aye-Ayes; Olive Baboons; Black Howlers; Mandrills and Rhesus Macaques.
The primates encountered in series 2, Family Matters, are: Bonobos; Chimpanzees; Emperor Tamarins; Coquerel’s Sifaras; Silvery Lutungs; Vervet Monkeys; Green Monkeys; Western Red Colobus; Geoffrey’s Spider Monkeys; Barbary Macaques; Hamadryas Baboons; Proboscis Monkeys and Ring-Tailed Lemurs.
The primates encountered in series 3, Master Minds, are: Long-Tailed Macaques; Zanzibar Red Colobus; White-Faced Capuchins; Black Lemurs; Mountain Gorillas; Orangutans; Chimpanzees; Rhesus macaques; Bonobos and Black-Horned Capuchins.
In this final episode George McGavin communicates with his, mostly wild, subjects in such a way as requires frequent physical contact and marked mutual understanding. In this way he is able to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt how close all the members of the primates are to each other, and that includes humans.
In conclusion, this is a wonderfully filmed and informative trio of films that communicates readily to the viewer. It can be summarised as being a comprehensive and targeted survey explained and illustrated with enthusiasm, knowledge, skill and supported with high-quality visuals.
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