Who knew it was possible for David Attenborough to exist beyond the BBC? Apparently he can and he will this Christmas day as he unveils his much-anticipated docu-film FLYING MONSTERS for the SKY 3D channel. The 1 hour production, which has spent 9 months in the making, follows the evolution of the pterosaurs. To those who don’t have a subscription to Prehistoric Times, this ‘monster’ is better known as the pterodactyl. In the defense of the uninformed, the pterosaurs had very limited screen time in JURASSIC PARK.
FLYING MONSTERS is the first natural history documentary to be commissioned by SKY 3D and has been plugged as an example of ‘landmark television’. Although the pterosaurs’ lifespan may seem an obscure subject matter, the well paced narrative and superb use of the technology manage to keep you captivated. Plus, it is voiced by the pacifying tones of David Attenborough, what more could you want?
As it turns out, the pterodactyl was pretty epic, evolving to the size of a giraffe with the 50 foot wingspan. We see 3D generations of the over-sized reptiles in four different forms, one of which looks a little like a thalidomide pelican. At one point, we witness Sir David Attenborough in a glider, flying beneath the belly of a CGI pterosaur, their gigantic wings parallel. This composition of real and computerized footage stops FLYING MONSTERS from becoming flat, forced educational-programming.
A 3D premier could so easily fall into the gimmicky graveyard but FLYING MONSTERS is a relatively classy affair. There will be no dino jaws snapping at you or lizard tongues jumping through your TV screen. Instead the science is animated into explanation where a fossil can come to life and is assembled in before you in 3D.
While SKY’s CGI creatures are spectacular, they are is unlikely to move the over-exposed Avatar generation. The most beautiful shots are those of real creatures and landscapes filmed in the different locations across Germany, Mexico France and the UK. These remind you that you are witnessing a true change in technology, that a show can become near-reality your living room. It made me wonder, why choose the pterosaur, rather than follow the antics of a living creature?
In a recent interview, Sir David Attenborough explained that 3D filming hinders documentary making, “We have to be realistic. I can take the 2D gear out to creep up on a gazelle or track a charging elephant but you just can’t do that with this stuff. This was ideal; something we could handle.”