As a family, we’ve recently been watching some of the episodes on David Attenborough’s Planet Earth DVD. In all honestly, the reason we bought this DVD was to find a family movie which wasn’t Disney, Harry Potter or Cartoon Network. What we’ve discovered is worth writing about in this blog since it was such a surprise and may have ignited the travel bug in the minds of our video-game-playing, tv-watching kids!
Even if you don’t normally enjoy nature documentaries, I suggest you give Planet Earth a try. It is simply astounding. I know I’m biased, I grew up watching the BBC in the 70s and 80s. At that time David Attenborough was making ground-breaking nature documentary programs like Life on Earth and The Living Planet. But Planet Earth is just spectacular. There are 11 episodes, each about 1hr long, each focusing on a specific geographical region (e.g. Jungles) or habitat (e.g. Shallow Seas). The standard of cinematography is exceptional but even with that, the creators frequently use super-slow-motion and motion-controlled time-lapse techniques which (we found) really catch the interest of the kids in the room – which creates helpful talking points about the episode in question. I particularly enjoyed the music and of course, the narration by Attenborough is informative and delivered in a familiar, authoritive-but-friendly style.
So, here’s the surprise. After we got over the initial “no, I don’t want to watch a nature movie” reaction, our kids actually asked to watch the next episode! Hey, who knows, maybe we’re benefiting from the success of March of the Penguins – although Happy Feet is more likely. Anyway, we chose Shallow Seas. For anyone who enjoys to scuba-dive, this is a stunning show. You get to see reefs in Western Australia; learn why you might be better off to skip the Great Barrier Reef and head to Indonesia instead; learn about the ocean food chain from algae to humpback whales and see why you might want to check out the coastline of South Africa for sheer abundance, variety of life and activity in the waters. By the end of this episode, our kids – one of whom is absolutely not a travel-junkie – were comfortably talking about visting kelp forests in California and the coral reefs in Australia and Indonesia. Hey, it’s unlikely this enthusiasm will last very long, but in the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the feeling that, much as they grumble and complain every time we have to pack our bags, with the right impetus, they’re wanderers-in-the-making!