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Get thisclose and personal with some of the smallest and most fascinating creatures on Earth as BBC Home Entertainment brings the original three-part UK series Hidden Kingdoms to Blu-ray and DVD. This innovative new series from the BBC's renowned Natural History Unit and Executive Producer Mike Gunton uses groundbreaking filming techniques to immerse viewers in the unique and unexplored miniature world of the planet’s smaller heroes, all less than a foot in size.
Narrated by Stephen Fry, Hidden Kingdoms dramatizes the action-packed lives of these mighty minis in some of the world’s most iconic landscapes. From the open plains of Africa’s savannah to the urban jungles of Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo, Hidden Kingdoms approaches these habitats from a new visual perspective. Using groundbreaking filming techniques including extreme low angles, wide angles, special lenses, slow-motion, pitch shifting audio and even “blue screen” to create an interpretation of the miniature world as our heroes see and experience it---pushing between blades of grass will feel like journeying deep into the densest jungle. This is a different approach to a traditional wildlife series, using dramatized, constructed storytelling based entirely on biologically accurate behavior to recreate these animals' own distinctive perspectives and to illustrate the dynamism of their lives.
From chipmunks to rhinoceros beetles, what they may lack in stature they make up for in sheer attitude. They hunt food, but are themselves hunted. They face the forces of the world that, to them, can be catastrophic---when you are just a few inches tall, raindrops fall like meteorites, dust stings like gravel and a sudden gust of wind feels like a tornado. The challenges our heroes face are exceptional, their enemies are gigantic and their solutions are ingenious.
Each of the three episodes includes its own Hidden Kingdoms Revealed, a 10-minute making-of featurette that takes viewers behind the scenes with the production team to show how the story was created. Other bonus features include:
• Mike Gunton introduces Hidden Kingdoms
• Creating the Shot: Compositing
• Creating the Shot: The Grasshopper Mouse
• Creating the Score
• Extended Scene: The Sengi Cleaning
• Storyboarding the Beetles
What we found fascinating are these filming notes. The three-episode series, filmed across a total of 334 days over more than a two-year span, features more than 88 different species which the production team got to know very well: from venomous rattlesnakes and giant centipedes to formidable lions and African elephants; adorable chipmunks and marmosets to cunning crows and colonies of tiny leaf-cutter ants.
The team moves alongside an elephant shrew as it races at high speed around its track, and that is no simple feat considering that, if one compared speed by body lengths per second, the elephant shrew is faster than a cheetah. But the elephant shrew, or “sengi,” isn’t the only mini marvel in the series.
The Rhinoceros beetle is the strongest creature on earth for its size, able to lift 100 times its own body weight. Grasshopper mice hunt scorpions (they are immune to the scorpion’s venom which is strong enough to kill a human) and they defend their territory by unleashing a mighty warning howl. Dung Beetles are stronger pound for pound than an elephant, and have an unerring sense of direction---they can roll a ball of dung in a straight line no matter what obstacles are in their path. Even chipmunks, a common sight in the woods of North America, have hidden talents. Their power and flexibility enable them to twist their upper and lower bodies in opposite directions, even in midair, allowing them to avoid blows while in conflict with a rival.
Filming took place both in the wild and in special filming sets, and the team worked with wild, habituated and some captive animals, to give the audience a unique insight into the life in the miniature world. Crucially however, these stories are all underpinned by rigorous science- sometimes directly observed, sometimes re-constructed through controlled filming or through editing.