Attenborough in Paradise

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I've always enjoyed David Attenborough's nature programs and films when I've managed to see them on TV and now, thanks to several of my readers, I've been able to view nearly everything that Attenborough has available on DVD. But after watching the wonderful collection of films included in Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Adventures (BBC Worldwide; 2007), I have been transformed from a pleased watcher into an unabashed and enthusiastic admirer.

Attenborough in Paradise consists of seven programs on two DVDs with a total combined run time of approximately 374 minutes.

Disc One:
Attenborough in Paradise (1996) tells the story of how Attenborough finally realized his childhood dream to travel deep into the tropical jungles of New Guinea to watch different species of Birds of Paradise as they courted females more than one hundred feet above his head in the treetops. Part of his goals was to understand just how these birds use their spectacular plumage to impress females of their kind, and some of the footage captures several species for the first time ever on film. If you are a professor of ornithology, a birder or a fan of the birds of New Guinea, this program alone is worth the price of the DVD.

A Blank on the Map (1971) follows a much younger Attenborough as he walks into the mountainous interior of central New Guinea, into an area that has never before been seen or mapped by white men, to find a "lost tribe" of native peoples. He accompanies Australian cartographer and explorer, Laurie Bragg, and approximately 100 porters, and amazingly, they finally find the mysterious Biami, a tribe of headhunters who had never before seen white explorers from the modern world. Even though the film not "modern" (it was filmed in 1969 and 1970, after all), if you are a fan of "lost tribes" or of New Guineaen peoples, this is worth the price of the DVD alone.

The Lost Gods of Easter Island (2000) is a very compelling story that starts out innocently enough: ten years earlier, Attenborough had purchased at auction a peculiar elongated human figurine carved out of wood and he wanted to discover its origins. His quest takes us behind-the-scenes at museums in several countries and to Easter Island as we learn about the exploration and colonization of Easter Island. Attenborough's search provides his audience (you and me) with an understanding of ancient Polynesian beliefs as revealed by the identity, purpose, and symbolic significance of the carved artifact that prompted his quest. If you love history, art history or art, especially native peoples' carvings, then you will want this program in your collection. Not only that, but it is a superb example of storytelling.

Disc Two:
Bowerbirds: The Act of Seduction (2000) is another must-have for birders because of the peculiar and unique reproductive behavior of Bowerbirds: this entire family of birds creates beautiful works of art to attract females. This program, which has captured all species of Bowerbirds on film, was filmed in the Australian outback (and sometimes on military training grounds and in schoolyards) and in the jungles of New Guinea. Attenborough also captures the birds' behaviors after rearranging some of their objects d' art or by adding objects where they are not wanted. This program would make an especially valuable addition to an ornithology teaching library.

The Song of The Earth (2000) asks is music a phenomenon that had its origins in our ancient ancestors before they evolved into humans? In this program, not only do we learn that Attenborough plays the piano, but we also learn about the evolutionary history and purpose of music in the natural world. In this film, Attenborough examines birdsong and humpback whale song (and shows us some especially wonderful footage of singing whales) and reveals that human music is probably due to our own evolutionary background where it increased survival and was used for territorial defense and mate attraction. This program will especially appeal to musicians.

Life on Air (2002) If you've never known much about Attenborough before, then this is definitely worth watching. This program is an interesting and humorous tribute to Attenborough's 50-year career in broadcasting, hosted by Michael Palin, of Monty Python fame. In this program, you will learn about Attenborough's unexpected rise from his beginnings as a college graduate in Zoology in 1952 to the BBC programming director responsible for much of the BBC's finest TV productions. This program includes fascinating interviews and archival film clips, and pokes good-natured fun at Attenborough's low key presentation style. I was especially charmed by Attenborough's quizzing of Palin as to the identity of personal artifacts as they wandered through Attenborough's house.

The Amber Time Machine (1994) focuses on a piece of amber that was given to Attenborough as a child by another child who was housed by Attenborough's family during World War II. This program features an in-depth study of amber's unique ability to preserve prehistoric insects, tree leaves, and even lizards from tens of millions of years ago. He also interviews scientists who debunk the premise of Jurassic Park (which his older brother, actor Richard Attenborough, starred in as the scientist and the park's inventor) because ancient DNA from amber is too fragmented to allow recreation of extinct species via genetic engineering. Despite this, animals and plants are so perfectly preserved in amber that scientists can still learn a great deal about morphology and behavior through careful observation.

This is wonderful collection of films will appeal to all Attenborough fans (and if you aren't an Attenborough fan, this collection will make you into one), it will be greatly loved by all kids (and by kids who look like adults), as well as making a wonderful addition to all birders' and naturalists' DVD libraries. Further, this collection must also be included in teaching collections for universities and colleges. Highly recommended.

Sir David Attenborough's long and distinguished career in broadcasting began in 1952 and spans more than 50 years. In 1965, he became Controller of BBC2 and was responsible for the introduction of color television into Britain. Then in 1969, he was appointed Director of Programs with editorial responsibility for both of the BBC's television networks. But, in 1973, he resigned to return to making more programs, adding to his already extensive filmography, claiming "I haven't even seen the Galapagos Islands". In 1985, Sir David was knighted, and was given the Order of Merit in 2005. Over the years he has received honorary degrees and a number of prestigious awards including Fellowship of The Royal Society. He is a Trustee of the British Museum, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and President of the Royal Society for Nature Conservation.


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I LOVE Attenborough. He rocks. If I were to accidentally have a (male) kid, I would name him David.

okay, i love david more than both of you because i am female and i am going to legally change my name to DAVID.

Hmph. I even named my attenborough "David", if you know what I mean.

Too much information?


Yeah, well. He's not bad, but some Attenboroughs can be a bit dicky.

I grew up on Attenborough - Life of Earth was definitely a major influence. The music is still stunning, and it's hilarious now when he holds up a picture of Hallucigenia, and you feel obliged to shout "Turn it over!" at the screen. Thus does science move on.

Grrl - if you haven't read his zoo quest books, you should put them on your wish list. The UK Amazon has the first trilogy available. Unfortunately, the films weren't kept, so the originals aren't available.


I just bought this series of DVD's last month, mainly because I wanted to watch about the bowerbirds. The only other one I've seen so far was the one about the birds of paradise, which was quite nice. The one thing that bothered me is that they stole from the Bowerbird documentary and put a scene or two from it in the birds of paradise documentary.

Next, I'm hoping to get the 'Life of Birds' set. I've caught a few minutes of the series, and they were incredible.

Thank you so much for bringing these to my attention!

Don't forget 'The David' and his role in the amazing series of Planet Earth and the Blue Planet!