Walking with Beasts
|Walking with Beasts|
|Also known as||Walking with Prehistoric Beasts|
|Created by||Tim Haines|
|Directed by||Jasper James|
|Narrated by||Kenneth Branagh|
Stockard Channing (US)
Christian Slater (Prehistoric Planet)
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Executive producer||Tim Haines|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production companies||BBC Natural History Unit|
|Original network||BBC, Discovery Channel, ProSieben, TV Asahi|
|Original release||15 November –|
20 December 2001
Walking with Beasts, marketed as Walking with Prehistoric Beasts in North America, is a 2001 six-part nature documentary television miniseries created by Impossible Pictures and produced by the BBC Natural History Unit, the Discovery Channel, ProSieben and TV Asahi. The sequel to the 1999 miniseries Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts explores the life in the Cenozoic era, after the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs, particularly focusing on the rise of the mammals to dominance. The UK version of the series is narrated by Kenneth Branagh, who also narrated Walking with Dinosaurs, and the US version is narrated by Stockard Channing.
Like Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts recreated extinct animals through a combination of computer-generated imagery and animatronics, incorporated into live action footage shot at various locations. It was more challenging to create convincing effects, both computer graphics and animatronics, depicting mammals owing both to fur and more moving bits and to audiences being more familiar with how mammals look and move than they were with dinosaurs. The visual effects of Walking with Beasts, like those of Walking with Dinosaurs, received praise. The series won numerous awards, including a BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Award, a Monitor Award, a RTS Television Award and a Primetime Emmy Award.
Walking with Beasts was accompanied by a companion book, Walking with Beasts: A Prehistoric Safari, written by the executive producer Tim Haines, and a two-part behind-the-scenes companion series, The Science of Walking with Beasts. Also released were several children's books and the video game Walking with Beasts: Operation Salvage. In 2007–2011 an exhibition based on the series featuring fossils, life-sized models and behind-the-scenes information was held at different locations throughout the UK.
Walking with Beasts follows the previous series Walking with Dinosaurs (1999) in showcasing prehistoric life in a nature documentary style. Beginning in Germany 49 million years ago (in the Eocene), Walking with Beasts tracks animal life, particularly the rise of the mammals to dominance, in the Cenozoic era. The series also gives some insight into human evolution, with Next of Kin (episode four) being devoted to Australopithecus and Mammoth Journey (episode six) including both Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans.
Pre-production, research and writing
After the success of Walking with Dinosaurs, the executive producer Tim Haines conceived Walking with Beasts as a sequel. The intended goal of the series was to introduce the general public to the fascinating mammals (and other animals) of the Cenozoic era, typically less represented in popular culture than dinosaurs. The budget of Walking with Beasts was £4.2 million,[a] one of the most expensive documentaries ever made but much lower than a feature film with comparable visual effects needs. Tim Haines attributed the completion of the series despite this to solid planning.
Research in preparation for Walking with Beasts was conducted full-time for nearly two years by the geologist Paul Chambers and the zoologist Alex Freeman. Like Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts was set to consist of six episodes which meant that six suitable settings had to be chosen for the programme. Chambers and Freeman picked the six settings of the programme based on the amount of good fossil evidence, position in the time line and number of interesting animals. The settings of some episodes had been picked already before any research was required, such as doing an episode on woolly mammoths and an episode on indricotheres. For much of the process, Chambers and Freeman were considering more than six settings, which meant that some potential episode ideas were forced to be abandoned. Among the abandoned ideas were an episode set in Australia, based on fossils from the Riversleigh World Heritage Area. After the selection had been narrowed down to six settings, selecting which animals would appear in each episode was a straightforward process.
After Chambers and Freeman had decided upon suitable settings for the programme, the filming locations for Walking with Beasts were chosen by the assistant producer Annie Bates over a nine-month period. Bates first spoke with palaeobotanists to figure out suitable locations that were sufficiently similar to the intended ancient landscapes. After determining a comprehensive enough selection of possible filming locations, Bates traveled to the different sites with a video camera to shoot test footage, which was then viewed by the producers to get an idea of the terrain. Filming locations for Walking with Beasts included Florida, Mexico, Java, Arizona, Brazil, South Africa and Yukon.
In order to write the storylines for the series, producers Jasper James and Nigel Paterson watched numerous nature documentaries on modern animals. They wanted to avoid episodes simply becoming "lists of animals and how they lived" and instead wanted them to draw viewers in and make them want to know what would happen to the animals next. Chambers and Freeman also worked on the storylines, with the goal of ensuring that as much inferred behaviour as possible of each animal was showcased in the series. In the end, each episode of Walking with Beasts ended up with a different type of story. Next of Kin (episode four) for instance follows a group of Australopithecus going through rough times and Land of Giants (episode three) follows a young Indricotherium[b] for the first few years of its life. Details of the plot and how animals behaved were guided by fossil evidence; James maintained in behind-the-scenes material that no details in the storylines of Walking with Beasts were based on fiction.
Special effects and filming
Chambers and Freeman worked with sculptors to create accurate reconstructions of the animals in the series. Relevant specialist palaeontologists and other researchers were consulted for each animal to gather advice on behavior and appearance. For some of the animals featured in Walking with Beasts, no models had ever been made before. The model makers also worked based on drawings and photographs of fossil material. Each maquette took several weeks to create. The finished maquettes were scanned into computers with 3D. The textures of the animals were designed by skin designers, with advice from researchers. For some of the animals in Mammoth Journey (episode six), cave paintings could give an idea of real life colors but for most others the patterns were educated guesswork.
As in Walking with Dinosaurs, the computer graphics for Walking with Beasts were created by the visual effects company Framestore. Animators worked closely with researchers; experts were brought in to look at the movements of each animal to ensure that they moved accurately and advice was gathered on what behaviours each creature could have exhibited. Animating the animals in Walking with Beasts was more difficult than in Walking with Dinosaurs owing to mammals having more moving bits than dinosaurs, such as whiskers, eyebrows and various floppy and wobbly parts. Additionally, the production team believed audiences would be more critical of the movements of mammals than they had been of dinosaurs since viewers would be more familiar with how mammals move; it would thus be easier to spot inaccurate movement. The most difficult creature to animate in the series was Australopithecus, which in terms of their movement had to appear "more than an ape but less than a human".
Filming Walking with Beasts took four or five weeks. Filming was usually a matter of gathering location shots where the computer-generated animals would then be inserted later. Sometimes it was necessary to replicate the impact the animated animals would have on their environment—such as footprints left in the snow by a woolly mammoth. Not all parts of filming the series were entirely imaginary, as Walking with Beasts also made extensive use of animatronics and puppets for close-up shots. The animatronics and puppets in Walking with Beasts were created by special effects company Crawley Creatures, the same company responsible for the animatronics in the preceding Walking with Dinosaurs. On account of many of the animals in Walking with Beasts having fur or hair and requiring more complex facial expressions, creating the animatronics for Walking with Beasts was more difficult than for the previous series. During production, the animatronics team grew from seven to eighteen and additional support was brought in through hiring specialist out-workers.
As with the computer graphics, experts were also consulted for some of the practical effects. Among the scientists consulted were archaeologist and anthropologist Michael Bisson, an expert on Middle Palaeolithic tools, who helped craft some of the tools shown being used by Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans in the series.
The animatronics were created and used over a period of one-and-a-half years. In total there were over 40 different animatronic elements used, most of which were animatronic heads of animals. The broad movements of the animatronics were controlled by puppeteers, while their more subtle movements were remote-controlled and operated via servo motors. Australopithecus was in some close-ups portrayed by actors with prosthetics. Neanderthals and anatomically modern humans were consistently portrayed by actors also in non close-up shots, the Neanderthal actors wearing prosthetics. The prosthetics used by the actors were also made by Crawley Creatures.
Sound design and music
The sound design for Walking with Beasts was done by Kenny Clark. Clark and his partner Jovan Ajder began the process by recording foley sound effects, such as footsteps. Then, Clark and Ajder began constructing a sound library through recording their own sounds and contacting web-based FX companies as well as companies around the world. After a great collection of different animal sounds had been assembled, different sounds were mixed together, cut up or played backwards to create creature sounds. The noises of Leptictidium were otter noises, pitch shifted and reversed, and the sounds of Gastornis were made by a monkey and a rattlesnake, slightly edited. Megatherium was voiced through goat noises, though considerably lowered in pitch, Embolotherium were voiced by walruses, Macrauchenia by donkeys, Indricotherium by bears and rhinoceroses and Chalicotherium by a hippopotamus. Australopithecus was initially planned to be voiced through harmonised human voices, an idea that was abandoned in favour of monkey sounds. The final sound mixing was done by Chris Burdon, who combined a total of 64 sound tracks (including narration, music, animal sounds and background noises) to produce one final stereo mix for the series.
Ben Bartlett, who had previously worked on Walking with Dinosaurs, composed the music for Walking with Beasts. The composition process began with Bartlett and the directors (Jasper James and Nigel Paterson) viewing the different episodes together without sound and determining specific scenes that stood out as especially requiring music. Bartlett approached Walking with Beasts differently than he had Walking with Dinosaurs; the score in the previous series often included sophisticated themes and orchestral sweeps to reflect the grandeur of the dinosaurs. When it came to the Cenozoic, Bartlett found the era much harder to characterise, concluding that the "beasts" were less "refined" than the dinosaurs before them. As a result, the score of Walking with Beasts intentionally disobeys standard rules of sophisticated harmony, focusing on simplicity but also at times having "big blocks of sound [crashing] in uninvited".
Walking with Beasts
|No.||Title||Epoch and location||Directed by||Original air date||U.K. viewers|
|1||"New Dawn"||Germany, 49 mya (Eocene)||Jasper James & Nigel Paterson||15 November 2001||13.99[d]|
|The first episode is set sixteen million years after the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs. Birds, a surviving lineage of dinosaurs, such as the giant carnivorous Gastornis,[c] rule the world and mammals still remain very small. The episode explores the forerunners of later lineages of Cenozoic animals and centers on a family of shrew-like Leptictidium. Other animals featured include Propalaeotherium, an early forerunner of horses, and Ambulocetus, an amphibious ancestor of the whales.|
|2||"Whale Killer"||Tethys Sea/Pakistan, 36 mya (Eocene)||Jasper James & Nigel Paterson||22 November 2001||11.34|
|The second episode is set during a cooling period in the late Eocene, which drastially changed the ocean currents and climate. Climate change impacts different animals in different ways. On land, the giant predatory mammal Andrewsarchus is driven to the beach to feed on sea turtles and a herd of Embolotherium struggle to survive. In the ocean, a mother Basilosaurus struggles to keep herself and her newborn calf fed, failing to hunt both Moeritherium and Apidium after being forced to swim in to a mangrove swamp in search for food.|
|3||"Land of Giants"||Mongolia, 25 mya (Oligocene)||Jasper James & Nigel Paterson||29 November 2001||9.27|
|The third episode takes place in late Oligocene Mongolia, where seasonal rains are followed by long periods of drought. It follows a mother Indricotherium,[b] an enormous hornless rhinoceros, and her young male calf. The mother struggles to raise her calf, fending off predators such as Hyaenodon and trying to teach the calf to survive on its own. The episode also follows other animals in the surroundings, including Hyaenodon, entelodonts and chalicotheres, and the hardships they endure as the drought drags on.|
|4||"Next of Kin"||Ethiopia, 3.2 mya (Pliocene)||Jasper James & Nigel Paterson||6 December 2001||N/A (<5.92)[e]|
|The fourth episode is set in the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia and follows a tribe of Australopithecus, small early hominins and among the first apes to be able to walk upright. The social bonds and hierarchy of the tribe are explored, as are the means of communication of Australopithecus, relations between different tribes, and how they survive among dangerous animals such as the elephant ancestor Deinotherium and the sabre-toothed cat Dinofelis. Certain Australopithecus are given names, such as the dominant male "Grey", his rival "Hercules", and the young "Blue".|
|5||"Sabre Tooth"||Paraguay, 1 mya (Pleistocene)||Jasper James & Nigel Paterson||13 December 2001||5.87|
|The fifth episode explores the strange fauna of South America, by this point isolated for millions of years, and the effects of the Great American Interchange, which happened about 1.5 million years earlier. Among the strange animals inhabiting South America are the giant armored Doedicurus, the trunked and camel-like Macrauchenia, the giant ground sloth Megatherium and the terror bird Phorusrhacos. The episode particularly focuses on the sabre-toothed cat Smilodon populator, following a Smilodon nicknamed "Half Tooth" and his efforts to reclaim his clan and territory after being defeated and driven away by two rival male Smilodon. It also focuses on how Smilodon's 8-inch-long upper canines were too fragile to bite into bone, and how Smilodon could therefore eat only the more tender parts of its kill. Afterwards, Phorusrhacos would scavenge the remains of Smilodon kills.|
|6||"Mammoth Journey"||Belgium, 30 ka (Pleistocene)||Jasper James & Nigel Paterson||20 December 2001||9.48|
|The sixth episode takes place during the last ice age, beginning in the peak of summer when the North Sea has become a grassy plain, grazed by woolly mammoths, saiga antelopes and bison. Also present are anatomically modern humans. The episode focuses on the migration of a herd of woolly mammoths, as they march from the North Sea to the Swiss Alps for the winter and then back again for the summer. On their journey, the mammoth herd encounters further ice age animals, such as the giant deer Megaloceros, woolly rhinoceroses and Neanderthals.|
BBC One aired the series weekly on Thursday nights, with a regular of repeats the following Sunday afternoon. In 2010, the series was repeated on BBC Three in omnibus format, as three-hour-long episodes.
The Science of Walking with Beasts
A two-episode companion documentary, The Science of Walking with Beasts, aired in November 2001 on BBC One. This series featured interviews with palaeontologists and explanations of how the fossil record and modern day descendants have informed what is known about the animals depicted in Walking with Beasts, as well as brief sections showing the development of the CGI and animatronic animals used in the series.
|No.||Title||Directed by||Original air date||U.K. viewers|
|1||"Triumph of the Beasts"||Kate Bartlett||21 November 2001||N/A (<5.86)[e]|
|An explanation of how mammals evolved to be larger and more prevalent, eventually taking the dinosaurs' place as some of the most successful creatures on the planet. The Messel pit fossil site and fossil discoveries of Roy Chapman Andrews are featured.|
|2||"The Beasts Within"||Nigel Paterson||28 November 2001||N/A (<5.96)[e]|
|An explanation of how prehistoric apes evolved into modern man, and which attributes made human ancestors so successful. The La Cotte de St Brelade site is featured.|
The first airing of New Dawn, the first episode of Walking with Beasts, on BBC One attracted 8.5 million viewers and a 35% audience share. Though this fell short of the first airing of Walking with Dinosaurs (15 million viewers), it was considered a major success owing to 2001's more competitive broadcasting environment and due to being 2.6 million viewers above the average audience of BBC One during the time slot.
Walking with Beasts was praised for its effects. Both Paul Hoggart, writing for The Times, and Nancy Banks-Smith, writing for The Guardian, concurred that the series showed technical brilliance and stunning computer reconstructions. Banks-Smith however criticised the narration, writing that it had not "advanced beyond chalk and blackboard" and that it was "so clearly addressed to a clever but cloth-eared child that you felt yourself dwindle and shrink". Jennifer Selway, writing for the Daily Express, noted that although the technology and effort that went into Walking with Beasts was "breathtaking", its subject matter did not hold the same appeal as the dinosaurs and that the production team perhaps should have made "Walking with More Dinosaurs" instead.
Walking with Beasts won a BAFTA Interactive Entertainment Award for Enhancement of Linear Media, a Monitor Award for Film Originated Television Specials - 3D Animation, a RTS Television Award for Multi-Media and Interactive and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour of More). Walking with Beasts was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Visual Effects for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special and BAFTA TV Awards for Best Sound (Factual) and Best Visual Effects & Graphic Design.
In other media
A companion book to the series, titled Walking with Beasts: A Prehistoric Safari (titled just Walking with Prehistoric Beasts in the United States), was authored by Haines and released in 2001. The book is a coffee-table book which explores life in the Cenozoic through the same settings and animals as in the series itself and it contains sidebars with facts and is illustrated with stills from the series. A Prehistoric Safari was positively reviewed in the book review magazine Publishers Weekly.
In addition to the larger companion book, there were also several children's books released to accompany the series: Walking with Beasts Annual 2002 (a longer hardback book), Walking with Beasts: 3-D Beasts (with 3D images) and Walking with Beasts: Survival! by Stephen Cole, with pictures from the series. Walking with Beasts: Survival! was released in the United States under the title Walking with Prehistoric Beasts: Photo Journal. There was also a Walking with Beasts sticker book.
An exhibition based on Walking with Beasts was launched by the BBC in 2007. The exhibition featured life-sized models of many of the animals that appeared in the series, information on the science behind Walking with Beasts, original animatronics and puppets from the series, real fossils, as well as various activities for visitors.
The exhibition was first held at the Horniman Museum in London from 10 February to 4 November 2007. It was later at the Aberdeen Science Centre in Aberdeen, Scotland, from 23 March to 30 September 2009 and then at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, England from 2 July to 30 October 2011.
Walking with Beasts: Operation Salvage is a CD-ROM video game for Windows developed by Absolute Studios and published by BBC Worldwide Ltd. on 23 November 2001 as a tie-in to the series. A top-down shooter, Operation Salvage is set in 2026 after mankind's discovery of time travel. Players take the role of an agent of the World Wildlife Bionetwork (WWB), travelling back in time throughout the Cenozoic, observing different animals and fighting an organisation that is trapping the different creatures. The game received mixed reviews: 7Wolf Magazine gave it 4.3 out of 10 and Absolute Games gave it 40 out of 100.
Walking with Beasts aired as an interactive programme during its original UK broadcast, the first time the BBC had developed an interactive service for a non-sports programme. Among the various interactive features accessible through viewers' remote controls were the possibility to switch between narration by Kenneth Branagh and Dilly Barlow, to access figures and facts through pop-ups, and to view behind-the-scenes material.
An accompanying website to the series was launched in 2001. The Walking with Beasts website featured extensive behind-the-scenes information on the production of the series, information on the fossil evidence used to reconstruct the animals and their environments, fact files for the animals, numerous articles on palaeontological topics such as climate throughout the Cenozoic and the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs, as well as various games. Games included the "Shoot the Fish experiment", where players could experiment with evolution through a simulated fish population, games dealing with topics such as camouflage and fossilisation, as well as jigsaw puzzles with different animal skeletons.
- Some sources give alternate figures. According to behind-the-scenes material from the later series Walking with Monsters (2005), Walking with Dinosaurs, Walking with Beasts and Walking with Monsters cost a total of £15 million to make. Walking with Monsters had a budget of around £3 million and Walking with Dinosaurs had a budget of £6.1 million.
- Indricotherium is today generally considered synonymous with the genus Paraceratherium.
- Gastornis is today generally believed to have been herbivorous
- The viewing figures are 7-day data, including the original Thursday broadcast and Sunday repeat for the six main episodes.
- Not reported in the weekly top 15 programmes for four-screen viewer ratings.
- "A beastly look at ourselves". McGill Reporter. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- Walking with Monsters DVD - Trilogy of Life featurette
- "Most expensive television documentary series per minute". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- Gibson, Owen (9 October 2001). "Digital evolution for BBC Beasts". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- "Walking with Beasts", Worklizard, retrieved 29 April 2022
- Tim Haines (2002). Tim Haines Production Interview (DVD featurette). BBC.
- Tim Haines (2002). Tim Haines Production Interview (DVD featurette). BBC.
The budget for this was between seven and eight million, but in terms of what we were trying to do, that is bargain basement. To give you some idea, when you see films like Jurassic Park ... they have effects budgets that run into many tens of millions of pounds. They have to, that's what they're selling. Seven to eight million for what is massively more effects shots and effects material is very, very cheap. But that's because we know exactly what we're doing and what we want from those effects and we're very targeted in our approach. We don't waste any effects at all.
- "Making Of - Research". bbc.co.uk. 2001. Archived from the original on 23 December 2001.
- "Making Of - TV Production". bbc.co.uk. 2001. Archived from the original on 23 December 2001.
- "Making Of - Animatronics". bbc.co.uk. 2001. Archived from the original on 21 December 2001.
- "Making Of - Model Making". bbc.co.uk. 2001. Archived from the original on 14 December 2001.
- "Making Of - Computer Graphics". bbc.co.uk. 2001. Archived from the original on 21 December 2001.
- "The Beasts Within" (DVD featurette). BBC. 2002.
- "Making Of - Sound". bbc.co.uk. 2001. Archived from the original on 21 December 2001.
- "Making Of - Music". bbc.co.uk. 2001. Archived from the original on 21 December 2001.
- https://www.barb.co.uk/viewing-data/weekly-top-30/ Weekly top 30 programmes BARB Web. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
- Walking with Beasts - Compilations - Episode 1 bbc.co.uk. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
- "Beasts walk in with a roar". The Guardian. 16 November 2001. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- "First night: walking with beasts". The Guardian. 16 November 2001. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- "Walking With Beasts Awards". TVGEEK. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- "Nonfiction Book Review: Walking with Prehistoric Beasts by Tim Haines". Publishers Weekly. 1 November 2001. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- ThriftBooks. "Walking with Beasts Annual 2002 book by Anonymous". ThriftBooks. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- ThriftBooks. "Walking with Beasts- 3D Beasts(Pb) book by BBC". ThriftBooks. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- ThriftBooks. "Walking with Beasts: Survival! book by Stephen Cole". ThriftBooks. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- ThriftBooks. "Walking with Prehistoric Beasts: Photo Journal book by D.K. Publishing". ThriftBooks. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- ThriftBooks. "Walking with Prehistoric Beasts: Sticker... book by BBC Wildlife Magazine". ThriftBooks. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- "Take a walk with beasts". News Shopper. Retrieved 29 April 2022.
- Satrosphere Science Centre - What's on 2009
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- Archived Walking with Beasts website