Audio: DD+ 5.1 English, DD+ 5.1 French, DD+ 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: Optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese
Extras: Making of Arctic Tale; Are We There Yet? World Adventure: Polar Bear Spotting; trailer
Released: December 4th, 2007
HD DVD case
March of the Penguins took the world to the South Pole to witness the extraordinary mating cycle of those birds in tuxedos. The world-wide financial and critical success of that movie undoubtedly inspired National Geographic Films to put its stamp of approval on Arctic Tale, which swings to the top of the world to follow the lives of polar bears and walruses. In the U.S., Warner marketed March of the Penguins as a story “As Told by Morgan Freeman”, and Paramount followed the same strategy by billing Arctic Tale as a story “As Told by Queen Latifah”.
You can expect the usual spectacular scenery, though this documentary is a bit more kid-friendly than the others that’ve been appearing on HD DVD and Blu-ray (i.e. Planet Earth, Relentless Enemies, Galapagos). The cutesy narration and music may annoy sophisticated viewers, but parents can use this movie as a painless way to introduce children to two of the most majestic animals alive today. Let’s hope that polar bears and walruses don’t go the way of the dodo bird.
Perhaps due to the harsh conditions at the North Pole, the 1.85:1 1080p is of average quality. The picture will stun you due to the majesty of the vistas, but the technical aspects of the transfer are so-so. We have to make do with usually dim light levels and the expected lack of clarity associated with standard definition. Much of the grittiness that was hidden by the SD DVD’s 480p resolution is now revealed, so don’t expect the “wow” factor that you’ve experience with other nature documentaries.
The HD DVD drops the SD DVD’s dual offerings of 5.1 and 2.0 surround mixes for one DD+ 5.1 English track. The rear speakers are primarily used for wind effects and music cues, but don’t discount the surround activity. Those polar winds will make you feel chilly even in the warmth and comfort of your home theater. For the most part, though, Queen Latifah’s clear narration, flatulence (yes, flatulence), and silence dominate the audio mix.
You can also watch the movie with DD+ 5.1 French or Spanish dubs. Optional English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles support the audio.
“Making of Arctic Tale” is a standard-issue promotional overview of the production with additional footage and some interesting time-lapse photography.
“Are We There Yet? World Adventure: Polar Bear Spotting” is a segment from National Geographic TV about some kids taking a field trip to see polar bears in the wild.
You also get the theatrical trailer in HD video, but don’t expect it to look any different from the main program.