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Beauty belongs to everyone in “National Parks Adventure”


Glacier National Park in Montana. (4K frame shots courtesy of Shout! Factory)


4K Ultra HD, 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital copy; 2016; Not Rates; streaming via Netflix

Best extra: Eight short making-of featurettes

PLANNING a vacation? Whether planning to head out or stay home, “National Parks Adventure” inspires.

It’s a short, beautifully filmed documentary, only 43 minutes long, and shot in IMAX for bold, saturated color and extreme detail. It was directed by Greg MacGillivray, the filmmaker who also created “Dream Big: Engineering Our World,” “Dolphins,” “The Living Sea,” “Humpback Whales,” “To the Arctic” and more. His passion for nature and its inhabitants is genuine.

Mountains, canyons, rivers, waterfalls, snowscapes, geysers, majestic Redwoods and cherry trees in full bloom are the stars of “National Parks Adventure.” MacGillivray captures them all while following three camping enthusiasts on a road trip: World-class mountaineer, rock climber and author Conrad Anker; Max Lowe, his stepson, and family friend Rachel Pohl. They travel west to east, and north to south visiting Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier National Park, Redwood National Park, the Everglades and Arches, hiking, climbing and rafting along the way. One of the most riveting sequences shows them biking along the slick rock slopes of Utah’s Moab with professional mountain biker Eric Porter.

The Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park is the largest hot spring in the United States.

Rachel Pohl climbs Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming.

Early morning fog from Yosemite National Park in Central California.

Prairie Dogs near the base of Devils Tower.

Robert Redford narrates, recalling how he first became enchanted with the National Parks in “Robert Redford on the Parks.” “When I was 11-years-old, I’d never been out of Los Angeles. I had a mild case of polio. So when I came out of it, my Mom wanted to give me some kind of reward, so we drove to Yosemite National Park. We went through that mile-long tunnel that came out at Inspiration Point.” It was a huge awaking of spirit. Redford says he didn’t want to just “look” at the forest and mountain peaks, Redford wanted to “be” in them.

President Theodore Roosevelt found his recovery in Yosemite, too. He had lost both his mother and wife on the same day in 1884. Born in Scotland, conservationist John Muir was one of the most adamant supporters of America’s “temples of nature,” which were being destroyed through extreme logging and mining practices. After a campout together in 1903 among the Redwoods of Yosemite, Roosevelt felt the first breath of true healing. Roosevelt and Muir joined forces to protect America’s most sacred spaces. As a result, the United States now has more than 400 National Parks.

“It’s called the three most important days in the life of conservation in America because [Roosevelt and Muir] set out what should happen with the National Parks and how there should be a system that would preserve these wonderful areas forever.” — Greg MacGillivray, conservationist and filmmaker


MacGillivray and Director of Photography Brad Ohlund used 65mm IMAX film, handheld cameras, drones and helicopters to capture footage of the National Parks (1.78:1 ratio). All was mastered in 4K, and possibly higher, with the 3D version attached to the Blu-ray.

The 4K Ultra Blu-ray disc provides an option for HDR and standard viewing. The surprise here is that the HDR looks over-saturated, especially in vermillion reds that bleed out detail. Color is vividly rich and much more natural in the standard format, where fissures, geographic layers, and background features such as ferns and pebbles stand out. Depth provides “we are there” moments, while black levels are deep, with good shading. Complexions are also natural under deep tans and weathered features.

Frozen Waterfall at Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan.


The six-channel Dolby Atmos track defaults to a six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the 4K and Blu-ray discs. Nature’s ambient sound – from crickets and brooks to thunder and roaring water – flow throughout speaker systems and dance all over the room. Original music was composed by Steve Wood, but the soundtrack makes use of folktunes such as Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”


Sometimes we just want to spend more time with those salmon guzzling brown bears. We get to do that in the 1:24 minute “Bears Catching Salmon in Alaska.” The eight tiny featurettes, most under four minutes, also include “Climbing the Penguins” (no birds involved), “Pictured Rocks in Michigan,” “Making of Featurette,” Biking in Moab,” “Filming with Greg MacGillivray,” “Robert Redford on the Parks,” and “The Most Important Camping Trip in U.S. History.” Find more to learn and appreciate here.

Americans don’t have the eons-long shared history of Europe and other cultures. We have land. MacGillivray tells us, as Teddy Roosevelt said, the lands should not be touched, “You should not do a thing to mar it. You cannot improve upon its beauty. You have to leave it as it is.”

It’s hard to disagree after watching “National Parks Adventure.”

— Kay Reynolds

Biking along the slick rock slopes of Utah’s Moab National Park. Colors were over saturated in several scenes on the HDR version - especially vermillion reds that bleed out detail.

Grand Canyon National Park in Northern Arizona.




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