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Image Entertainment presents
Dolphins (IMAX®) (2000)

"After all my years with JoJo, there's still a barrier we can never get past. We don't speak each other's language. My bubble rings are a friendly greeting, but does he really get the message? I would give everything I own in this world to spend just one hour chatting with JoJo in his own language and getting to know his consciousness as well as I know his heart and soul. Meanwhile, I'll just keep blowing these bubble rings."
- Dean Bernal, speaking about his dolphin pal, JoJo.

Review By: Justin Stephen   
Published: November 07, 2000

Stars: Pierce Brosnan (narrator), Dr. Kathleen Dudzinski, Dean Bernal and JoJo, Dr. Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez
Other Stars: Dr. Randy Wells, Dr. Lou Herman, Burnd Wursig
Director: Greg MacGillivray (also produces)

Manufacturer: Wamo
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (safe for all audiences)
Run Time: 00h:40m:22s
Release Date: October 31, 2000
UPC: 014381988925
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

In 1976, director/producer Greg MacGillivray created To Fly!, which would become the signature film for the National Air and Space Museum. Since then, MacGillivray has co-founded MacGillivray Freeman Films and has dedicated his career to the creation of 70mm films for play in IMAX® theaters. His IMAX® credits include The Living Sea, Everest, Stormchasers, The Discoverers and The Magic of Flight. Dolphins is one of the most recent additions to the IMAX® series of DVDs that is rapidly approaching forty titles.

Narrated by Pierce Brosnan and featuring the music of Sting, Dolphins is a wonderful visual experience highlighting one of the world's most intelligent animals. Most of us have seen dolphins, probably Bottlenose dolphins, performing at Sea World or one of dozens of other locales around the world. However, how much do you or I know about dolphins other than that they are very clever and can jump like Michael Jordan? What are they like in the wild?

As the film's opening narration informs, there are over 40 species of dolphins. From the Bottlenose dolphins most commonly seen in dolphin shows, to the Spinner dolphins in the waters of Hawaii, to the Dusky dolphins of Argentina and New Zealand, to the pink Amazon River dolphin, these aquatic mammals occupy every sea and many of the great rivers on Earth. After the film's opening sequences, which highlight their intelligence and feature some terrific dolphin show footage, Dolphins dedicates itself to three primary segments about them in the wild. First, the film takes us to Hope Town, Bahamas to study dolphin communication with marine biologist and dolphin expert Kathleen Dudzinski. Next we meet JoJo, a solitary dolphin in the British West Indies who has, over the years, established a remarkable friendship with local naturalist Dean Bernal. Bernal has swum out to a reef to visit JoJo every day for fifteen years and the footage of him interacting with this wild animal is amazing. Lastly, we travel to the rugged Patagonian coast of Argentina with Dudzinsky and fellow scientist Alejandro Acevedo-Gutierrez to study dolphin pod feeding behavior.

Like most other IMAX® films, Dolphins has a runtime of about forty minutes and seeks to not only educate the audience but dazzle it with fantastic photography. It succeeds on both accounts, especially the later. Most of the underwater footage is simply glorious. Standing out in particular is footage of Dusky dolphins actually herding a school of anchovies like cowboys and then swooping in one at a time to feed while the rest of the group circles to keep the anchovies in an easily accessible "bait ball." Dolphins also features some very nice animated 3-D map transitions between segments. Naturally, the forty-minute runtime prevents it from serving as little more than an introduction to dolphins but it will likely fascinate you and inspire you to learn more.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: Shot on 70mm x 70mm film and originally shown on 65 ft. x 90 ft. screens in the IMAX®: aspect ratio of 1.44:1, Dolphins has been cropped to 1.33:1 for its DVD release. Color and detail are first rate in this transfer. Only one major flaw with the image is evident: moderately faint digital noise is prevalent in a handful of scenes, most notably during the opening title sequence. Other than this, Dolphins is the fantastic and rich visual experience we have come to expect from IMAX®: DVDs.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Spanish, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: Greg MacGillivray is obviously a fan of the DTS sound format. Dolphins is the fourth IMAX®: title to feature both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. The other three (Discoverers, The Living Sea, and Stormchasers) are also directed and produced by MacGillivray.

The configuration of the disc makes "shift on the fly" comparisons between the DTS and DD5.1 tracks impossible, however. You can use the audio button on your player's remote to switch between the English, French, and Spanish DD5.1 tracks but a switch to the DTS track requires a change at the menu and re-navigation back to whatever scene you were watching before. Surprisingly, the DD5.1 track is noticeably louder than the DTS track, as much as 10dB at peak when I played it at normal listening volume. Both tracks sound very good but the DTS track definitely gets the edge in terms of clarity and definition between the music, narration and atmospherics.

I was a little disappointed with the surround channel usage on this disc. It is utilized nicely for bolstering Sting's soundtrack and some artificially enhanced surround effects, but use of the surround channels for natural surround ambience, especially during the underwater sequences, is badly underutilized. Despite this, the rich and deep sound from the front sound stage makes this a very pleasing auditory experience.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish, French, English (CC) with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Magic of Flight, Stormchasers, The Living Sea, and The Discoverers
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single
Layers Switch: n/a

Extra Extras:
  1. Weblinks to dolphinsfilm.com and "listen & learn" links for dolphin and whale communication information and education.
  2. Marine Science: Exploring the Deep video (11m)
  3. "About the Director", "About Rainmaker" (Rainmaker Digital Pictures), "Dolphin Books", and "Great Adventure Film Series" text-based extras.
Extras Review: In addition to MacGillivray Freeman Films' welcome inclusion of DTS tracks, they also score points for including much more supplemental material on their IMAX®: releases than most other production companies releasing IMAX®: DVD titles.

First and foremost among the bonus materials is a very good 38-minute "making of" documentary. Some very interesting interview footage with many of the film's participants, such as Kathleen Dudzinsky and Dean Bernal, and the director and crew are included. However, what is most fascinating is getting a behind-the-scenes look at just how difficult it is to film with the huge 70mm cameras, especially underwater. Just as an example, an underwater 70mm film camera can only film for ninety seconds before it has to be pulled out of the water, partially disassembled, the film cartridge replaced, reassembled, and put back in the water. When the subjects of your focus are unpredictable wild animals as opposed to cooperative human participants, this process becomes ten times more frustrating. This documentary is definitely worth the watch.

Another video, entitled Marine Science: Exploring the Deep, is also included. With a runtime of approximately eleven minutes, this short film is primarily aimed towards a younger audience who might have an interest in pursuing study in marine biology. The trailer for Dolphins and trailers for four other MacGillivray Freeman titles, weblinks to Dolphin sites, and several other text-based informational features round out this nice batch of extras.

A quick note regarding subtitles/captions: For some reason, the included French and Spanish subtitles only function during the documentary and not during the feature presentation. English closed-captioning is available during both by accessing it via your television's remote.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

Featuring both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio transfer, some phenomenal underwater photography, and some good extras, Dolphins is yet another quality IMAX® release from MacGillivray Freeman Films and definitely worth picking up.


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