Dodo, fanged cat come to 3D life in Attenborough film

Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:58am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - Extinct creatures both cuddly and nasty have been brought to life with 3D computer technology as nature documentary maker David Attenborough turns his attentions to fossils and skeletons at London's Natural History Museum in a new made-for-TV film.

Featuring creatures ranging from the Dodo and a giant sloth to a 33-foot (10-m) long snake and a terrifying sabre-toothed cat-like animal, "Alive at the Natural History Museum" had a premiere showing at the museum on Wednesday night for a crowd that included Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge.

The film will air on Britain's Sky satellite channels on New Year's Day and is clearly aimed at a family audience, with children sure to laugh at the antics of the awkward Dodo or the ostrich-like giant Moa bird.

But Attenborough in his narration admits "there is no more alarming animal in the museum than this" as computer imagery makes the skeleton of a sabre-toothed Smilodon spring to life.

It is not entirely reassuring that, as he asserts, neither the Smilodon nor the equally worrying Gigantophis prehistoric snake, shown slithering around the halls of the Victorian-era museum, would have eaten humans because they were extinct before mankind evolved.

Attenborough said he had been particularly astonished by the computer-generated movements of the skeletal Smilodon.

"Actually it is an extraordinary animal, those sabre-like teeth," he said. "But the clever thing was to work out on the computer how all those joints moved so that you could get it stalking and actually leaping. Seeing how the joints moved was actually more interesting than if you'd put fur on it."

The film by production house Colossus was made in collaboration with the museum and its curators, some of whom were on hand on Wednesday to show the actual fossils and skeletons on which the computer-generated 3D images were based.   Continued...

Britain's Prince William (L-R) and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, sit with Natural History Museum Director Michael Dixon before a screening of "David Attenborough's Natural History Museum Alive 3D" at the museum in London December 11, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett