"And if all of this has taught us one thing, it's this: no species lasts forever..."
— Kenneth Branagh, narrator of the main entries of the franchise, at the conclusion of Beasts
The Walking with... franchise is a series of Speculative Documentaries created by BBC. It employs state-of-the-art CGI and special effects to bring to life the prehistoric flora and fauna of a specific chapter in Earth's history.
The franchise consists of:
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These are the main entries in the franchise, with all but Cavemen being narrated by Kenneth Branagh.<!—index—>
- Walking with Dinosaurs (1999): The first series, featuring six episodes that depict the rise and fall of the dinosaurs in the Mesozoic Era.
- Walking with Beasts (2001), focusing on mammal evolution which came after the dinosaurs in the Cenozoic.
- Walking with Cavemen (2003), focusing on our direct ancestors starting in prehistoric Africa. The only member of the main entries to go for the "presenter" format (in this case, Robert Winston).
- Walking with Monsters (2005), this time focusing on what came before the dinosaurs.
- The Ballad of Big Al (2001), which tries to recreate the possible life of a Real Life Allosaurus named Big Al. Considering his fossil had over 44 broken bones, it wasn't easy.
- Chased By Dinosaurs (2002), two specials focusing on two striking dinosaurs, the gigantic Argentinosaurus and the odd Therizinosaurus. This was the first in the Walking with... series to feature a visible presenter (in this case, Nigel Marven, who acted out interactions with the dinosaurs).
- Sea Monsters (2003), a sequel series to Chased by Dinosaurs focusing on dangerous prehistoric marine wildlife, from "the seventh most dangerous sea ever" up to "the first" one. This also featured Nigel Marven, and was bundled with the previous Marven specials for a 2004 DVD under the title Chased By Dinosaurs.
- Prehistoric Planet (2002), a Lighter and Softer version of Walking with Dinosaurs and Walking with Beasts, aimed at a younger audience and narrated by Ben Stiller and later Christian Slater. Not to be confused with the 2022 dinosaur documentary of the same name.
- Walking with Dinosaurs (2013), a theatrical movie, but with a different team behind it. Tells the story of the life of a Pachyrhinosaurus runt of the litter. It has more conventional storytelling mechanics akin to Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and The Land Before Time sequels, down to Black-and-White Morality and traditional heroism. It later received a re-release titled Walking with Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Planet (again, not to be confused with the 2022 dinosaur documentary of the same name), abandoning the voice cast in favor of a narration by Benedict Cumberbatch.
- Dinosaur World (2001), a rudimentary Environmental Narrative Game that allows the player to explore a virtual world based on the Morrison Formation, allowing them to learn about its landscape and some of its inhabitants.
- Big Al Game (2005), a now defunct Simulation Game in which the player controls Big Al from the moment he hatches to his adulthood.
- The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life (2006), a book that producer Tim Haines and consultant Paul Chambers wrote featuring creatures from throughout the series.
- Walking With Dinosaurs: The Arena Spectacular (opened in 2007), a touring live arena show featuring life-sized animatronic dinosaurs and performers in costume.
Prehistoric Park (2006), Planet Dinosaur (2011), and Prehistoric Planet (2022) can be regarded either as spiritual successors to the later Nigel Marven specials (for the first) and the original WWD (the latter two), or as actual spin offs.
Contains examples of:
- Always a Bigger Fish: In all three Trilogy of Life series this is used, and in all three there are literal examples using sharks as the smaller fish (since sharks are convenient, being both evolutionarily conservative and easily identifiable to a layman as a threatening predator). In Monsters a Stethacanthus chasing the Hynerpeton protagonist is suddenly swallowed whole by a Hyneria, in Dinosaurs a Hybodus stalking an Ophthalmosaurus is scared off by an approaching Liopleurodon, and in Beasts the Basilosaurus is introduced killing and eating a Physogaleus, which had been hunting a shoal of baitfish.
- Anachronism Stew: Some of the animals shown had either gone extinct or not evolved by the time they're shown, mostly in Dinosaurs and Beasts.
- Animals Not to Scale: Numerous times, animals are presented as being far larger than what fossil evidence can concretely suggest, often based on fragmentary remains or dubious information. Two of the most well-known examples are the twenty-five metre Liopleurodon (modern estimates suggest a much smaller length between six and seven metres) and twelve metre Ornithocheirus/Tropeognathus (modern estimates suggest around eight metres in wingspan).
- Anti-Villain: All of the "villains" are just predators doing what they have to do to survive.
- Author Vocabulary Calendar: The narrator describes quite a lot of things as "lethal," and every predator is an "ambush predator," even if they're shown chasing their prey.
- Bittersweet Ending:
- Most of the franchise's episodes end on this note, since even though usually the main focus animal survives their ordeals, the narrator will still note that they will one day, inevitably, face extinction all the same.
- Walking with Beasts ends with the offscreen extinction of all the Ice Age megafauna, but humanity has risen to take over the world in their place. Even still, the narrator notes that nothing lasts forever.
- Blood Is Squicker in Water: The ocean-based episodes make copious use of this, most memorably the Liopleurodon snapping the Ichthyosaur in half in "A Cruel Sea".
- Book Ends: When watching the Trilogy of Life in historical order, the story begins with the first shot being a view of Earth as it is formed. While Walking With Beasts use a few shots from orbit, the Earth is not seen in full again until the very last shot fifteen episodes later, when the camera pulls out to reveal the planet in its modern state.
- Camera Abuse: Almost Once an Episode, especially in Beasts.
- Carnivore Confusion: The "predation is just a fact of life" approach, as most predators are treated as any documentary animals should be treated, not as villains. There are a few exceptions though, mainly in the two spinoffs ending with "Monsters".
- However, the large carnivores tend to not survive the episode and often become food for smaller carnivores.
- Inverted in the last episode of Dinosaurs, where a mother T. rex is the protagonist and Ankylosaurus gets a mild villian treatment.
- The Cretaceous Is Always Doomed: Played straight with the Cretaceous extinction in the last episode of Walking with Dinosaurs and largely played straight in the third episode of Walking with Monsters for the Permian extinction (it does not show any single event, but shows the world right around the time of the extinction, with conditions that imply it is in progress). Averted for other episodes and the other mass extinctions.
- Downer Ending: Walking with Dinosaurs is the only series in the franchise that ends with one of these, since it depicts the extinction of the dinosaurs as its ending.
- Dumb Dinos: Gorgeously averted: here dinosaurs and prehistoric critters in general are real animals with complex behaviors and often showing feelings.
- Lighter and Softer: The Discovery Channel often edited the BBC original to be less graphic, as it was released in North America to coincide with the release of Dinosaur.
- Myth Arc: The story of life and evolution is the core through-line in the series, showing its beginnings in the oceans 530 million years ago right up until the appearance of humans in the ice age 20,000 years ago. This is especially apparent in Monsters, which covers six eras in half the episode count and focuses much more on how the animals have changed and adapted.
- Never Smile at a Crocodile: Postosuchus and Deinosuchus in Walking with Dinosaurs and Sarcosuchus in Chased by Dinosaurs. Phytosaurs and Proterosuchus are not a close crocodile relatives, but fill the same role in the accompanying book Walking with Dinosaurs: A Natural History and in the TV series Walking with Monsters, respectively.
- Deinosuchus gets only a cameo appearance in Walking with Dinosaurs the TV series, but its badassery is emphasized in the accompanying book, where it's stated that it's even capable of killing a Tyrannosaurus getting too close to the water and later a group of them scares the female Tyrannosaurus away from freshly killed Anatotitan.
- Noisy Nature: Many animals in the whole series make continuously sounds of every kind from roars to bellows, screechs, and so on (a major example of the strong Rule of Cool that characterize this series). The most incredible example is perhaps the early "amphibian" Hynerpeton which makes belch-like sounds without a pause and apparently without any good reason.... despite being a very archaic vertebrate, and thus very unlikely to utter any loud cry.
- Another example: giant arthropods like the scorpion Brontoscorpio and the millipede Arthropleura making creaking sounds when walking and even when they're moulting their exoskeleton. This kind of sound is heard also during the "Evolution takes over" moments in WWM (just like a horror movie...)
- Averted to a greater extent in the original Walking with Dinosaurs, where most of the predators are realistically silent when doing things such as stalking prey, instead of screaming like Godzilla while attacking animals 30 times their size.
- In the arena show, all the dinosaur animatronics have speakers in their throats, so all the resonant roars you hear are genuinely coming from their mouths.
- Once per Episode: Both Dinosaurs and Beasts had the animals struggling through some harsh weather event or natural disaster in nearly every episode, usually due to Rule of Drama.
- In "New Blood" there was an extended drought, in "Time of the Titans" there was a forest fire, in "Cruel Seas" there was a cyclone, in "Spirits of the Ice Forest" there's the polar winter, and in "Death of a Dynasty".... just guess.
- In "New Dawn" there's a limnic eruption, in "Whale Killer" there's an El Niño event, in "Land of Giants" there's the desert dry season, in "Next of Kin" there's a malaria outbreak, and "Mammoth Journey" is about the ice age winter.
- Due of how much shorter the segments were, Monsters does not follow this format as much, although in the Carboniferous segment there's a lightning-caused wildfire and in the Late Permian segment there's the P-Tr extinction event.
- Prehistoric Monster: Averted, with the partial exception of Walking with Monsters and Sea Monsters. Prehistoric animals behave like real animals, although a few (like Liopleurodon and the entelodonts) are shown in a sinister light. Particularly notable is Big Al in The Ballad of Big Al, whose fate left many viewers sad. Also notable is T. rex in the original series, which were shown more as playful youngsters and good mothers than scary killers.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: Some CGI animals share a scene or two with live-acted ones (including ancient humans), but this is used more greatly for comedic effect in all the various Making of specials.
- Rule of Cool: Several examples throughout the series, especially about speculative animal behaviour. Another example is the fact that only the most spectacular animals of each taxonomic group are usually portrayed in almost all the shows of the series, despite they were probably less common in their environments that their smaller relatives (like what happens among modern animals as well). However, we can see many small-sized prehistoric animals too. Still another example is that many animals are more or less oversized in the program: the two most striking examples are the swimming Liopleurodon and the flying Ornithocheirus.
- Since the list of examples from this trope is really large, please go here to see them.
- Scavengers Are Scum:
- The first series has a tendency to do the "evil scavenger" trope; while the predatory animals do have a more ominous and intimidating mood to their presence, they're still depicted in a way that makes them at least somewhat admirable and interesting creatures. The same cannot be said about Coelophysis (opportunistic protagonist predator from "New Blood"), Eustreptospondylus (the token land-lubber in "Cruel Sea"), young Ornithocheirus (scavenges the dead protagonist in "Giant of the Skies") or Didelphodon (an annoying, hyena-like mammal from "Death of a Dynasty"), all of which are depicted in a rather negative, or at least macabre light.
- Its spinoff, Walking With Beasts is also guilty of this. The "Sabre Tooth" episode of the former paints the terror birds as carrion-eaters (their actual diets were made almost entirely of live prey) to make the sabre-tooth cats more likeable. This is not only biased but also completely incorrect, as terror birds are very poor scavengers and superb predator. An honorable mention goes to the Entelodon, which is portrayed in extremely negative light as a hog from Hell and The Bully of the Oligocene epoch.
- Scenery Porn: The shows, by necessity of course, take us to some of the planet's most spectacular-looking, exotic places, and the creators weren't shy in showing them off.
- Science Marches On: Many new discoveries have been made after this series, which changed our perception about prehistoric wildlife. These discoveries regard animal behaviour, taxonomy, or other issues. See here for examples.
- Sexy Discretion Shot: No way, oh no. You get a clear view of everything, including the giant paleo-penises.
- Speculative Documentary: Maybe a bit too much on the speculative side.
- Threatening Shark: Subverted mostly, as sharks in the series can't hold a candle to larger predators like Dunkleosteus, Liopleurodon, Hyneria and Basilosaurus. They do get a few moments of genuine menace, however.
- Played straight with the Megalodon from Sea Monsters. Even Nigel starts to sound a bit shaky when the big adult shark approaches his cage, and this is a man who is usually perfectly fine, often even Too Dumb to Live, in the presence of dangerous animals.