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Series / Eyewitness

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A series of nature and science documentaries by the BBC and Dorling Kindersley between 1994 and 1998, based on the books of the same name. The series attempts to capture the minimalistic, hyperrealistic essence of the books through the use of a plain white background, the "Eyewitness Museum", created using computer animation combined with stock footage, filmed sets, and live animals; in the series itself occasionally uses realistic elaborate sets, live (and animated) vignettes, and stock footage of relevant content shown as windows and depressions in the wall.
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The series was hosted by Andrew Sachs in the UK release; the US dub was hosted by Martin Sheen for the first two seasons. The video releases include a "The Making of Eyewitness" which show how the series was created.


This series contains examples of:

  • Art Shift: The series' intro (along with the main room emphasized in the episode) changes with as the series progresses.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The museum itself. The first theme has levels transitioning laterally, which is kind of trippy, if the intro is to be believed.
  • Call-Back: A possible one. Episode 3 of Series 1, Cat, has one to the previous episode, Bird. The narrator in Cat makes a mention of how cats are ready to respond to anything, and the corresponding footage shows a cat reacting to a raven, one of the last birds to be focused on in the eponymous second episode.
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  • Conspicuous CG: Its CG was fair for its day, but was rather limited in making the spaces seem real.
  • Cockroaches Will Rule the Earth: Prehistoric Life alludes to the cockroach's ability to survive as the key to its long-running success since the Carboniferous. note 
  • Dem Bones: Smedley, the skeleton featured in the titular episode.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Close to the end, Dinosaur looks at the cultural impact of dinosaurs, with a few nods to popular franchises as Jurassic Park and Barney & Friends as represented by a collection of toys, saying that they currently live on in the human imagination.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: The protagonist of Arctic & Antarctic is a King Penguin, who in the cold open forms from the ice.
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  • Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Rock & Mineral delves into this when discussing the allure and cultural impact of gemstones.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Usually, but like the books, the content extends to related subjects; Ape, for instance, also tackles monkeys and other primates. Human Machine, however, takes it to a ludicrous extreme with a mime acting like a robot throughout the episode.
  • "Far Side" Island: Shown in the third series intro and the main focus of Island.
  • Hair-Trigger Avalanche: Discussed in Natural Disasters. When discussing avalanches, the narrator mentions Swiss legends that avalanches can be caused by the chime of a bell, the crack of a whip, or even the beating of a bird's wing.
  • The Hero: Every episode seems to have animal or object in focus, which is constantly referred to. With few exceptions, most of them are what the episode is about.
    • Mammal focused on the development of 6 mammalian embryos: baby mice, kittens, a baby girl, a kangaroo joey, a baby elephant, and a dolphin.
    • Dinosaur had a claymation T. rex referred to as "Legs" in the "Making of" documentary.
    • Prehistoric Life had a cockroach.
    • Tree had an oak tree (a scaled-down model specifically made for the series) that bursts explosively from the ground.
    • Weather has a weathervane chicken, which comes to life when Zeus strikes it with lightning at the very end of the episode. note 
    • Human Machine had a robotic mime.
    • Ape had a baby female chimpanzee.
    • Mountain had a mountaineer.
    • Jungle had a squirrel monkey.
    • Pond and River had a paper boat that was floating downstream.
    • Seashore had a crab.
    • Skeleton has Smedley the skeleton.
    • Dog features a dog referred to as "Coddle" in the "Making of" documentary.
    • Natural Disasters has a rabbit, which naturally survives the destruction of the museum in the end.
    • Survival has a fox.
    • Planet has a starship.
    • Butterfly & Moth has a monarch butterfly
    • Arctic & Antarctic featured a penguin and a husky dog
    • Horse has a toy merry-go-round with images of equids in human culture.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The end of Monster, combined with Your Mind Makes It Real: the most frightening of all monsters is the very concept of the monster as it exists in the human psyche.
  • Leitmotif: A snippet of the main theme is remixed within every episode to match the soundtrack, which usually reflects the culture associated with the subject. For instance, Jungle has a soundtrack based on Latin music, Cat has one based on scat and jazz, etc.
    • Shout-Out: Part of Dinosaur's Leitmotif sounds reminiscent of the bombastic themes used in Jurassic Park; the other half sounds vaguely Victorian or Edwardian, a reference to the initial wave of dinosaur discoveries in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
  • Medusa: She makes an appearance in Monster when discussing monsters from Greek mythology.
  • Mishmash Museum: The museum where the series takes place. Not only does it have animals running around it, but it also has paintings that show stock footage. As shown by the intro sequence, it also has an airplane, car, prism, and a pool with a little island in it, among others.
  • Palatial Sandcastle: Seashore features shots of a somewhat ordinary-looking sandcastle throughout its runtime, but in the end sequence, we get to travel through the castle's gate and see that it actually contains many twisting passageways that extend below the water level and ultimately lead to a room full of buried treasures. (The "Making Of" feature for the episode shows that the "castle" was really multiple sets, not one structure.)
  • Signature Style: It utilizes white to help the material (plants, props, artifacts, live animals and actors) stand out; occasionally, the series does occasionally use an elaborate, realistic set from time, sometimes with the white still present in the background.
    • Scenery Porn: The realistic sets used in the series are remarkably detailed.
  • Stock Footage: The series utilizes footage from documentaries, old movies, and cartoons.
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