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Beavers

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 21 2004 3:08 p.m. MST

This 1988, large-format documentary takes audiences into a world rarely seen by most of us. It's an up-close (and very large) look at the adventures of one of nature's most industrious creatures — the beaver.

Essentially, the film is a throwback to Walt Disney's landmark (and Oscar-winning) "True Life Adventure" series in the mid-1950s. What Disney's "Living Desert" did for snakes and scorpions in 1953, the Quebec-based Stephen Low Productions does for the furry, paddle-tailed rodent.

A team of IMAX photographers, assisted by wildlife consultant William Carrick, follows two beavers through their construction of a dam on a stream in a remote valley of the Canadian Rockies. As the dam grows (along with the beavers' little family), the emerging pond creates a new ecosystem for plants, fish, waterfowl and other animals, including such predators as bears and foxes.

There is beautiful underwater photography, plunging you right into the nooks and crannies of the dam. There are shots of the beavers gnawing on aspen trees (they are known to fell nearly 400 trees each year in the area immediately around their ponds).

It's cleverly tagged "the biggest dam movie ever made." That might be a slight exaggeration, but "Beavers" is timed to be just long enough for most youngsters' brief attention spans — and it's packed with plenty of interesting activity, both on land and under the water.

As the cycle continues — foraging and stockpiling food for the winter, and raising their young in the spring — some offspring leave the pond in search of their own new space, and possibly a suitable mate. But one young beaver beats a hasty retreat when one potential mate turns out to be . . . a skunk.

For this production, the Imax crews developed a ground-level camera dolly, providing a beaver's-eye-view of the action.


E-MAIL: ivan@desnews.com

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