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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Echo of the Elephants-The Story of an Elephant Family (1990)

Echo of the Elephants-The Story of an Elephant Family (1990)

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Released 6-Apr-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 1990
Running Time 205
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By None Given

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $24.95 Music Ben Salisbury

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio Varies
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    It takes a special kind of naturalist to dedicate their life to just one animal. Cynthia Moss is one such person. For over 30 years she has lived in and around the elephants of Amboseli National Park in Kenya.

    The result of her devotion is four fascinating documentaries, each about 50 minutes in length, dealing primarily with Echo, the matriarch of one elephant herd, and her struggles over the years to lead the herd through the many dangers they face. With no natural predators (for the adults at least) the elephant would seem to have a charmed life. However, the constant spectre of poaching as well as the harsh seasonal changes and the relentless environment itself make for some real challenges to elephant survival.

    The series begins in 1990 and it appears that the success of the show spawned the other documentaries. Apart from Cynthia, kudos for the show should go to Martyn Colbeck who filmed the whole experience on video. Looking into a world that is both strange and familiar is a revelation. The family are very helpful and maternal. This is no more in evidence than in the first documentary (for convenience I will call them episodes) when Echo gives birth to a calf that has a deformation of its front legs making it difficult to walk. For a portion of the show we are on edge waiting to see whether the calf will survive. He does and becomes Eli, a playful addition to the herd. It is the natural drama that Moss captures that makes this series of documentaries so interesting. Rather than generating drama from animals being eaten by other animals she allows us to see the elephants as a family so that something as small as the search for food assumes high stakes.

    Each of the episodes is narrated by David Attenborough. Cynthia Moss does make voice-over comments at some stages and is clearly the expert on elephants but no-one can match it with Attenborough for animal documentary credibility.

    The episodes are as follows:

Echo of the Elephants

    This episode introduces us to Echo and the rest of the herd. We see the birth and troubles of Eli and the interaction between the herd and the bulls at the time of musth when the bulls come in to fight and mate. The only warning to give about the show is that anyone watching it with pre-teen children better have some birds and bees talk prepared as the gigantic bulls are fairly aggressive and obvious at mating.

Echo of the Elephants: The Next Generation

    This episode, shot in 1994, shows Echo at nearly 50 years of age but still in control of the herd. We see the amazing sight of the family settling down to a group evening slumber, which Cynthia had never observed before. Interestingly, Echo is the last to sleep and the first up when it is time for the herd to move on. A new and adorable calf is born and named Ebony. In an amazing scene she is kidnapped by another herd of elephants. Echo forms a posse and barrels into the rival herd spiriting Ebony out. It is a truly special moment that shows how family orientated the elephants are.

Echo, Ely and Friends: Africa's Forgotten Elephants

    The title of this episode is slightly misleading though the program is no less interesting. It is an Echo spin-off programme as Cynthia travels around Africa to see how elephants get on in other parts. She visits the small jungle elephants and the tall and skinny desert elephants. Finally, she travels to Uganda to see how a community of elephants is rebuilding after the civil war decimated their numbers.

Echo of the Elephants: The Final Chapter?

    This last chapter sees Echo at the end of her days. It was filmed in 2003 when she was approaching 60 which is about the age when elephants die. The question mark in the title emphasizes the battle between the elephants and the Masai tribespeople in the area who tolerate the elephants but will not hesitate to spear one if it interferes with their crops or stock. Still, with people like Cynthia Moss in their corner the elephants stand a good chance of survival.

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Transfer Quality


     Echo of the Elephants is largely presented on DVD in a 1.33:1 transfer that would seem to be consistent with its original aspect ratio. I use the word largely as the last episode is in fact in a widescreen letterboxed transfer with an aspect ratio approximating 1.75:1.

    The visual quality of the episodes is fairly consistent with their time of filming. The first episode is the rawest with fairly appreciable grain. However, this does not detract from the overall viewing experience. As each documentary was filmed a few years apart the technology improves so that the latest, filmed in 2003 is pristine. It should be noted that by the time of the last episode the production techniques had also changed with a greater emphasis on video techniques.

    There are no real defects in the quality of the print apart from the grain and there are no artefacts in the transfer . Ultimately the effect is rather pleasing, albeit lacking in widescreen grandeur.

    There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio for Echo of the Elephants is Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s). This is adequate for a series of films that are principally voiceover with some elephant noises thrown in.

    The music, by Ben Salisbury, is a combination of keyboard and strings as well as some African music. It is a perfect complement to the episodes.

    The elephants appeared to be in trunk sync!


     The DVD does not contain any extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This release appears to be unavailable in Region 1. There is a Region 1 release that combines the first and last episodes.


    Almost four hours is a long time to spend with any family. However, this time with Echo and her herd is well spent. It is a gentle but instructive series of films which serve to bring a closer understanding of elephant culture including some scenes which were truly surprising and dramatic. I feel that I know Echo well enough that I could recognise her in the wild. Given that the last film was made very recently there is probably no need for added features and they are not missed. A recommended release.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, July 21, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo DV-SP300, using Component output
DisplayNEC PlasmaSync 42" MP4 1024 x 768. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJBL Simply Cinema SCS178 5.1

Other Reviews NONE