Dec 16, 2018 Posted by in DVD/Blu-ray, Reviews | Comments

This past week Mill Creek released its first two 4K Ultra HD releases, two IMAX nature documentaries. One of these is Journey to the South Pacific, originally produced in 2013. Narrated by Cate Blanchett, the documentary follows the adventure of 13-year-old Jawi, who heads on a journey away from his home for the first time, to explore the reefs of West Papua. The Kalabia is a floating school that visits the island to teach the younger islanders about their ocean and heritage, and how to care for the reef to make sure it is sustainable for generations to come. The big fish and sea turtles have been disappearing from the reef at an alarming rate, due to poachers and developers. So for the next 2 months, Jawi will participate in a tour of these 9 islands between the Indian and Pacific oceans to learn what can be done to help repair this damage.

Over the course of this journey, we see the children playing games to learn about how the coral feeds. Then we head under the sea to see lined sweetlips fish, manta rays, and schools of anchovies whizzing through the ocean like a wall of water. We also see islanders planting mangroves to try to protect against rising sea levels. In Wermon, the last stand of the Pacific leatherback turtle, we head onto the beach to witness one of these few remaining 500 pound leatherback turtles laying her eggs, and then watch as the tiny hatchlings make their dangerous trek into the ocean. On another island, Andy and Merit Miners work with the islanders to protect the area. They have set up a tourist resort for divers, using the profits to set up patrols to stop the dynamiting and overfishing that had once nearly decimated the local fish population. And for the final stop of the journey, Jawi swims with 40-foot whale sharks.

I found the film to be both interesting and informative, in addition to providing some beautiful sights. The overall message of this documentary is to call us to take action to save our oceans and reefs from over-fishing and poaching before it’s too late. It showcases examples of how things are already being implemented in West Papua with success, and shows how the next generation of islanders is embracing this. There are also some really fun moments, such as a montage of the melodic sounds the fish make as they sing under the sea.

This release marks Mill Creek’s first foray into 4K Ultra HD, and it looks and sounds wonderful. The picture is incredibly detailed, with bright, beautiful colors—there are some pretty stunning sights throughout the documentary. I viewed the picture both with and without the HDR enabled, and there is there is a definite enhancement with the HDR enabled. From the beautiful blue oceans and various sea creatures that dwell there, to the orange glow of the sunsets as they are reflected on the ripples of the oceans, the colors look so much brighter and richer with the 4K HDR. The colors of the plants and sea creatures come alive, and this wide palette is especially noticeable when we first arrive in West Papua and see the gathering of the residents with their colorful wardrobes and pastel houses. The 4K picture provides a lot of detail, especially as we head into the reefs, and get close to some of the sea creatures. Textures are extremely well-defined. A lot of the behind-the-scenes featurettes showcase the fact that they used 3D IMAX cameras to film this. It would have been great if Mill Creek had also included the 3D version of the film, like many of the other IMAX releases that we have previously reviewed from Shout! Factory.

The DTS:X soundtrack is quite nice. The narration is pretty much isolated to the center speaker, while the rest of the channels are utilized to provide some ambiance. Like many other MacGillivray Freeman documentaries, this film makes use of lots of uplifting music. However, instead of the usual pop songs, all of the music is inspired by West Papua, including a native song that’s sung by Jawi and his friends at the beginning of the film.

As for bonus materials, the release includes a trailer for the film and 25 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes. The 4K and Blu-ray discs come packed in a standard UHD keepcase with a cardboard slipcover. The case includes an insert with instructions on how to redeem a Digital copy of the film.

What’s Included:

Film: (39:47)

    4K Ultra HD:

    • 2160p / Widescreen 1.78:1
    • HDR
    • Audio: English DTS:X, Spanish DTS:X, French DTS-HD Master Audio
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French


    • 1080p / Widescreen 1.78:1
    • Audio: English DTS:X, Spanish DTS:X, French DTS-HD Master Audio
    • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

    Digital HD (Redemption code subject to expiration. Code may not be valid after 12/31/2018):

    • Digital HD Copy of the film redeemable via Mill Creek Watch
      The code also unlocked a digital copy of A Beautiful Planet—I’m not sure if that was a glitch or not.


  • Trailer (1:50)
  • Featurette (4:33)
    Behind-the-scenes look at the making of the documentary. Director Greg MacGillivray, producer Shaun MacGillivray, and directory of photography Brad Ohlund talk about filming in West Papua, centering the story around Jawi, filming the large leatherback turtles and whale sharks, working with Cate Blanchett, and more.
  • Webisodes
    Collection of short behind-the-scenes featurettes. Featuring interviews with director of photography Brad Ohlund, director of 2D underwater photography Howard Hall, aerial photographer Michael Kelem, producer Shaun MacGillivray, Kalabia teacher Warda Amir, Kalabia advisor Angela Beer, lead researcher Barbara MacGillivray, director Greg MacGillivray, first camera assistant Robert Walker, and music composer Steve Wood. Select from:

    • Film, Sweat and Tears (4:23)
      The filmmakers discuss the challenges of traveling with a giant, heavy camera and dealing with the rapidly-changing weather.
    • The Floating Classroom (3:30)
      A look at the Kalabia ship and some of the lessons the children are taught aboard this floating classroom.
    • Last Stand of the Leatherback Turtle (4:35)
      The filmmakers discuss the challenging but rewarding experience of filming the leatherback turtles.
    • Swimming with Whale Sharks (3:50)
      The filmmakers discuss the awe-inspiring but initially terrifying experience of swimming with the whale sharks.
    • Music of West Papua (4:17)
      A look at composing the music for the film, gathering inspiration from the local music, musicians and instruments.


Final Thoughts:

My Rating
Worth a Look

Journey to the South Pacific is a solid first foray into 4K Ultra HD for Mill Creek. It is a beautiful-looking and thought-provoking documentary that provides a stunning, detailed picture, and a delightful island soundtrack. The release also includes a nice selection of behind-the-scenes bonus features and a digital copy. Instead of being a straightforward look at nature, it weaves a narrative around the life of this West Papuan boy named Jawi. This is worth a look for fans of nature documentaries.