Ken Burns, Dayton Duncan and PBS: Thanks for the documentary
In September, 2009, a new PBS opus from filmmaker Ken Burns arrived in the form of a 12-hour documentary series entitled “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” This fascinating 12-hour history of America’s national park system spans the pivotal era of 1851 to 1980; watching it over six consecutive nights, it affected me profoundly (just ask my family members and friends). Inspired by America’s glorious national parks, the film’s riveting, masterfully written and edited stories hooked me heart and soul. Dayton Duncan wrote and co-produced the series and co-wrote the Alfred A. Knopf companion book with Ken Burns, and he shares many memorable, inspirational contributions on screen, along with many other important interview subjects. Peter Coyote narrates, and my old friend Tom Hanks voices several central characters; you’ll also hear Adam Arkin, Philip Bosco, Kevin Conway, Andy Garcia, John Lithgow, Josh Lucas, Carolyn McCormick, Campbell Scott, George Takei, Eli Wallach and Sam Waterston. The complete DVD box set available from PBS Home Video features “making of” footage and an interview with Burns and others involved in the film.
Just before the film’s debut, Mike Hale wrote these words about it for The New York Times: In what feels very much like a thesis statement near the end of the 12 hours, an American Indian park superintendent says: “America is not sidewalks. America is not stores. America is not video games. America is not restaurants.”
As viewers learn, the point of this epic cross-media cultural event is that America is these one-of-a-kind sacred places we have in our country, and it is our privilege to enjoy them, and our responsibility to protect and honor them. In tribute to the filmmakers and individuals behind this project and its subject-matter — all the way back to John Muir, Abraham Lincoln, John D. Rockefeller, Theodor Roosevelt, and countless characters whose experiences have shaped the fate of areas like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Teton and so many more unique American treasures — my family committed to following their footsteps. We picked the date of June, 2012, and started making plans. At last, on June 29, we will arrive at the entrance to Yellowstone.
I’ll share more information about this film and updates from our travels here and on my personal blog at www.rkdarnell.com. I’m especially grateful to many very understanding clients and colleagues, and some ace individuals holding down the fort at home until our return on July 21. Meanwhile, thanks again to the producers of this spectacular effort: This trip is dedicated to you.
Directed by Ken Burns; written by Dayton Duncan; Mr. Burns and Mr. Duncan, producers; Craig Mellish, Julie Dunfey and David McMahon, co-producers; Paul Barnes, supervising editor; Mr. Barnes, Erik Ewers and Mr. Mellish, episode editors; Buddy Squires, Allen Moore, Lincoln Else and Mr. Burns, cinematographers; Peter Coyote, narrator. Produced by Florentine Films and WETA Washington.