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Burns’ ‘The National Parks’ premieres Sunday on AETN Network hosts live premiere party beginning at 5 p.m.

Posted 24 Sep 2009

The National Parks: Americas Best Idea, directed and produced by Burns and Dayton Duncan, explores the history, struggle and adventure surrounding National Park lands.

Over six years in the making, this epic 12-hour film, similar to Burnss exploration of other American inventions such as baseball and jazz, focuses on the uniquely American idea that the most special places in the nation should be preserved for everyone. Filmed in 53 locations, ranging from the Virgin Islands to the Arctic Circle, the film tells the story of people from every conceivable background who devoted themselves to preserving the nations most spectacular landscapes and helped their fellow citizens appreciate the full meaning of democracy.

In addition to Peter Coyotes narration, The National Parks: Americas Best Idea features first-person voices read by some of Americas greatest actors. Tom Hanks reads the voices of several characters in the film, including Congressman John F. Lacy, who helped push a bill through Congress to protect Yellowstones last wild buffalo herd. Other voices include Andy Garcia, Josh Lucas, Eli Wallach, Campbell Scott, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow, George Takei, Philip Bosco, Carolyn McCormick, Adam Arkin and Kevin Conway.

I think weve always been curious about who we are as a people and what it means to be an American, Burns said. I think the land and our identity with it, the mythology that surrounds it, the kind of hopes and dreams that we invest in it, get to the heart of that identity.

The National Parks: Americas Best Idea will air in six parts:

·        The Scripture of Nature, 1851-1890, Sept. 27.

·        The Last Refuge, 1890-1915, Sept. 28.

·        The Empire of Grandeur,1915-1919, Sept. 29.

·        Going Home, 1920-1933, Sept. 30.

·        Great Nature, 1933-1945, Oct. 1.

·        The Morning of Creation, 1946-1980, Oct. 2.

Episodes will air twice each night beginning at 7 for this initial broadcast.

In conjunction with the film, AETN will present a live premiere event, Arkansas Parks: Past, Present, Future, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sept.27 preceding the first episode. Host Tommy Sanders will count down to the premiere with such guests as Arkansas State Parks officials and superintendents from Arkansass National Park Service sites. AETN will announce winners in the Arkansas State & National Parks Amateur Photo Contest and unveil the new parks exhibit in the AETN atrium.

Other special programming during the afternoon includes: Arkansas State Parks: 75 Years Making Memories at 2:30, the story of how the Arkansas state park system has developed and evolved; The Buffalo Flows at 3, the history and love of Americas first national river; and Exploring Arkansass National Parks at 4, a special presentation of Exploring Arkansas with host Chuck Dovish as he visits Arkansass current National Park Service sites. Films may be purchased by calling AETN at 800-662-2386.

The premiere event, photo contest and atrium exhibit are all part of AETNs Arkansas State & National Parks Initiative, which also includes an Arkansas State & National Parks Passport, Story Share, photo gallery and online activities for kids. For more information about AETNs Arkansas State & National Parks Initiative visit

The Parks Passport is a colorful booklet designed by AETN intended to be a fun and educational way to learn about Arkansas parks and encourage people to visit them throughout the year. Six National Park Service sites in Arkansas and six Arkansas State Parks are featured in the passport. AETN encourages individuals to order a free passport and visit any of the 12 featured parks to receive a stamp at the visitors center. Participants can then receive prizes for visiting any four, eight or all 12 of the highlighted parks. Passports may be ordered by visiting or calling 800-662-2386.

The National Parks: Americas Best Idea is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C. Corporate funding is provided by General Motors and Bank of America. Major funding is provided by Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund; Park Foundation, Inc.; PBS; National Park Foundation; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, Inc.; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Arkansas PBS ( provides lifelong learning opportunities, improves and enhances Arkansans lives and celebrates the unique culture of Arkansas through its programming and services. AETNs digital transmitters and numerous cable system connections give it statewide reach.