Ken Burns previews new film in Seattle

Listen to Dave's full interview

Documentary film maker Ken Burns, creator of "The Civil War," is releasing a new series, "National Parks: America's Best Idea."

Burns told KIRO Radio's Dave Ross, "National Parks" isn't a travel diary or nature film, but a true story of people with stars you've heard of: the Roosevelts, John Muir, and John D. Rockefeller.

"What you have is a human drama set against some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth," said Burns.

The film maker, who grew up watching his father develop his own amateur photographs, says the tale of America's national parks is a love story, includes heroes and villains, and addresses huge struggles.

There's no agenda in "National Parks." Burns says he's just trying to tell stories. The 12 hour series starts in 1851 in what is now Yosemite Park and ends in the 1980's in Alaska.

"It was the best idea we ever had. We're in favor of them," said Burns.

Burns' new creation airs on PBS this September, but ticket holders will get a sneak preview Monday night at Benaroya Hall.

"The great responsibility of the historian is to bring the past alive." Since he's a visual historian, the best way to do that is to "treat the photographs with some sense of respect," said Burns.

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