The science museum where I work recently opened a wonderful film in the IMAX theater called Flight of the Butterflies. This large-format film, available in 3-D in some areas, traces the story of monarch butterfly migration and the man who dedicated his life to discovering just where these fantastic creatures spend their winters. The cinematography is beautiful, and the story-telling is mesmerizing.
The story begins in Texas with a monarch butterfly named Dana, who has just journeyed from her wintering grounds in Mexico. She has mated and is laying eggs on milkweed in the fields, as we turn our attention to young Fred, a boy in Toronto who wonders where all the monarchs go each fall. As Dana and her progeny continue their journey north, Fred grows up to become Dr. Urquhart, who with his wife and family recruit citizen scientists from across the country to tag monarchs and try to trace their journeys.
Though Dr. Urquhart was able to trace the butterflies to Texas, it wasn’t until a man living in Mexico named Ken Brugger contacted him to tell him of a unique discovery that they had their final clue. Ken and his wife Catalina then helped Dr. Urquhart find those elusive wintering grounds, high in the mountains of Mexico. I must admit to a tear or two in my eyes when the grounds were found and the discovery of a tagged monarch confirmed the migration – a culmination of nearly 40 years of research, field work, and hope.
At 44 minutes, this film is long enough to interest adults, and short enough to keep children engaged while they follow the interesting story. The images of butterflies, especially when cast across an enormous IMAX screen, are just breathtaking, and the facts of the movie are clear and correct. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves butterflies, or who admires the tenacity of nature.
You can find theaters showing Flight of the Butterflies (usually at museums or zoos) by visiting the film’s website. The website also provides a great deal of information about how you can help monarchs, with information on planting milkweed and butterfly gardens and suggestions for educators. Have you seen Flight of the Butterflies? Tell us your thoughts on the film in the comments below.