It's not every day that you get to see polar bears swim gracefully together underwater (or "dancing cheek to cheek" as the narrator describes it). To the Arctic 3D makes you feel as if you are on the chilly top of the world with the animals. It's a real treat on Pacific Science Center's IMAX screen, and it comes with an important message for kids.
To the Arctic 3D is a G-rated documentary about animals struggling to maintain their normalcy with the effects of global warming. It is a survival tale of a mother polar bear and her twin cubs, with narration by Meryl Streep and songs by Paul McCartney.
My kids, ages 5 and 7, enjoyed the antics of the polar bear cubs. They loved watching the cubs wrestle around, nip at each other and roll down the snowy hills. There is a hilarious moment when the family uncovers the camouflaged video cameras (the bears are notoriously camera shy). The cubs seem just like my kids – the female was more daring and the male more careful. The sweet moments with the bear cubs are well worth the price of admission.
Yet this film tackles the animals' survival first and foremost. The hands-down toughest part of the show for my kids was when a male polar bear gets the scent of the young family and follows them devastatingly close (until mama bear's survival instinct comes out). When there aren't seals around to eat, male polar bears go after the cubs. It was unimaginable to my kids, and they were pretty stressed in the frantic moments when the family tries to escape. Thankfully, they are able to get away.
Some of the great 3D moments include a vast glacier with waterfalls pouring off the edge as the ice melts and, of course, the footage of the special polar bear family. The spinning globe right before your very eyes at the beginning of the movie is great too, when Streep suggest that humans may not be able to stop global warming, but can slow it down.
We learn several alarming facts during our time in the theater: polar bears are currently undertaking some of the longest swims ever tracked – nine days, or 430 miles – to find more ice. Summer lasts a month longer now in the arctic. And we see how global warming is affecting other animals, such as caribou and sea anemones.
There were a few times that I worried that the film was going to lose my kids. But just when the going gets tough, the music would pick up and something more lighthearted was shown, such as fat walruses waddling about.
When I asked my kids what they learned from the film, they replied, "When male polar bears get hungry, they sometimes eat the cubs." For them, the travesty of that outweighed the messages about global warming (although they are related).
This is our cue as parents to step in and talk about the bigger messages and the little things we can do at home that make a small difference for these animals. Check out the website One World, One Ocean for some helpful tips. The message can't come soon enough.
IF YOU GO
Where: Boeing IMAX Theater at Pacific Science Center, 200 2nd Ave. N., Seattle Center.
When: Daily showings now through the end of the summer.
Cost: Adults $10.50, youth (ages 6 to 15) $8.50, children (ages 3 to 5) $7.50, and children younger than 3 are free.
Contact: 206-443-4629; www.pacificsciencecenter.org.