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Disneynature's Earth (in theaters now) offers children a picture of the planet's diversity by telling the stories of three animal families - a polar bear mom and her two cubs as they first greet the world, a family of elephants trekking across the Kalahari, and a humpback whale and her calf migrating to Antarctica to fill up on krill. Compiled from footage from the BBC's epic series Planet Earth, the film uses cool time-lapse photography to give kids a sense of seasonal changes around the globe, while simultaneously teaching them the hardships faced by animals in each region. Zoom lenses mounted on helicopters capture images never before seen, such as wolves chasing down caribou, and a giraffe taking a bath. By slowing down shots of a cheetah in full pursuit of an antelope, we witness the beauty of that speedster's remarkable gait. Our kids got emotional watching a polar bear struggle to find food in an increasingly watery habitat and didn't find it easy to watch a baby elephant and his mom get separated from their herd while looking for water (they were subsequently reunited). Yet, the veracity of the stories left them with a heightened sense that, as the next stewards of the planet, it's time to get busy and help the Earth.
It will take a global village to solve our planet's troubles and we knew just where to find the hopefulness our kids need to get started. A clever sculpture of a polar bear, with a claw-footed tub as legs and a block of 'ice' as a body, greets visitors as they enter Noah's Ark at the Skirball. Two other gorgeous scuptures -- an endangered Asian elephant and two Grevy's Zebras made from piano keys and wind-turbines -- alert visitors that this will be a visually arresting and deeply thoughtful visit. As we moved through the lushly designed exhibit, a story developed. First, we conducted a storm and thought about how the flood developed; then, we ducked into a ceiling-tall wooden structure, the belly of the Ark, and were greeted by scores of animals peeking from the rafters and walls in matched pairs. In the "Arkade," the kids exploded into play, scampering around an excellent ropes course and picking up puppets to act out stories. A rainbow slowly saturated a wall in the final room, under which kids are encouraged to think about communities working together to solve problems. We spent over an hour playing with many colorful and inventive life-sized puppets and were delighted when a staff member enlivened a flamingo puppet, mimicking that bird with uncanny movement that engaged our kids on an intuitive level. When we emerged into the sunshine, the kids scampered to a water-spritzing rainbow sculpture, where they stood under the sprays and marveled at prismic light refractions. We all felt remarkably restored -- hopeful and happy.
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Noah's Ark at the Skirball
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Contact: www.skirball.org or 310-440-4500
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 12:00-5:00 p.m. and weekends 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Adventure: