‘Flight of the Butterflies’



Attention all grandparents, busy parents, aunts and uncles — if there’s one motion picture you must take an important child in your life to, it’s Flight of the Butterflies! While we all complain of the horrendous media our kids are subjected to, we must also support important and conscientious productions like this. Flight of the Butterflies, distributed by Warner Brothers, is a cinematic scientific adventure of nature, life and death, mystery of live, beauty and simplicity and a detective story; all in a glorious IMAX experience. Director Mike Slee takes us on a three-generation, 2,500-mile migration trek of the monarch butterfly, first in March, (as colorful caterpillars munch the plentiful milkweeds of Texas), then to Canada and the northern U.S. where the food source continues aplenty and air is cooler in late summer. This generation once again lays eggs, then perishes, where we again follow resulting caterpillars, again munching their way to obesity, quickly entering their chrysalis period, whereby these creatures shed one existence, morphing again into stunningly beautiful butterflies. This generation, much like college kids returning at winter holiday season to ancestral homes, commences on an inconceivable long trek back to an aerie at 10,000 feet high in eastern Michoacán’s mountains, near Angangueo, Mexico. Meanwhile, the quiet milkweed gets a free pollination ride, even more smartly, promoting its species via the butterfly. I feel this film subconsciously teaches our young that we all have an obligation to continue our own marvelous trek, our own bloodline of family, to the betterment of the species. It’s a youthful lesson of unselfishness, that there is a greater purpose in this amazing life experience that connects us all and that there is meaningfulness in our own, sometimes felt, mundane existence.

The film is told via reenactments of Dr. Fred Urquhart’s almost 40-year quest of this amazing wonder, portrayed by Gordon Pinsent, (his wife is played by Megan Follows). He proves this long 100 miles per day trek when he has student scientists marking the wings of butterflies with sticky numbered tape, after being netted individually in northern America; whereby he later finds these same markings high in Michoacán’s sacred grounds. The film was produced by Canadians with financing from Mexico. After seeing this film, many Americans will now include on their bucket list to make their own switch-backed journey to witness the arrival of the Monarchs at the Michoacán aerie, a desolate spot so densely populated by butterflies that the 100-plus foot trees seem to be made of them.

I suggest you consider the 44-minute experience at the IMAX Theater at the Rubin H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park. Allow an extra hour for a visit to the interactive science displays and securing early “center” seats. Also, consider visiting the San Diego Veteran’s Museum and Memorial Center for a local surprise. Make a day of it at Balboa Park, (museum visits, people watching, lunch at the Prado and a movie), truly gems of our great city.

Glenn Palmedo-Smith is a multiple Emmy Award-winning film director, producer and writer. He has also received many national “Best of Fests” awards. He is the author of Discovering Ellis Ruley, Crown Publishing. If you’d like to share comments with the writer, email him at