My oldest daughter and I had an unusual weekend in outer space. We learned about astronomy in ways that were both primitive and modern, first at the aging Wolff Planetarium in Cincinnati and then at the 3-D computer animated feature Fly Me To The Moon.
If you haven’t had a chance to enjoy a classic planetarium show, I highly recommend you do so before such a rarity becomes extinct. The show we saw was in a small room that fit maybe 16 people in a circle around a Zeiss star globe. We sat back in our folding chairs and looked up at a 1950s Clifton neighborhood skyline on the perimeter of a dome ceiling. The program was so classic that even the soundtrack was provided by a tape deck boom box in the middle of the room. Instead of a polished taped narrator, we enjoyed a live presenter who did a great job making it seem professional.
I would avoid taking a 3.5 year old to a classic planetarium show such as the one we went to. She is clearly too young to understand the concept of constellations, and she was constantly pestering me to go. Planetariums are one my favorite places, though, and it was a nice diversion from modernity. If you ever have an occasion to go, I recommend making reservations for one of Wolff’s rare shows.
Fly Me To The Moon was a subtle easy-going animated treat. The spectacle of 3D alone is enough to overwhelm a child’s senses, so I believe it was smart of the animators to chill out on the high-octane energy that comes standard with most animated features. Some critics would call the pace boring, but I call it a welcome change.
The movie patterned itself on the coming-of-age film Stand By Me. Three boys, one of whom is fat, run away on an exciting adventure, coming face to face with realities that they are only starting to understand. But in this movie, the heroes weren’t boys but instead they were flies, and the adventure wasn’t a dead body on train tracks but instead it was the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The actual animation of Apollo 11’s landing with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon was well done. They really seemed to respect the historical detail, and from what I understand, they followed the script of that day pretty closely- with the exception of our insect protagonist stowaways. And even that was addressed in the credits when the flesh and blood Buzz Aldrin himself made a cameo that we all thought was going to comment on the bogus moon hoax conspiracy. “No matter what you may have heard… there were no contaminants (flies) on Apollo 11. It would have been scientifically impossible.”
Sometimes, even the simplest technology of a star globe planetarium can be gratifying and educational. Other times, kicking back and watching animated flies leap out in three dimensions on the moon can be pretty fun too. Having a weekend where I got to do both with my little lady? Priceless.