When it comes to animals, pandas tend to score high on the cute factor. They look like living, breathing stuffed animals. Sadly though, they are also an endangered species. However, Pandas, the IMAX original film distributed by Warner Bros, shares a heartwarming story about some new ideas to keep these guys roaming around for a long time. And guess what? It’s playing at the Pacific Science Center’s IMAX 3D theater. So round up your panda-loving crew and read on for the deets on this latest family flick.

photo: IMAX/Warner Bros.

A Black and White Movie in Color
Unlike DisneyNature films, Pandas isn’t about the bears living in their natural habitat. Instead, this documentary is about the plight of bears actually trying to get there with the help of some caring humans. The film starts with a little history about the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding in China with Hou Rong, the director of research since 1991. She has the nickname of “Panda Mom” because she has overseen the birth of over 200 pandas, but she wants more for these creatures. She wants to see pandas come back from the brink of extinction and continue living on their own in the wild.

Not Your Average Bear
The film travels to New Hampshire where, for over 20 years, Ben Kilham has been raising orphaned black bears in his home and has been able to successfully release them back into the wild, but not after a lot of time of training. (Psst…Kilham is actually able to go into the woods and find the bears that he raised many years earlier and they still recognize him.) The contrast between his methods and Rong’s is pretty apparent and you’ll see that in the film. He teaches the bears to trust him and then slowly releases them back in the wild. Rong is much more tentative with her training. Back in China, Rong welcomes D. Jake Owens to work with the bears and help to find the first panda with the most stamina that just might transfer over to the wild. That bear is Qian Quian and the rest of the film is footage of Rong and Owens helping her to get ready for the big move.

photo: IMAX/Warner Bros.

A Movie for All Ages
IMAX and Warner Bros. were really smart in the making of Pandas by keeping it interesting for all ages. It’s a documentary that never lags and keeps this true story moving. It’s length is not too long either, it was filmed with 3D technology and it features the voice of Kristen Bell as the film’s narrator (a voice your little Frozen fans will immediately recognize) who says that she was hooked with the project from the very beginning. “They had me at ‘pandas,’” said Bell. And we couldn’t agree more. Her cheery voice is perfect for the film.

Of course, the film is amazing with views that only IMAX is able to capture well, and while your kids may not appreciate the work that went into making this film possible, parents definitely will. Older kids will be fascinated with the story while the younger ones will simply be entertained watching the bears on the big screen. Whether a few weeks or a few years old, these guys never lose their cute factor. Kids will also be able to relate because these guys like to explore, learn and play just like they do.

photo: IMAX/Warner Bros.

Although there are a few “sad” moments in Pandas, they are not overly done. The film does a great job sparing the audience from anything tragic and keeps the tone of the film very light. There’s nothing scary in it and the film refrains from giving any overly preachy environmental message. Both kiddos and their parents will leave with huge smiles on their faces.

Pandas is rated G and opens at the Pacific Science Center’s IMAX theater on April 6. While there is no end date given for this feature, we can expect this one to stay here a while. Pandas will be showing daily at 10:30 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. and also at 1 p.m. on many days throughout the week. Visit the PSC website for exact times and to purchase your tickets online.

photo: IMAX/Warner Bros.

Good to Know
With Pacific Science Center’s IMAX screen, 3D glasses and stadium seating, every seat is guaranteed to be a good one, so there isn’t any reason to arrive at the theater too early.

With the film’s relatively short run time (about 45 minutes), wee ones should be able to sit though this film with minimal fussing.

You don’t need to visit the Pacific Science Center itself to see the film, but if you haven’t done so in a while, why not make a day of it?

Pacific Science Center
200 Second Ave. N.
Seattle, Wa 98109
Online: pacificsciencecenter.org/imax

Cost: $10.75/Adults (16-64); $6.75/Kids (3-5); $8.75/Youth (6-15); $9.75/Seniors (65 & older)

Has your family seen Pandas? Planning to go soon? Tell us what you liked most about the film in the comments below. 

—Jeffrey Totey


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