Animals are invading Exploration Place – at least on screen. In partnership with the Tallgrass Film Association, three animal-themed movies will be shown during a pint-sized film event this Saturday. The third annual Smallgrass Film Festival offers children a chance to experience imaginative cinema in the venue’s dome theater.
“Smallgrass is really for families,” said Christina Bluml, Exploration Place’s director of marketing. “We really want to get families to have that theater experience, especially the young ones when they’re learning how to be in the theater, behave in the theater, and learning not to be scared of the dark. This event really gets them oriented into the whole experience. We hope that cultivates a love of film and that someday they’ll be going to events that Tallgrass puts on for adults.”
The festival will screen three different movies that each appeal to a different age-range. There will also be activities related to each film that kids can take part in between screenings.
“Animalopolis,” which is recommended for ages 2 and up, is a lighthearted glimpse into the animal kingdom. With hippos grazing and bears dancing and sea lions doing somersaults, it’s designed to demonstrate the humorous side of nature. The film will be shown at 10 a.m. and then again at 4:15 p.m. Also screening is the popular mid-’90s film “Babe,” which stars a talking pig who fights convention to learn how to herd sheep. Appropriate for ages 5 and up, the film screens at 11:15 a.m. The day will be rounded out by a 2:15 p.m. screening of “Belle and Sebastian,” an independent film with a more serious edge. The plot follows a boy and his dog as they try to foil a Nazi plan to capture resistance fighters from France. It’s suggested for ages 7 and older.
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“There’s an abundance of, thought-provoking and entertaining films that are made for younger viewers,” said Lela Meadow-Conner, Tallgrass Film Association’s executive director. “Kids and families should have the opportunity to see unique films that are outside the mainstream, in a classic movie theater setting. … We’re so fortunate with Smallgrass to have an opportunity to foster the next generation of cinema aficionados and to demonstrate to the smartphone and tablet-wielding generation the value of communal movie going.”
Bluml said that the theme of the festival was chosen because Exploration Place will launch its Wildlife Rescue exhibit the following week. While they’ve hosted the festival before, this is the first time that their Boeing Dome Theater will screen films in conjunction with it. “Animalopolis,” which debuts during the festival and will then play at Exploration Place regularly for the next year, is a film formatted specifically for dome theaters, but tweaks in technology were required to show the other two. Bluml said that their projection is now up to “Tallgrass standards” and will allow for a quality-viewing experience of all three movies.
“Our dome theater here at Exploration Place is actually the largest dome theater in Kansas,” she said. “This is one way for us to get the dome theater out there to people. It’s an immersive, really cool theater experience.”
Bluml sees Smallgrass as building on the momentum that the Tallgrass Film Association has created with its annual Tallgrass Film Festival, which showcases independent films during a multi-day festival each October.
“I think Lela and the staff at Tallgrass have a great vision in trying to show that film can be appreciated by many different people, starting with the very youngest of filmgoers to the very oldest,” Bluml said. “Film can speak to people, no matter the age. Tallgrass does a great job of showcasing the value of that art. They foster that appreciation of being able to go into a theater … and just really be able to get that complete enjoyment that you have when you see the film.”
If you go
Smallgrass Film Festival
What: A family-friendly film festival for the young and young at heart presented by Exploration Place and the Tallgrass Film Association
When: Films and activities from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Film times are: “Animalopolis” at 10 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., “Babe” at 11:15 a.m., and “Belle and Sebastian” at 2:15 p.m.
Where: Exploration Place’s Boeing Dome Theater, 300 N. McLean
Tickets: $7 general admission and $5 for Exploration Place members for one film plus admission to activities and exhibits. $2/person for each additional film. Children 2 and under get in free, 316-660-0620