In retrospect, an IMAX 3-D presentation of a South African safari wasn’t, perhaps, the best choice for Ian’s first movie-going experience.
We’d been flirting with the idea of taking Ian to a movie for over a year, but could never quite bring ourselves to do it. Ian doesn’t have much of an attention span when it comes to most movies, and most movies are expensive. Plus, I rarely get to visit the theater, and I, selfishly, didn’t want to have to walk out in the middle of a film.
We thought that The Goblet of Fire might be a good introduction. However, I knew that if the film looked anything like Prisoner of Azkaban, Ian would, at the very least, sleep with his eyes open for the rest of his life. Not to mention the therapy. Which is also expensive.
Enter New Year’s weekend, 2005, and an impromptu jaunt to Kansas City.
On Sunday afternoon, we visited Union Station and this year’s Holiday Village, a 2,400-square-foot G-Scale model train display. Ian loves trains, and Thomas the Tank Engine – this display had both. He knelt on the floor, face wedged between the slats of the picket-fence, and waited anxiously for Thomas to appear from the tunnel. Ian shouted, ‘Hi, Thomas!’, and raced the engine to the opposite side before it disappeared into another tunnel. He ran back to the first tunnel, and started the whole cycle again. And again. And again. Woe to any adult who forgot to look down.
Eventually, we made our way to the lower levels of Union Station for Wild Safari 3D. Lions, elephants, leopards, and, as we were to find out, deadly, deadly buffalo leaping from the screen. I don’t know what we were thinking.
Ian loved the 3-D glasses. He liked the screen, too; a massive, five-storey-high blank canvas, just waiting to be painted. The crowd was buzzing, everyone wearing Elton-John-esque glasses on their heads, Mommy striking movie-poster poses for ‘Amazing!’ and ‘A Must-See!’…how exciting! And then the lights dimmed.
You have to understand that IMAX films, by the very nature of their medium, are designed to be
overwhelming coma-inducing. They are not subtle. You don’t see many IMAX presentations of Bob Ross, for example. Audiences want, and expect, to be possessed by a film, regardless of almost certain and significant mental, visual, and auditory damage. Now multiply that by three dimensions.
I don’t know what we were thinking.
Ian likes maps and globes. He simply thinks that five-storey versions of the Earth, flying toward one’s face, are a bit much. Ian caught one glimpse of Asia at mach-six, ripped the 3-D glasses from his face, and, screaming, climbed onto Grammy’s head.
I quickly whispered to my mother-in-law that I’d take him out of the theater- part of me wanted to reduce any further risk of dementia, the other, larger part just wanted to hold my son. Ian wasn’t going anywhere. So we sat, whispering to Ian about the animals. ‘Aw, see the baby elephant?’ ‘Look, there’s a leopard, in that tree! She’s sleeping.’ ‘Oooh, a giraffe!’
And so forth.
Despite his primal fear and the discomfort of watching a five-storey 3-D film without 3-D glasses, Ian actually started to enjoy himself. By the time our safari reached the lions, he was smiling and giggling, and had shirked all attempts at physical comfort from Grammy.
Near the end, as the female lions sauntered into the fading sunset (to engorge themselves on a half-eaten carcass), Ian sat up straight. ‘Hi, lion! What’s your name?’