Have Twins, Will Travel

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar 3D

Boston, Massachusetts – Now that it’s September, we’re being hit with the hottest heat wave of the summer. (Good thing all the local swimming pools and spray parks are now closed.) The twins were not up for another day at the beach, so I called on another beat-the-heat strategy: air-conditioning.

I offered the boys a choice between two movies showing at the Simons IMAX Theater at the New England Aquarium: one about great white sharks or another about the lemurs of Madagascar. I was astounded (and pleased) when they both chose the latter.

Once we were on our way, they let on that they had already seen a Madagascar movie, and I figured out they were talking about the DreamWorks animated film Madagascar. I knew I was in trouble. I think they saw the sequel Escape 2 Africa with the grandparents, as Twin V was talking about penguins (?). Twin S kept saying “I hope those two funny guys are in it.” I don’t know who those two funny guys are (the red guy and the blue guy), but I was pretty sure they were not going to be in this movie, Island of Lemurs: Madagascar, narrated by Morgan Freeman.

I had to reiterate several times that this was going to be a real movie about the real animals who live on the real island of Madagascar. Got it?


“Are the animals going to talk?”

Anyway, the twins got over it pretty quickly once they were handed their 3D glasses (awesome). Then we watched the trailer on the small screen in the theater lobby, and they were down with it. Those lemurs are totally cute: even my monster-loving, action-adventure crazed kids could not resist them.

File photo of ring-tailed lemurs standing together at the Haifa zoo

As you expect from an IMAX film, Island of Lemurs is gorgeous. The cinematography is just spectacular, capturing the magnificence and devastation of the island and the grace and energy of these unique creatures. The 3D is also excellent, as it often seemed like we could reach out to pet the lemurs (and I caught the twins trying several times).

The film focuses on the loss of the primates’ habitat, which has been reduced by some 90%. The twins really grappled with the burning of the forests, and they were desperate for a happy ending. “Why do they burn the forest? Where do the lemurs go to live? Did all the forest where the lemurs live burn down?”

It was not easy to answer these questions. The twins are very familiar with the Lorax, the Doctor Seuss character who speaks for the trees. But in that case, the truffula trees are cut down by the Once-ler, the greedy industrialist who gets rich from the destruction of the environment. Clearly a bad guy. They get that.

But the Malagasy are not exactly getting rich from selling sneeds. Some 90% of the population lives on $2 a day or less. The forests have been cut down for farming and grazing, but many forests have also been destroyed by fires gone wild. It’s not a sustainable system by any means, but there are no bad guys in this story.

Fortunately, there are good guys.  The film follows the work of scientist Patricia Wright, who has dedicated her life to researching and protecting the rarest species of lemurs. She was critical in the foundation of Ranomafana National Park, and she rediscovered a species of lemurs that was thought to be extinct. This film details her efforts to re-establish a population of highly endangered Greater Bamboo Lemurs in the park.

Apparently, there are nearly 100 species of lemurs on Madagascar, but this film focuses on a half-dozen of them, showing off their communication skills, their survival strategies and their amazing adaptability. Fascinating. And yes, super cute.


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