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IMAX: Flight Of The Butterflies

Shout Factory // Unrated // July 12, 2016
List Price: $39.93 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted July 6, 2016 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Shout! Factory has released three titles for the new 4K Ultra HD format so far and they've all been very good IMAX films. They started with the impressive Journey to Space in June, and this month they are releasing the interesting documentary Rocky Mountain Express that looks at the construction of the first Canadian railroad to cross the Rockies. They are also putting out Flight of the Butterflies in July, and it's the best one so far. The film tells the beautiful and engaging story of a man who devoted his life to the migration patterns of butterflies, and managed to discover something that's fairly amazing. The movie looks great on the 4K disc, but there's also the 3D version included (why won't more studios release 4K/3D combo packs?) that is absolutely stunning.

As a boy in Toronto in the 1920's, Fred Urquhart would play in the fields and forests near his house and notice that at the end of every summer, Monarch butterflies would fly off. He wondered where they went, and his interest in the insects would become his life's work.

After getting his PhD in biology, he became a professor of zoology at the University of Toronto, where he decided to find out where the Monarchs actually went every winter. Through trial and error he eventually developed a way to tag the fragile creatures and, along with his wife Norah, starting tagging them. He eventually struck upon the idea of recruiting "citizen scientists," anyone with an interest in helping out his research, to tag butterflies and report the locations of any tagged Monarchs that they found. The seasons turned into years, and the years became decades, but he finally was able to trace the migration patterns of these butterflies and it's more astounding than he would have originally believed.

This film intercuts the story of Urquhart's research with the migration of a Monarch. They show her starting out in Texas, laying eggs and she flies north, and picks up the story of her daughter, and then her granddaughter. It takes three generations to make the round-trip migrations every year, though a single butterfly makes the Canada-Central Mexico trip.

It's really an amazing migration, and the story of how the route was discovered is just as entertaining as the journey itself. The film does a great job of being wonderful to look at , entertaining, and educational. One of the best IMAX films that I've seen.

The Ultra HD Disc:

Shout! Factory has done a great job with this combo set, it has all: 4K, 3D Blu-ray, and Blu-ray on two discs (the 3D and 2D versions of the film share the same disc).


The 1.78:1 image is quite impressive across all three formats. It's not surprising that the 4K disc looks the best, but an added bonus is that Shout allows viewers the option of either HDR or SDR while watching the UDH disc. This is great for early adopters of 4K sets, as some of those do not have HDR capabilities. The 4K disc was quite impressive, with an astonishing amount of detail and exceptional colors. Everything from the wispy clouds to the scales on a butterfly's wing was clear and sharp. It's a very nice looking disc.

While the 4K disc was gorgeous, the 3D version of the film really wowed me. I've seen a fair amount of 3D movies and this was one of the best as far as pulling the viewer in with a great feeling of depth. The scenes where the Monarchs are fluttering through the trees in a forest are simply beautiful with butterflies going in all directions, appearing to fly in front of and into the screen. Even the close-up shots of a Monarch laying eggs have a nice feeling of dimension, something that is really had to do with small objects. Granted, the image is not quite as sharp and defined as the 4K version, it more than makes up for that with some stunning 3D.


This documentary arrives with a Dolby Atmos (core Dolby TrueHD 7.1) soundtrack. Given the nature of the movie, the mix is not a dynamic in-your-face, window-rattling, blast of sound. It's a more laid back track, with mainly dialog coming from the front and some nicely placed, quite sound effects (butterfly wings flapping, the sounds of insects in a forest) that emerge from the rest of the room. This is an appropriate soundtrack, as anything more would overwhelm the visuals and distract from the movie itself.


There are a couple of bonuses included with the set. First off is a message from the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, which runs a minute and a half. The main extra however is a making-of featurette that runs nearly half an hour. The cast and crew are interviewed, along with the sole surviving member of the team who actually discovered the place where the butterflies stay for the winter. I found some of the filming details quite interesting; especially how they were able to get some of the 3D shots, but it's not overly technical. The extras are rounded out by an image gallery and some trailers.

Final Thoughts:

A truly wonderful film, this educational movie is also lovely to watch and tells an entertaining story. The 4K Ultra HD version is really impressive, but the 3D version is the one to watch. This set comes Highly Recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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