Current Weather
The Spy FM

‘Flight’: A Few Million Little Creatures That Could

Filed by KOSU News in Art & Life.
October 1, 2012

A young boy in Canada wondered where butterflies go in the winter — and spent 40 years trying to answer that question.

In 1973, Dr. Fred Urquhart — all grown up by then — placed an ad in a newspaper in Mexico looking for volunteers to tag and observe butterflies and find their destination. A woman named Catalina Aguado and her American husband, Kenneth Brugger, answered that ad. They spent two years searching in remote parts of Mexico.

“We were free-spirited, both of us, and we loved the adventure, so we never felt discouraged,” Aguado said. “We had a jeep, we used a motor home, we went on horses. You know, a very difficult task, but we loved the idea.”

Finally, she and her husband came upon a sanctuary in the forest, where they found of hundreds of millions of butterflies.

“I just called at him, ‘I see them! I see them!’ And of course, after that, we went silent,” Aguado remembers.

Now, more than 35 years later, documentarian Mike Slee has written, produced and directed Flight of the Butterflies, a 3-D IMAX film about the migration of the monarch to sanctuaries like the one Aguado and Brugger came upon in Mexico.

“What you see, you can’t imagine nature ever being like this,” Slee says. “Trees that are draped — that are made, almost, of butterflies. It’s got a surreal, supernatural feeling to it. It sends a sort of tingle up your spine when you see it in 3-D. And then they wake up and they all begin to fly.”

The migration of the monarch butterfly is a staggering natural phenomenon. It takes two or three generations for the creatures to make their way north to Canada — but then one “supergeneration” makes the 2,000-mile trip back to Mexico for the winter.

And distance isn’t the only thing the delicate creatures have to contend with. Inclement weather, deforestation and human threats like plows and crop-dusters also speckle their route southward.

The filmmakers faced challenges of their own. Slee and his team considered balloons, helicopters and cables for filming. Ultimately, they used a 70-foot crane to get up close.

“We can see the scales on the wings of the butterfly,” he says. “We can see the punk hairstyle on the butterfly. And it’s — for the scientists it’s been amazing watching their reaction, because they’ve never been able to look so closely at the living animal.”

Aguado was transported by the experience of revisiting her quest in 3-D. She says this new film is able to communicate what her words never could.

“After, what, 36 years? I can say wonderful, fantastic and glorious — and whatever other words, but I cannot describe the feeling. It was magical,” Aguado says. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

9PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center