“To the Arctic” 3D is Filled with Adorable Animals Surviving Climate Change (Video)

© Shaun MacGillivray - Protecting the three-year-old twins from hungry male bears.

"They’re cute, threatened and the stars of the new IMAX 3D film from Warner Bros." To the Arctic" opens this Friday, April 20 for Earth Day weekend.

A colorful aurora borealis undulates in 3D and freezing winds whip across the huge 72-foot screen.The survival of a polar bear family is the central story of this documentary, one of 35 IMAX films directed by Academy Award winning Greg MacGillivray (The Living Sea, Dolphins), and produced by his son Shaun. It follows a single mom with twin cubs, amidst rapidly changing conditions, who serves as the model environmentalist when she stands up to a predator instead of trying to outrun it.

Opening on majestic waterfalls along icy cliffs with a sweeping view of gorgeous snowy vistas, it’s easy to forget that the vast wilderness of the arctic is shrinking. The honeyed voice-over of Meryl Streep informs us that the waterfalls are actually glacial ice sheets melting.

She gently delivers the facts and stats, pointing out the climate changes hitting the arctic's frigid landscape are happening twice as fast than the southern latitudes. And it’s having an affect on the resident walrus, caribou, birds, and polar bears.

© Adam Ravetch A herd of walruses in the Rankin Inlet of Baffin Island, Canada.

There's the all-too-familiar image of adorable polar bears' testing out thin ice cracking underfoot, but the film relates the big picture, the consequences of climate change on food scarcity, shrinking landscapes and longer swims, including one bear's nine-day swim to reach the closest ice sheet. From Alaska to Norway, the MacGillivray's spent summers over four years filming, chronicling the changes for wildlife in this wild landscape.

© Barbara MacGillivray - Caribou must race to plains in shorter seasons or risk disease.

Mixed in with incredible imagery, like 400,000 caribou pounding across a 800-mile trek, To the Arctic also shows compelling footage of them facing flooding and insect infestations on their annual migration to reach higher plains, a timeframe cut short by aborted winters and summers lasting a month longer, due to rising temps. The MacGillivray’s intersperse encounters with arctic research teams, such as a couple on foot following the herds.

“The arctic is one of the last truly wild places. But its even more difficult to survive there now,” said Shaun MacGillivray. “Our mission is to inspire people to care about the planet and want to protect it, to convey a sense of urgency and hope,” his father Greg added. With IMAX theaters,15-20 million people can be reached worldwide.

© Shaun MacGillivray - Waterfalls of melting glaciers as the arctic ice pack shrinks.

Amazingly, in a succinct 40 minutes the viewer is awed and alarmed, captivated and inspired by To The Arctic which lays out the extreme conditions and consequences of climate change - shown in all of the arctic's glory. “It's our hope that audiences who see the film will get a sense of wonder for nature and appreciation for this incredible environment,” Greg explains, “and figure out ways to keep it here for the next 2000 years.”

To the Arctic is the first release of the MacGillivray’s One World One Ocean initiative, the winner of Treehugger’s Reader’s Choice for Best Ocean Conservation Campaign.

The organization's 20-year initiative works on restoring and protecting the world’s oceans with educational materials, ways to get involved, an upcoming television series, and more films. The director calls To the Arctic "a door opener."

Tags: Animals | Arctic | Documentaries | Oceans | video

Best of TreeHugger