Flight of the Butterflies Treatment Test Report

August 4th, 2015 | EVALUATION

The report is of the treatment of the Flight of the Butterflies IMAX film. 42 individuals participated in four focus groups in two cities and were asked to read the film treatment in advance and were shown a two and a half minute video clip. Participants then completed a four-page questionnaire with open and closed-ended questions, and engaged in an hour-long discussion of the treatment. Survey and focus group questions were designed to elicit audience perspectives on the appeal and scientific content of the script, including discussion of the film concept, use of the large format medium, effectiveness and clarity of the storyline, and identification of areas which are confusing or warrant further development. Ninety eight percent of respondents had an overall positive impression of the film. Thirty-six percent of those were very positive and 64% positive. Only 2% said they had a negative response, and none said very negative. (n=42) Most of the comments following this question were affirmations that the way the script interweaves the personal story of scientists with Monarch science made for an interesting and engaging story. Fred’s personal and scientific journey and the multiple butterfly generations were highlighted in these comments, several of which described these as parallel life cycle stories. Some of these comments included: “I like highlighting the Life of the Biologist along with that of the butterflies,” and “Parallel stories are compelling; it engages emotions, which is very important when trying to create empathy with invertebrates, which are not always loved by people – even butterflies, which have better PR.” Others were impressed by Fred’s life-long pursuit of the butterfly migration and/or the realistic portrayal of the scientific process. For instance, one stated, “I liked the portrayal of a scientist, Fred, from youth through adulthood and also of multiple generations of related butterflies. Realistic science career portrayal – sometimes you have to get lucky and experiments don’t always work first time (e.g., tagging butterflies).” The mystery of the butterfly migration was compelling. For instance, one participant commented, “The plot of tracking the butterflies to their destination was captivating.” Others described the film script as providing “A really good combination of human interest – following the story of Fred, the “citizen scientist”, plus the science facts surrounding the Monarch butterflies – in a slowly unfolding “mystery”,” and as “A fascinating mystery, dramatic story, interesting on both the micro (Fred Urquhart’s dream) and macro (journey of the butterflies and all of the people who contributed to solving the mystery) levels. [And it is] visually beautiful.” However, several reviewers voiced concerns that the story or aspects of the characters were overly sentimental, for instance, “some parts of Fred’s story were sappy. While his story at least seems like it’s intended for kids, it sometimes sells those kids short for recognizing dramatization,” “I also found it predictable and saccharine – Norman Rockwell,” and “I thought the story was very interesting and thought the discovery of the flight path was fascinating. However, I thought the story of Fred as a young man and Dana’s life was a bit cheesy – e.g., Dana was too anthropomorphized; segue way between the two stories a bit abrupt.” Several noted that the film would be visually beautiful. Some of these comments included, “The film [will be] visually beautiful with enough science to help the viewer [overcome] the difficulty that often comes with understanding our natural world,” another noted that the film left a “positive impression because it conveyed the beauty of the forest and the impact and intensity of the myriad butterflies nesting within,” and “I think the images are beautiful – but a bit dark at times. The music is a give-away as to where the butterflies migrate. I think orange butterflies against blue skies would be very beautiful.” Additional comments touched on a range of other topics. For instance, “I’d like to see more about conservation and habitat preservation and use of pesticides,” “I would have liked to learn more about how the Mexicans deal with all those butterflies -- human-butterfly co-existence,” and “I’m concerned that the insects may be over-anthropomorphized, and the role of predators flavored as “bad” or “evil.” ”

Includes instruments.



Team Members

Maryland Science Center, Contributor
Jim O'Leary, Principal Investigator, Maryland Science Center


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1027588
Funding Amount: 3000000

Related URLs

Flight of the Butterflies


Audience: Adults | Evaluators | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Ecology | forestry | agriculture | Life science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Interview Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Survey
Environment Type: Films and IMAX | Media and Technology