From surf-battered rainforests and big-sky plains to wind-carved desert stone and majestic mountain ranges, Mother Nature painted the geologic canvas of the United States with truly wild abandon.
The history of America was written, in no small part, by people driven by the need to chase the horizon’s edge. But those who have spent time in nature — in the rugged back country or just a nearby city park — often find that this quintessentially American pursuit is as much about self-discovery as filling in the blank spaces on the map.
Into America’s Wild 3D, the latest IMAX adventure by MacGillivray Freeman Films, celebrates how time in the outdoors can reveal as much about yourself as the world around you. Audiences can experience this thrilling virtual tour at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater beginning on Feb. 12.
Into America’s Wild’s filmmakers say they hope it inspires viewers to embark on their own adventures after taking a whirlwind cinematic trip to incredible settings like the endlessly lush Appalachian Trail, the rugged red rock canyons of the Southwest and the wave-notched coves of the Pacific coastline’s “Kelp Highway.”
“America’s wilderness is special, partly because people think they know it, and there’s just so much more to discover,” says Director Greg MacGillivray. “We filmed all over the United States to get the beauty and the inspirational magic of America’s wild.
“Every time I sit down and watch one of our films in an IMAX theater, I get that same sensation I got while I was there shooting it. That’s what I want to convey to the audience: that wonder of being there.”
Whether they’re drifting above the desert in a hot air balloon, zip lining above Colorado’s Arkansas River Canyon or taking in the planet from the International Space Station, audiences are led along their journey by the unmistakable voice of Academy Award-winner Morgan Freeman.
“What I love about these films is that they take you to places that most of us never visit, places like the wilds of Alaska or rock climbing up a 400-foot cliff in Utah or running with wild horses in Canyon de Chelly,” says Morgan, who also served as narrator to MacGillivray Freeman’s 2018 film, America’s Musical Journey 3D. “IMAX has the power to put you in these places and make you feel like you’re actually there. I’m excited to get to be a part of it.”
Although the film’s sweeping views of wild places are its marquee attraction, its heart and soul are undoubtedly its human leads:
- John Herrington is the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to serve as an astronaut. A member of the Chickasaw Nation, he was a mission specialist on STS-113 in 2002 and took part in three spacewalks amounting to about 20 hours outside Space Shuttle Endeavour.
- Ariel Tweto is an Alaskan bush pilot, public speaker and star of Discovery Channel’s Flying Wild Alaska. Full of boundless energy and optimism, she is an avid advocate for young people, particularly Alaska’s indigenous youth.
- Jennifer Pharr Davis is a celebrated hiker who set the standing record for completing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. In 2011 at age 21, she completed the 2,608-mile journey in 46 days, an average pace of 47 miles per day. She has hiked the entire trail three times.
The incredible moments the hosts experience in a parade of larger-than-life locales helps drive home the film’s message about how falling in love with the great outdoors can be life-altering, MacGillivray says.
“We set out to show North America’s infinite beauty, but the film became even more about the magic that nature can work on every one of us,” the director says. “Every American trail can be the spark for someone to fall in love with nature. Every trail can be the place where today’s kids learn how to be tomorrow’s trailblazers and guardians of nature.”
With hiking, camping and other outdoor activities largely accepted as healthy, socially distant ways to exercise and relieve stress, the time is ripe for audiences to enjoy a heartfelt film that celebrates the restorative side effects of time spent in nature.
Scientific studies have measured the positive psychological impact of time spent in the wilderness.
A 2015 study by the National Academy of Science found that, compared with those who spent time exclusively in an urban setting, participants who went for walks in a natural area experienced reduced anxiety, better cognitive function and measurably lower activity in the region of the brain associated with depression.
Another study by the University of Kansas and University of Utah in 2012 found that Outward Bound students who spent four days backpacking in the woods were significantly better problem solvers. The students who spent the time unshackled from their electronic devices scored 50 percent better on a creativity test than a control group.
The revelations, discoveries and reflection that take place in the wild are the ultimate antidote to the perennial digital distraction of modern life, a condition some experts call “nature deficit disorder.”
“By getting kids out in the world, you can really give them a different perspective on their lives and the world around them,” says Dr. Brooke Gorman, the Aquarium’s Director of Science Education. “Connecting with nature is important because it helps us feel grounded and more relaxed. It helps us to step away from the screens and really engage with the world around us and with each other.”
Presented locally by Tennessee State Parks, Into America’s Wild 3D will fuel a passion for exploring the magnificent waterfalls, rugged hiking trails, and scenic vistas that span the state from T.O. Fuller State Park near Memphis to Roan Mountain State Park near Johnson City. With 56 state parks in Tennessee, there’s an adventure for every type of outdoor enthusiast. Each park and season will offer something new to discover; from vibrant spring blooms that give way to verdant greenways and eventually fall colors and snowy scenes. Spend a night under the stars in a campground, cabin or Lodge room and experience the natural beauty of Tennessee State Parks.
Beginning Feb. 12, Into America’s Wild 3D will be screened daily at the Tennessee Aquarium IMAX 3D Theater. For more information about the film, the theater’s health and safety policies or to order tickets, visit https://www.tnaqua.org/imax.
This family-friendly film has a run time of 40 minutes and was produced with support from Brand USA, Expedia, and United Airlines.