CU students’ work makes it to the big screen

The work of a talented group of University of Colorado Boulder students and staff will be making it to the big screen this weekend. The really big screen -- in fact, a more than 20-meter dome.

When Kiki Lathrop started at Fiske Planetarium her freshman year, she knew that one day she might be involved in the production of shows for the facility. Little did she know that her senior year would see her working on the national premiere of the new planetarium show “Max Goes to the Moon,” based on the award-winning children’s book by local author and former CU-Boulder faculty member Jeffrey Bennett.

The film will have its public premiere on Saturday, March 17, at 2 p.m. at CU-Boulder’s Fiske Planetarium. Tickets range from $3.50 to $6.

Lathrop, an anthropology major, was responsible for processing and gathering the images for the new planetarium show. The “Max” series of books are known for their combination of engaging science education, storytelling and visuals.

In “Max Goes to the Moon,” the series’ dog hero Max the Rottweiler inspires the first manned moon mission since the Apollo era. His adventures inspire the Earth, leading to the development of a moon colony. Space-science rich, the film is particularly suited to a planetarium environment and is designed for a kindergarten through fifth grade audience.

Carson McDonough, another of the CU students on the production team, was the head video editor and animator on the project. A senior film major with a minor in technology, arts and media, McDonough was excited to find an on-campus job that directly reflected his career interests.

“I’m very excited to have a professional-level movie under my belt,” McDonough said. “Being able to work on campus for a job in my degree field is awesome.”

Funded in part by NASA through the NASA Lunar Science Institute and the Lunar University Network for Astrophysics Research, the goal of the project was to bring the science and story to life for planetarium audiences. At a preview screening for the administration at the NASA Ames Research Center earlier this month, reviews were enthusiastic.

“This project is in step with NASA’s directive to educate and excite the next generation of scientists and explorers,” said Doug Duncan, director of Fiske Planetarium. “I am so proud and excited for the team that has brought this book to life for planetarium audiences.”

The new planetarium program will be ready for free distribution to planetariums around the world after its Boulder premiere. Facilities in states including Alabama, Indiana, Wisconsin and Virginia already have made arrangements to show the new program, which also has been picked up by a planetarium in Israel.

Jeffrey Bennett, the author of “Max Goes to the Moon,” is a Colorado-based astrophysicist and former NASA scientist. He is well-known for the scientifically accurate “Max” series, and has also written college textbooks on mathematics, statistics, astronomy and astrobiology. Bennett will attend the premiere and will be on hand to sign copies of the book.

NASA astronaut Alvin Drew will attend the premiere as a special guest and will host a meet and greet and autograph session as part of the festivities. Tickets for the event can be purchased by calling the Fiske Planetarium box office at 303-492-5002.

Matthew Benjamin, 303-492-4073
Douglas Duncan, 303-735-6141
Erin Frazier, 303-492-8384