"The Longest Night: A Winter's Tale" isn't your traditional planetarium show. Images of constellations across the sky are fleeting, but the story focuses on an astronomical event - the winter solstice.
And, just by coincidence, my daughters and I caught this movie - a collaboration between Morehead Planetarium and Science Center in Chapel Hill and Paperhand Puppet Intervention - on the actual winter solstice, Dec. 21.
The movie focuses on the story of a young girl, who comes from a family of traveling storytellers. They've stopped for the night in a village that is struggling after a poor harvest. The girl and her grandparents have set up camp on that cold winter night outside their wagon. The girl journeys into the forest to find wood for a fire to keep them warm.
During her hike, she comes across a dragon's nest, the home of an old women and more, including a discovery that might just save the village.
The movie plays across the screen of Morehead's fulldome theater. Live-action puppets - elaborate masks and other pieces worn by actors - perform the central roles. Animation adds to the action. The Paperhand Band wrote the original music for the show, which was released in 2012.
It's a slow, quiet, calm movie that pulls in lessons about courage, generosity and the annual renewal that happens during winter. My kids - ages 6 and 10 - both really enjoyed it.
Morehead rates the movie best for kids ages 7 and up as there are a few tense or scary moments as the girl encounters the dragon and old women, but they pass by pretty quickly. (Nothing traumatic happens!).
After the show, a Morehead staffer will take you through a quick show of the stars, planets and constellations in the sky.
"The Longest Night" runs less than an hour. It's scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays through at least Feb. 21. Tickets to Morehead's shows are $7.68 for adults and $6.51 for kids. You can add additional shows to your same-day ticket for $3.26 each. For younger kids, "One World, One Sky" and "Magic Tree House Space Mission" are a lot of fun.
Morehead also features regular free Science Live shows, which are fantastic.