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Polar Express 4D at the National Aquarium

Polar Express 4D at the National Aquarium

Childhood classic

The Polar Express

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has seen many iterations in the last 25 years. It appeared in 1985 as a wonderfully illustrated book by Chris Van Allsburg, and won the 1986 Caldecott Medal for children's literature. The pencil illustrations turned computer animated with the release of the

and simultaneously jumped into 3D with an IMAX version. In 2007, the

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began airing a so-called 4D version, which might more aptly be called a "3D Sensory Experience" or a "3D Film With Stuff Blown at Your Face"—which, quite simply, is exactly what it is. (This presentation strategy isn't, by any stretch, a new concept: 4D started 24 years ago, when

Captain EO

aired at the Epcot Center, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland in 1986.) If you grew up on the book and loved it, you probably enjoyed the movie at least for its nostalgic value, which means you'll probably enjoy the 4D version, if you're any kind of a fun person at all. Here's what happens: You sit in the small-ish 4-D Immersion Theater, likely surrounded by kids whose ages have yet to reach two digits and parents snapping endless cell phone shots of their offspring in 3D glasses. You watch the movie, just like you would in any theater, but you get bombarded throughout with water-spraying, seat-rumbling, evergreen-smelling nonsense that is way more fun than you'll want to admit from a kiddie show. In fact, judging from the quite present screams of children at the press event—"I don't want to be here!", "Let me off!" (direct quotes)—it might be more fun for adults and older children than for the preschoolers who loved the original 3D movie. Everyone who's seen it knows it's a beautifully animated heartwarming Christmas tale, with lovely lessons for the little ones, but the shocks and noise that equal "immersion" seemed too much for all but the sturdiest of young'ns. In short, beware: Make sure you know your kids' tolerance for scary before bringing them along.

The Polar Express

4-D Experience plays at the National Aquarium daily through Jan. 3 10

a.m.

-3

p.m.

, various showtimes. $29.95, $24.95 children ages 3-11, includes aquarium admission, dolphin show, and immersion theater.

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