Photo: The new Pacific Visions wing at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA ©2019 Tom Bonner

We live in a time of ecological transition, and human beings have the greatest influence over what direction Planet Earth will take — that’s the key takeaway as the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach opens its newly-built, 29,000 square-foot Pacific Visions wing on May 24. Also opening on May 24, at Landmark Theatres, is a transition of a different kind: In the mid-1960s the sound of popular music, influenced by Laurel Canyon, began evolving from folk to electrified pop/rock. Jakob Dylan explores this in a new documentary, “Echo in the Canyon,” featuring excerpts from a live tribute concert and interviews, vintage photos and footage of some of the biggest names in the 60s music scene.


The building itself is sustainable and this newly-designed wing, the first addition in Aquarium of the Pacific’s two-decade history, is really about the one animal that affects all life on this planet—human beings. In an unusual mission for an aquarium, Pacific Visions is dedicated to exploring the most pressing environmental issues of our time, and finding alternative pathways to designing a more sustainable future.

The two-story structure houses a state of the art immersive, multimedia theatre (chairs rumble beneath you!); an art gallery, where you can experience an interactive projected waterfall while watching the history of earth on screen; and a “culmination gallery,” featuring interactive walls (reach in to feel the textures), game tables and live animal exhibits.

I can tell you that I was moved to tears by the film in the Honda Pacific Visions theatre,  “Designing our Future,” an 8-minute multisensory experience produced by Cortina Productions. Honda contributed $5 million to name the theatre, explaining that its corporate goal is to become carbon free in the future.

What we’ve done to the planet in such a short period of time is almost overwhelmingly bleak and destructive, but the films also uplift, demonstrating, what we can still do, using creative, innovative ideas and engineering to save the planet — which needs to happen fast.


The Honda Pacific Visions theatre features a 180-degree curved screen, state of the art speaker and projection systems, and a stage that can hold live performances in the 300-seat auditorium. The film provides high-resolution footage of ocean animals, animation and computer graphics and scenes of what cities and other human landscapes could look like in the future.

It begins underwater with a montage of marine life, dolphins, kelp forests, sharks, a breaching humpback (you’ll imagine you’ve been splashed!), and establishes the ocean as the place where life on Earth began and the source of much of the oxygen we breathe. The narrator announces that with the human population reaching 10 billion by the year 2050, our challenge is to find sustainable ways to provide enough food, fresh water, and energy for everyone.

The film then addresses each of those resources in succession, identifying potential solutions and technologies that could help increase sustainable production of that resource.

What it will make you understand is the interconnectedness of all life on our finite planet, once called The Big Blue Marble by Carl Sagan.

With news of so many potential species extinctions, extreme weather conditions in unexpected regions, record amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, rising seas, and despair in the air, the Aquarium presents the public with reason for hope and solutions, and encourages all to become engaged.

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It was a moment (1965 to 1967) when bands came to L.A. to emulate The Beatles and Laurel Canyon emerged as a hotbed of creativity and collaboration for a new generation of musicians who would soon put an indelible stamp on the history of American popular music. Echo in the Canyon, featuring Jakob Dylan (yes, Bob’s son and a gifted host), explores the beginnings of the Laurel Canyon music scene. Dylan uncovers never-before-heard personal details behind the bands and their songs and how that music continues to inspire today. What I enjoyed most was hearing song origin stories; made me interpret familiar tunes in a new way.

“Echo in the Canyon” contains candid conversations and performances with Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Eric Clapton, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Roger McGuinn and Jackson Browne as well as contemporary musicians they influenced such as Tom Petty (in his very last film interview), Beck, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Regina Spektor and Norah Jones.

Director Andrew Slater says that The Beatles defined London, Bob Dylan defined New York and the songs of the Byrds, Beach Boys, The Mamas & Papas and Buffalo Springfield “painted an idyllic picture of life in bohemian Los Angeles.”

Calling this musical time period revolutionary, 50 years after the fact Slater approached Jakob Dylan, and together they not only pieced together a well-woven history but they also produced a live concert, honoring the music with today’s musicians, who are still feeling the influence of the changes that took place during this time.

There will be a soundtrack, but before you buy it, go see “Echo in the Canyon” at The Landmark in West Los Angeles.

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications.

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