The tiny movie stars and filmmakers — all aged 3 to 6 years old — strutted along a "red carpet" of rainbow-colored craft paper at the Riverview Theater, stopping often to pose for photos snapped by proud parents, all dressed in formalwear.
The event marked the premiere of their movie, called "Crash! Bang! It Sank," and provided a glittering celebration of what can happen when children have big ideas and adults to help them go full speed ahead.
"It's just amazing to be here and have gotten the kids' idea to this point," said Gina Heldberg, the head of school at Kinderhaus Montessori in Roseville. For the past two months, 30 preschoolers there have been learning about the Titanic and making a short film about the ship. They outlined the script, designed the props and acted out the parts.
Although the title summarizes the main plot points, the film also includes a detailed historical timeline and many factoids about the passenger liner that went down in the North Atlantic Ocean in 1912. Along with more than 200 friends and family members, including many who traveled from across the country for the occasion, the child actors and filmmakers saw the final cut of their 18-minute movie for the first time at the world premiere Wednesday night.
"It makes me happy, happy, happy," said Solomon Lindberg, a 5-year-old who donned a reflective silver suit for the evening. Lindberg played several roles in the movie, most notably the man who alerts the crew to impending danger with a loud "Iceberg ahead!"
Heldberg and her two co-teachers, Marley Ritchie and Anna Martin, said the production is one of the biggest projects they've ever taken on, but it's indicative of what they aim to do every day at Kinderhaus: keep saying "yes" to students' ideas. One of the school's tenets is to "follow the child" by fostering the students' own joy and curiosity.
So when 4½-year-old Daniel Barna brought in a black-and-white photo of the Titanic for show and tell a few months ago, the teachers just ran with it, eager to help the students answer their many questions.
A few Google searches and a couple of books later, the preschoolers were deep into their fascination with the ship, and a little hung up on its "luxuries." They even learned how many lemons — 36,000 — and oranges — 16,000 — were onboard.
Then another student wondered aloud if they could make a Titanic movie.
"We chuckled about that, joking how that's never been done before," Heldberg said.
The students haven't seen the 1997 movie. But their parents say the kids have all been humming "My Heart Will Go On," which Ritchie included in the post-production editing. And their teachers worked in some references that drew good-natured laughs at the premiere, including a shot of a girl standing on the ship's bow with her arms extended wide.
Making the movie didn't just teach the kids an ocean's-worth of facts about the ship. The students also learned all the roles it takes to make an independent film.
They got lessons in teamwork and leadership and felt firsthand the excitement — and sometimes disappointment — that comes with auditions, when only one student can get cast in the coveted role of ship captain. Still, everyone got a part (some children played "water" and "smokestack") and each student earned a golden trophy for their performance.
The teachers' lessons didn't dwell on the tragedy of the shipwreck, but they said the work helped the students think through feelings of empathy as they discussed how scared the passengers must have felt.
"It's been great to see the different layers of learning," Heldberg said. "In 10 years' time, they might not remember all the details, but we hope this is something they carry with them. We hope they remember three ladies who committed to everything and said yes to their ideas."
Norine Lindberg, Solomon's mom, said she's grateful for the Kinderhaus staff's dedication to following the children's interests. Solomon loved performing in the movie and she wonders if maybe acting and directing will become "his thing."
But Solomon is still considering a career as a boat captain, though he said he probably won't name his vessel the Titanic.