Happy Feet is an Australian-produced 2006 computer-animated comedy-drama musical film, directed and co-written by George Miller. It was produced at Sydney-based visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures and was released in North America on November 17, 2006. It is the first animated feature film produced by Kennedy Miller in association with Animal Logic. Though primarily an animated film, it does incorporate live action penguins in certain scenes. The film was simultaneously released in both conventional theatres and in IMAX 2D format. The studio has hinted that a future IMAX 3D release was a possibility. Happy Feet won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature after failing to win the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.
The film was dedicated in memory of Nick Enright, Michael Jonson, Robby McNeilly Green, and Steve Irwin.
Set in an Antarctic emperor penguin colony, the film establishes that every penguin must sing a unique song (called a "Heartsong") to attract a soul mate. This is based in fact, since emperor couples court each other and recognize one another by their unique calls. One penguin, Norma Jean, sings the song "Kiss", whereupon a male penguin named Memphis sings "Heartbreak Hotel". Norma Jean chooses him as her mate. They couple and Norma Jean lays an egg. The egg is left in Memphis's care while Norma Jean and the other females leave to fish for several weeks. While the males are struggling through the harsh winter, Memphis drops the egg, briefly exposing it to the freezing Antarctic temperatures. The resulting chick - the film's protagonist, Mumble - has a terrible singing[voice. However, Mumble has an astute talent for something that none of the penguins had ever seen before: tap dancing.
This ability is frowned upon by the colony's elders, who don't tolerate deviance of any kind. As a result, Mumble is ostracized throughout his childhood, with only his mother and his friend Gloria to turn to for help. Mumble then grows to an adult, still half-covered in fluffy down. Through a series of mishaps - mainly getting chased by a hungry leopard seal - the penguin finds himself far from his home and within the carefree colony of adelie penguins - penguins small in stature, but fiercely loyal to those they call friends. He quickly befriends a small group of bachelors who form a club of sorts called the Amigos: the leader, Ramon, the brothers Raul and Nestor, and twin brothers Rinaldo and Lombardo. The Amigos quickly embrace Mumble's dance moves and assimilate him into their misfit group.
Mumble's joy at finding acceptance for his difference is cut short when strange "alien discoveries" occur; after his accidentally starting an avalanche a long-frozen penguin excavator tumbles out from a glacier, and Mumble is intrigued. Driven by curiosity, he sets out to find the "aliens" responsible for the machine.
In Mumble's old home, it is mating season, and Gloria is the center of attention with her heartsong "Boogie Wonderland", as was Mumble's mother. However, although she is surrounded by a large horde of suitors, none of their Heartsongs interest her. At this point, Ramon stands behind a newly come Mumble and sings a Spanish version of "My Way". Gloria likes the song, but is wary because she knows that Mumble can't sing. She pushes him forward, revealing Ramon. She turns back to the other males, and Mumble is temporarily heartbroken. He then tries and persuades her to sing to his tapping rhythm, and surprisingly succeeds. The other penguins are equally worked up; they all begin dancing, much to Mumble's delight.
Noah, the elder, sees the lack of fish as punishment from the Great 'Guin, their god, regarding Mumble's dancing. Noah exiles Mumble from the colony as a result; before Mumble leaves, he vows that he will find the real cause of the famine, and travels across vast territories with the Amigos and Lovelace, a self-worshipping rockhopper. Gloria tries to help him; Mumble, out of fear for her safety, does whatever it takes to get rid of her – namely, insulting her singing talents.
The Amigos, along with Mumble and Lovelace, travel many miles under harsh conditions. During their journey, they meet a group of elephant seals, who warn of "Annihilators", who are presumably the same "aliens" Mumble seeks. After narrowly escaping from two killer whales, the penguins finally come face to face with a legion of huge trawlers, all laden with fish caught around the Antarctic coast. Mumble follows after them fearlessly, leaving his friends behind to bear testament to his legacy.
After swimming and being tossed around by sea currents, Mumble ends up in a penguin exhibit at a marine park (closely resembling the Penguin Encounter at SeaWorld, a massive zoom-out hinting at the one in Orlando, Florida), and fervently tries to communicate with the "aliens" who surround him. When his pleas fail, Mumble nearly succumbs to madness after three months of confinement in the sterile glass prison. When a child taps on the glass wall one day, Mumble is woken from his stupor and dances in response, whereupon the child appears to run away. He becomes disappointed until she comes back with her mother. Soon, a large crowd gathers around the exhibit, taking pictures and telling their friends of this marvel. He is released to the wild, now with fewer of his fluffy down feathers and a tracking device strapped to his back, and leads the "aliens" home to his native colony. The other penguins, formerly skeptical, are now convinced that the aliens do exist.
Soon, a research teams arrives and film the penguins dancing and dance along with the rhythm. They bring this footage back to the world out of Antarctica. Different governments debate what to make of this footage and a worldwide debate ensues. They soon realize that they are overfishing the Antarctic waters, and conclude that perhaps the penguins were trying to communicate that to them. Antarctic fishing is banned, and the fish population returns. At this, the Emperor Penguins and the Amigos dance and celebrate their triumph. A dancing baby penguin seen at the end is implied to be the child of Mumble and Gloria.
The animation in Happy Feet invested heavily in motion capture technology, with the dance scenes acted out by "alien" dancers. The tap-dancing for Mumble in particular was provided by Savion Glover who was also co-choreographer for the dance sequences. The dancers went through "Penguin School" to learn how to move like a penguin, and also wore head apparatus to mimic a penguin's beak. Happy Feet was partially inspired by earlier documentaries such as the BBC's Life in the Freezer.
The film took four years to make. Ben Gunsberger, Lighting Supervisor and VFX Department Supervisor, says this was partly because they needed to build new infrastructure and tools.
Miller has mentioned the possibility of a sequel. He says that he has so many ideas he can put into a follow-up, but Miller has two or three more films that he wants to produce before considering it.
|Actor||Penguin and/or Other Animal|
|Elijah Wood||Mumble the main protagonist|
|Brittany Murphy||Gloria the love interest|
|Hugh Jackman||Memphis Mumble's dad|
|Nicole Kidman||Norma Jean Mumble's mom|
|Robin Williams||Ramón the deurtagonist & Lovelace|
|Hugo Weaving||Noah the Elder|
|Johnny A. Sanchez||Lombardo|
|Magda Szubanski||Miss Viola|
|Miriam Margolyes||Mrs. Astrakhan|
|Dee Bradley Baker||Maurice|
|E.G. Daily||Baby Mumble|
|Alyssa Shafer||Baby Gloria|
|César Flores||Baby Seymour|
|Anthony LaPaglia||Boss Skua the main antagonist.|
|Danny Mann||Zoo Penguin|
|Roger Rose||The Leopard Seal the secondary antagonist|
|Lee Perry||Elder/Zoo Penguin|
|Giselle Loren||Adélie Chica|
|Denise Blasor||Adélie Chica|
|Michelle Arthur||Adélie Chica|
Happy Feet is a jukebox musical, taking previously recorded songs and working them into the film's soundtrack to fit with the mood of the scene or character. Two soundtrack albums were released for the film; one containing songs from and inspired by the film, and another featuring John Powell's instrumental score. They were released on October 31, 2006 and December 19, 2006, respectively.
- Best Animated Feature
60th British Academy Film Awards
- Best Animated Feature Film
- Best Original Song - "Song of the Heart" by Prince
American Film Institute Awards 2006
- Honored as one of the Top Ten Best Films of the Year
[Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards'
- Best Animation
New York Film Critics Circle Awards
- Best Animated Film
Golden Trailer Awards
- Best Music
- The Truly Moving Picture Award
Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards
- Best Animated Film
British Academy of Film and Television Arts - Children's Awards
- Best Feature Film
Golden Globe Award
- Best Animated Feature
- Best Animated Feature
- Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production
- Nominated for Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
Happy Feet was released on March 27, 2007 in the United States in three formats; DVD (in separate widescreen and pan and scan editions), Blu-ray Disc, and an HD DVD/DVD combo disc.
Among the DVD's special features is a scene that was cut from the film where Mumble meets a blue whale and an albatross. The albatross was Steve Irwin's first voice role in the film before he voiced the elephant seal in the final cut. The scene was finished and included on the DVD in memory of Steve Irwin. This scene is done in Steve's classic documentary style, with the albatross telling the viewer all about the other characters in the scene, and the impact people are having on their environment.
A video game based on the film was developed by Artificial Mind and Movement (A2M) and published by Midway Games. It has the same main cast as the film. It was released for the following platforms: Microsoft Windows PC, PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, and Wii. Screenshots and demo clips of the various versions of the Happy Feet game can be seen at the official website.
Artificial Life, Inc. has also developed a Happy Feet mobile game for the Japan market.
The film opened at number one in the United States on its first weekend of release (November 17-November 19) grossing $41.6M and beating Casino Royale for the top spot. It remained number one for the Thanksgiving weekend, making $51.6 million over the five-day period. In total, the film was the top grosser for three weeks, a 2006 box office feat matched only by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. As of March 8, 2007, Happy Feet has grossed $194.9 million in the U.S. and $172.1 million overseas, making about $384 million dollars worldwide. The film has been released in about 35 international territories at the close of 2006.
The production budget was $100 million.
Happy Feet has received better than average reviews from film critics, and received a 75% "fresh" approval in the Rotten Tomatoes movie review aggregate site.
- Kirk Honeycutt said that Happy Feet "astonishes," it has brilliant choreography and orchestration, and is entertaining for younger viewers. Honeycutt also said that, "George Miller boldly reaches for spiritual themes," and "happily, it all works."
- Gene Seymour described Happy Feet as "a rich, absorbing story that isn't content to dazzle you with effects, but rouse your spirits." Seymour adds "nothing prepares you for its sweeping visual design and its conceptual energy."
- Lou Lumenick praised Happy Feet for its "stunning visuals," calling the film "inspired" and "uplifting." Lumenick further added that "It's Dumbo meets Footloose," and "Happy Feet is not only the year's best animated movie, it's one of the year's best movies, period. Go."
- The film received a "two thumbs up" rating on the television show Ebert & Roeper. A. O. Scott, Roger Ebert's temporary replacement, is quoted as saying "Happy Feet was made with enough skill, and enough heart, to get a thumbs up from me." Richard Roeper agreed, saying "I think kids will love it, because penguins are cute."
- Jordan Harper of The Village Voice was quoted as saying "If anything could tempt an adult to go see a dancing-penguin movie, it's the phrase 'from the guy who brought you Babe.' That movie got everything right about talking animals, but alas, George Miller does not live up to his earlier work here. Even the wee ones may start to notice something's amiss when the movie's theme goes from 'be yourself' to 'we must regulate the overfishing of the Antarctic oceans.' No, for real."
- Andrez Bergen of The Daily Yomiuri in Japan said that "[Robin] Williams is a revelation in both his roles, there are some choice vignettes from Anthony LaPaglia (as the leader of the mafialike gulls) and Steve Irwin (an ocker elephant seal), while - on a visual level - the brilliant rollercoaster avalanche scene makes all the song-and-dance redundant... It's through knowing references to movies like Dirty Dancing, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dumbo, and Moby-Dick, that this movie really is riotous, while a leopard seal attack that comes straight after Mumble's botched graduation ceremony is right up there with the suspense and horror of the shark attacks in Jaws, sans John Williams' score."
Though the plot of the film is centrally about a misfit struggling to find acceptance, as things progress there is increasing emphasis on environmental problems in the Antarctic.
The film's denouement shows a group of researchers taking video of the colony of dancing emperor penguins, and the footage is broadcast globally. After many heated arguments this publicity generates considerable pressure to stop commercial overfishing of the Antarctic.
According to the director, George Miller, the environmental message was not a major part of the original script, but "In Australia, we're very, very aware of the ozone hole," he said, "and Antarctica is literally the canary in the coal mine for this stuff. So it sort of had to go in that direction." This influence led to a film with a more environmental tone. Miller said, "You can't tell a story about Antarctica and the penguins without giving that dimension."
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