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submitted by Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia on 14.12.2006

Happy Feet. Comprehensive Overview.

Happy Feet. Comprehensive Overview.
Copyright (2006) Kennedy-Miller

Maurice, Baby Gloria and Memphis look on as Mumbo's egg hatches

Happy Feet

Happy Feet is a 2006 Australian-produced computer-animated comedy-drama film, directed by George Miller. Released in the U.S. on November 17, 2006, it was produced at Sydney-based visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures. It is the first animated feature film produced by Kennedy Miller in association with Animal Logic. The film is dedicated to Steve Irwin.

The film was simultaneously released in both conventional theatres and in IMAX 2D format.[1] The studio has hinted that a future IMAX 3D release was still a possibility.[2]

Plot summary

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

Maurice, Baby Gloria and Memphis look on as Mumbo's egg hatchesSet in an Antarctic emperor penguin colony, the film establishes that every penguin must sing a unique song (a "Heart Song") 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 particular couple, Norma Jean and Memphis, pair up and produce an egg. The egg is left in Memphis' care while Norma Jean and the other females leave to fish for several weeks. All is well until, due to Memphis dropping the egg in the freezing Antarctic temperatures (but then quickly retrieving it), the resulting chick - the film's protagonist, Mumbo - is born completely incapable of singing. However, Mumbo has an astute talent for tap dancing.

This ability is frowned upon by the colony's elders, who do not tolerate deviance of any kind. As a result, Mumbo is quietly ostracized throughout his childhood, with only his parents and his friend Gloria to turn to. Mumbo then grows to a young adult, still half-covered in fluffy baby down. Through a series of mishaps, the young penguin finds himself far from the Emperor Nation and within the carefree colony of the adélies - penguins small in stature, but fiercely loyal to those they call friends.

Mumbo's joy at finding acceptance for his difference is cut short when strange "alien encounters"occur. A skua boasts of having been given the band on his leg by alien abductors, whereas a long-frozen excavation tractor falls from a glacier before Mumbo's astonished eyes. Driven by curiosity, he sets out to find answers. Finding his way back to Emperor Nation, Mumbo's incidental dancing display causes him to be marked as the cause of the food shortage the colony is facing, and he is exiled once and for all. Mumbo vows to find the real cause of the famine, and travels across vast territories with his adélie friends. By happenstance, the birds finally come face to face with a legion of huge trawlers, all laden with fish caught around the Antarctic coast. Mumbo follows after them fearlessly, leaving his friends behind to preserve his legacy.

Mumbo with the five adélie penguin amigosMumbo eventually ends up in a penguin exhibit at a marine park, and fervently tries to communicate with the "aliens" who surround him. When his pleas fail, Mumbo nearly succumbs to madness after months of confinement in the sterile glass prison. When a child taps on the glass wall one day, Mumbo is woken from his stupor and dances in response, whereupon the astounded humans finally pay attention. He is released to the sea with a tracking device, and leads the "aliens" home to his native colony. If anything is to be done, however, Mumbo must first convince the colony, and overcome the ruling power of the pious elders, to deliver a message of distress to the curious humans...

Relations to other films

Many sequences and plot devices in the film are similar to those in the Antarctic documentary La Marche de l'empereur (March of the Penguins), released in 2005, because they both follow the natural history of the penguins' lives. Despite the similarities, both films were in production before details of either were announced. Happy Feet was partially inspired by earlier documentaries such as the BBC's Life in the Freezer.[3]
When Mumbo is found by the "aliens," he is transported to a zoo, which is a direct embodiment of the embryo at the end sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. A magellanic penguin that talks to Mumbo speaks with a voice similar to Douglas Rain, the voice of HAL, the villain of 2001 asking for emotions from Mumbo, whom the penguin calls Dave, 2001's protagonist. The clearest pastiche is the shot sequence that zooms out from the center of Mumbo/Dave's eye to the overhead shot of the zoo, region, planet, and finally, universe, symbolic of Mumbo's isolated, conquered state.

The idea of dancing penguins has a precursor in the classic Walt Disney film, Mary Poppins. In the film's celebrated animated sequence, Bert has an extended dance sequence with a group of penguin waiters, albeit in a soft shoe style.
Several sequences of the movie are very similiar in both premise and execution to scenes in Don Bluth's 1995 animated film The Pebble and the Penguin - where a misfit penguin must compete with a villainous rival for the affections of one female. The idea of penguins courting with pebbles was also based on adélies, who build nests of pebbles to attract mates.
Plot similarity to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, in that both stories feature a bird who is ostracized by his elders for his persistent recourse to an atypical skill, only to learn something that will benefit his people forever.

Main Voice Cast

Actor Role
Elijah Wood Mumbo
Brittany Murphy Gloria
Hugh Jackman Memphis
Nicole Kidman Norma Jean
Hugo Weaving Noah the Elder
Robin Williams Ramón & Lovelace
Johnny Sanchez III Lombardo
Carlos Alazraqui Néstor
Lombardo Boyar Raul
Jeff Garcia Rinaldo
Magda Szubanski Miss Viola
Miriam Margolyes Mrs. Astrakhan
E.G. Daily Baby Mumbo
Alyssa Shafer Baby Gloria
Anthony LaPaglia Boss Skua

The film also features vocal cameo appearances by Steve Irwin, Chrissie Hynde and Fat Joe.

Savion Glover provided tap-dancing for Mumbo for the film with the use of motion capture.[4][5]


Main characters

Mumbo "Happy Feet": The protagonist of the movie, Mumbo is different from his fellow Emperor Penguins in appearance as well as in demeanor. Probably because of an accident when he was an egg, Mumbo was born late in the season. He also grows pin feathers in much later than the other young penguins, causing him to be mockingly referred to as "the fuzzball." He also has a grey patch of feathers on his chest that resembles a bow-tie, and the rest of his body resembling a dancer's tuxedo. The most peculiar difference is that Mumbo cannot sing, and therefore he cannot find his "heart song" in order to obtain a mate in the conventional way. Instead, Mumbo uses his "happy feet" to tap dance emotions he would otherwise share in song. Mumbo is ultimately blamed for the disappearance of the fish, the penguins' dietary source, because of his dancing and is exiled. Despite this, he is determined to seek the "aliens" (humans), who he believes to be the true cause of the food depletion, in order to clear his name and save the colony.

Gloria: With the exception of his parents and the amigos, Gloria is the only one that appreciates Mumbo. Knowing him from when he was an egg, she often protects Mumbo from mocking peers. Like most of the young male penguins, Mumbo is infatuated with Gloria, who is one of the most talented singers in his generation.

Ramón: An Adelie Penguin and the leader of the misfit amigos, Ramón and the others befriend Mumbo and help him on his journey to the Forbidden Shore in his search for the "aliens." Ramón also proves himself a talented singer and attempts to help Mumbo to woo Gloria with a Spanish rendition of "My Way."

Memphis: Mumbo's father, and an obvious tribute (or caricature depending on interpretation) of Elvis Presley. An unfortunate event happens while Mumbo is still an egg and Norma Jean, his mate, goes off to fish; Memphis accidentally drops the egg and it rolls down a hill into the dark, blustery night. Although Memphis quickly retrieves the egg and tries to convince himself that no harm was done, it is alluded to that this slip is responsible for Mumbo's strange and non-penguin behavior. Memphis never fully forgives himself for this early mistake.

Norma Jean: Mumbo's mother, a caricature of Marilyn Monroe, is highly protective of her son. Despite his differences, she emotionally supports him while others doubt him. She has a distinctive patch of dark feathers on her chest, reminiscent of the beauty mark on Marilyn Monroe's face.

Noah the Elder: Noah is the oldest, and allegedly wisest, penguin within the emperor colony, and is an acute stickler for tradition. Accompanied by several contemporaries which form a "council" of sorts, Noah is the wizened leader of the colony, and he does not tolerate deviance in any form. When the tone deaf Mumbo expresses himself through dance instead of song, this is frowned upon as "unruly nonsense" by Noah, and he eventually scapegoats Mumbo as the cause of the recent, and ongoing, shortage of fish. When Mumbo refuses to "repent," Noah exiles him from the colony.

Lovelace: A Rockhopper Penguin and self-proclaimed oracle of the Adelie Penguin colony, he charges other penguins pebbles in exchange for prophecies. Lovelace aids Mumbo in his quest to find the "aliens." He also serves as the narrator of the film. For much of his screen time, Lovelace is shown with a "mystical item" around his neck; this is the plastic six-pack ring from around cans of soda or tuna, and is a heart-wrenching reminder that pollution is a very serious threat, not just to penguins, but to all wildlife.

Minor characters

Lombardo, Néstor, Raul, & Rinaldo: Referred to "The Amigos," these adélie penguins (including Ramón) admire Mumbo's dancing as a way to impress the chicas and take him in as a friend and equal. They acccompany Mumbo on his journey to the Forbidden Shore, and keep the legacy of their friend alive long after he leaves to pursue the "aliens." Raul is an adept hip-hop talent, leading the rapping interjection in Gloria's performance of "Boogie Wonderland." Néstor also demonstrates his vocal clarity when he sings a lamentuous rendition of "Leader of the Pack" for Mumbo upon his exile.

The Elders: A group of older penguins that serve as Noah's council, as well as his zealous watchdogs. Implicitly agreeing with everything Noah says, the Elders mark Mumbo as a "bad egg" from the start.

Seymour: Seymour is the same age as Mumbo and Gloria. He raps the lines "Don't push me 'coz I am close to the edge. I'm trying not to lose my head," a popular excerpt from the Grandmaster Flash single "The Message", in their music class. Later, he and Gloria teach music to young penguins, with Seymour teaching rythmn.


This film was rated PG by the MPAA for some mild peril and rude humor. In the UK, the film was rated U for "mild danger".

While the film is stamped as a "children's movie", director George Miller has given the movie much more depth as far as serious themes, as he did with his earlier Babe films. The film deals with issues such as pollution and over-fishing.


Happy Feet is a jukebox musical (much like the film Moulin Rouge!, which also features Nicole Kidman). Jukebox musicals are known for their use of previously-recorded songs, which are modified to suit the setting, plot, or emotional state of the character(s).

Original score

The instrumental score for Happy Feet was composed by John Powell, a film musician who is popularly used for contemporary action and comedy films, like X-Men: The Last Stand and Robots. A compilation album of Powell's expansive original score will be released on December 19, 2006. [6]

Soundtrack album

"Song of the Heart" - Prince
"Hit Me Up" – Gia Farrell
"Tell Me Something Good" - Pink (originally by Rufus)
"Somebody to Love" - Brittany Murphy
"I Wish" - Fantasia Barrino / Patti LaBelle / Yolanda Adams
"Jump N' Move" - Brand New Heavies
"Do It Again" - The Beach Boys
"The Joker" / "Everything I Own" - Jason Mraz / Chrissie Hynde
"My Way" - Robin Williams
"Kiss" / "Heartbreak Hotel" - Nicole Kidman / Hugh Jackman
"Boogie Wonderland" - Brittany Murphy
"Golden Slumbers" / "The End" - k.d. lang
"The Story of Mumbo Happy Feet" – John Powell

Film songs not on album

"If You Leave Me Now" originally by Chicago
"I'll Make Love to You" originally by Boyz II Men
Original version of "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder
"Shake Your Bon-Bon" originally by Ricky Martin
"The Message" by Grandmaster Flash
New cover version of "The Message" by Fat Joe
"Leader of the Pack" originally by The Shangri-Las
"In My Room" by The Beach Boys
"Hello" by Lionel Richie
"Never Can Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5
"Let's Talk About Sex" by Salt-n-Pepa

Music featured in trailers

Teaser trailer: "I Wish" by Stevie Wonder.
First theatrical trailer: "Jump 'n Move" by The Brand New Heavies featuring Jamal-ski.[7]
Second theatrical trailer: Spanish version of "My Way" by Robin Williams.
Third theatrical trailer: Snippets of Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" can be heard; a young male emperor chick performs "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, five adélie penguins sing an a cappella cover of Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now", and the female emperor penguin, Gloria, sings Queen's "Somebody to Love."

Video games

Main article: Happy Feet (video game)
A video game based on the film was developed by A2M and published by Midway Games. It will be released for the following platforms: PC, PlayStation 2, GameCube, GBA, NDS, and Wii. [8] Screenshots and demo clips of the various versions of the Happy Feet game can be seen at the official website,


Box Office

The film opened at number one in the United States on it first weekend of release (November 17-19) - grossing $41.6M, and narrowly 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 December 10, 2006, the film has grossed $140 million in the U.S. and over $42 million worldwide. The film has been released in about 25 international territories as of December 8, 2006. [9][10]

Critical reviews

Happy Feet has received better than average reviews from film critics, and received a 77% "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." [11]

While 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." [12]

Moreover, 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." [13]

Ebert & Roeper gave it two thumbs up. 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."[14]

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."[15]

Along those same lines was columnist Robert W. Butler who stated "[Happy Feet] piles lots of contemporary issues on what should be a simple children’s fable and becomes an overlong, emotionally muted and tiresome epic."[16]

Moreover, Michael Medved (film critic and nationally syndicated conservative radio talk show host) gave Happy Feet one and a half stars (out of four) calling it "..painfully unpleasant to watch..". Medved added that "..frightening elements [in the film] will terrify young viewers.." and that "..there's nothing happy about Happy Feet."[17]


External links

Happy FeetOfficial website

Happy Feet at the Internet Movie Database

Happy Feet at Rotten Tomatoes

Happy Feet at Metacritic

Happy Feet reviewed

Happy Feet at

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