Monday, August 24, 2015

The Pebble and the Penguin

Year 7, Day 236 - 8/24/15 - Movie #2,130

BEFORE: One more animated film, then I can move back to more adult fare.  But while I'm in the neighborhood, I'll get to this one, because Will Ryan carries over from "The Little Mermaid", here he voices two characters.  I met Will about 15 years ago, when web-sites were still sort of a new thing, and I'd just designed my boss's site (this was before you needed to know Flash or Java or whatever) and Will was looking for someone to design a site for a character he'd created.  I don't remember if we just didn't connect on the particulars or if I lost interest, or web-sites became too complicated for me to continue to understand.

A lovable but introverted penguin named Hubie plans to present his betrothal pebble to the bird of his dreams.

AFTER: It's so funny, I was just talking about animator Don Bluth two nights ago, because I thought that some of the characters in "The Swan Princess" resembled his work, and now here's a film directed by Bluth.  Well, he wasn't satisfied with the final film and he had his name removed from it, but he's one of the the film's directors.  Don Bluth and Gary Goldman left this production halfway through (another bad sign) in order to start the studio that eventually became Fox Animation (1994-2000), a division of 20th Century Fox Animation which produced only one hit film, "Anastasia". 

This is apparently a real penguin mating ritual - the male searches the beach for a "perfect" pebble,  and when the female accepts it, they've mated for life.  For this reason, many people have noticed the similarity between penguin and human courtship, only humans do this with much shinier rocks.  See, penguins are exactly like us! 

Well, not exactly.  Most penguin species are monogamous, but research shows that some females may have up to three partners in a season, ditto for some of the males.  And if a mate fails to return to the nesting area, or mates arrive there at different times, their prior relationship doesn't prevent them from finding new mates - so I wouldn't call that exactly mating for life.  Wait, cheating on their spouses and having rebound relationships, maybe penguins ARE just like us!  

Certain breeds, like these Adelie penguins, do build nests out of pebbles - so it's possible that the behavior of collecting pebbles for the nest, which would happen around the same time as courtship, has been misinterpreted.  It's all a big myth or urban legend.  After all, what would a female penguin DO with a pebble, it's not like she wears it on a big ring on her flipper!  

Really, it's just a jumping-off point here - Hubie, the stuttering penguin, is too shy to talk to his ideal mate, Marina, but eventually bumps into her (literally) and makes contact, then spends all day and night looking for the perfect pebble (which gets provided by a very timely meteorite) and then everything looks like it will go well, until the big, strong rival penguin sends him floating off on an iceberg, and he's got to find his way back.

I'm right on point with this week's other animated films - both "The Swan Princess" and "The Little Mermaid" feature perfect lovers who get separated, and they have to find each other again.  And Drake, the evil penguin, has designs on the lovely female (just like Rothbard in "Swan Princess"), and apparently this will allow him to take control of Penguinland, somehow.  And once again, there's a complicated time limit - Ariel had just three days to make Prince Eric fall in love with her, and here Hubie's got to get back to propose to Marina before time runs out, or else she'll have to accept Drake's pebble, or be banished.  They just don't take kindly to single lady penguins in Antarctica, I guess.  

This then just turns "The Pebble and the Penguin" into a simple road movie, where Hubie meets other penguins on a human ship, and teams up with Rocko, the rockhopper penguin, to get back.  Rocko has a desire of his own, he wants to be able to fly.  Hubie and Rocko have to dodge leopard seals and killer whales on their way back, and again and again they keep bobbling that pebble and nearly losing it.  Really, don't they ever figure out that holding on to it with their slippery flippers just doesn't work?  Jeez, just put it in a bag or wrap it in your scarf or something.  (umm, yeah, penguins wear clothes in this film, deal with it.) 

There are some OK songs, written by Barry Manilow, but none that stand out from the rest, so in the end they're mostly forgettable.  There's nothing that's the equivalent of "Under the Sea" or "Kiss the Girl", that's for sure.  This is just a simple film that had the bad luck of being released before penguins became popular due to "March of the Penguins", "Happy Feet" and "Surf's Up".

Once again, I worry more about the message that's being sent out to the kids.  Are we creating a generation of young men that feels like they can't win the heart of a woman without a shiny piece of jewelry?  It might have sent a more positive message if Hubie had lost the pebble, really lost it, and Marina accepted him anyway.  Sure, she said that's "it's not the pebble, it's the penguin", but I noticed that didn't prevent her from accepting the pebble when he found it again. 

Also starring the voices of Martin Short (last heard in "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted"), James Belushi (last seen in "New Year's Eve"), Tim Curry (last seen in "Congo"), Annie Golden, Alissa King, Neil Ross, Stevie Vallance.

RATING: 4 out of 10 sheets of music

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