Disneynature has become synonymous with some very emotionally charged, yet demystifying content centered around various animal species. I’m a sucker for any animal that is talking in a film, especially a penguin voiced by Ed Helms (The Office and The Hangover) named Steve. Steve takes its audience on the adventure of seeking love through humor, danger and the exhilarating journey of becoming a first time Dad from his perspective. But, when Steve is left alone to look after the kids, he discovers why motherhood is considered the hardest job on the planet.
Although Steve’s mate Adeline is not voiced, it didn’t bother me. Mostly because other docs I have screened by Disney almost always address the narrative from the female point of view.
Just in time for Earth Day and filmed in two locations over a period of three years with long lenses, Penguins captures the gorgeous, glacial Antarctica playground musically punctuated with such pop culture/rock hits as REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore” “Stir It Up by Patti LaBelle and countered by the danger lurking under the surface with cunning leopard seals and killer whales preying on the young and unsuspected.
Clocking in at 76 minutes, Penguins will be a complete treat for kids and adults alike as it is unexpectedly hilarious while warming your heart all at once. However, it wouldn’t be a Disney flick if it didn’t leave you with a lump in your throat and your heart skipping a beat or two.
One of the most hilarious scenes is watching just how bright and cunning this species is when it comes to building stone nests for mothers to hatch the babies. It took poor little Steve a minute to figure out that his stones were being coveted by his peers and constituents over their own choices. Pure comedy. On the flip side, one of the most heartbreaking moments is wondering whether or not Adeline will make it through the winter with the babies or if one of the baby penguins will survive the clutches of a leopard seal determined to grab a mid-afternoon snack. Watching him play dead literally made my heart stop.
Chatting with producer Roy Conli, I learned the difference between the breed of penguins – Adelie and Emperor, that there are 28 species – yet only two live on Antarctica, they can hold their breath for up to six minutes and harbor an insane amount of food in their beautifully, smooth white bellies.
FYI…if you stay through the credits you will witness some insanely fabulous out takes with these little guys and the crew that captured every single spectacular moment. Not to mention that certain generational parents will get their entire life when a Whitesnake tune plays. You’ll have to guess which one!
Penguins is best seen in an IMAX situation and continues Disneynature’s conservation tradition. For every ticket sold opening week (April 17-23, 2019), Disneynature will make a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) to help protect penguins across the southern hemisphere.
According to Paul Baribault, vice president of Disneynature, the commitment to conservation is a key pillar of the label, and the films empower the audience to help make a difference. “Each film inspires a new conservation initiative, ranging from planting millions of trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest to the establishment of new marine protected areas, wild chimpanzee habitats and wildlife corridors, plus many more projects benefiting countless species,” said Baribault. “This 10-year milestone celebrates our commitment to working with the best nature filmmakers and premiere conservation organizations to not only inspire audiences to care about our natural world, but to make a direct impact through these programs.”
Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Produced by Disneynature and opening in theaters and IMAX® TODAY, Penguins is a great tribute to a land and species that are being ravaged by global warming, yet provides the audience with glorious aerial and underwater footage, humor and a fly on the wall view that are priceless.