|Directed by||George Miller|
|Produced by||Bill Miller
|Written by||Warren Coleman
|Music by||John Powell
|Editing by||Christian Gazal
|Studio||Kennedy Miller Productions
Animal Logic Films
|Distributed by||Warner Bros. Pictures
Village Roadshow Pictures
|Running time||108 minutes|
Happy Feet is a 2006 Australian-American computer-animated musical family film, directed and co-written by George Miller. It was produced at Sydney-based visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures and Kingdom Feature Productions and was released in North American theaters on November 17, 2006. It is the first animated film produced by Kennedy Miller in association with visual effects/design company Animal Logic.
Though primarily an animated film, Happy Feet does incorporate motion capture of live action humans in certain scenes. The film was simultaneously released in both conventional theatres and in IMAX 2D format. The studio had hinted that a future IMAX 3D release was a possibility. However, Warner Bros., the film’s production company, was on too tight a budget to release Happy Feet in IMAX digital 3D.
Happy Feet won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and the BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, and was nominated for the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film.
A sequel, Happy Feet Two, was released into theatres November 18, 2011 and received mixed reviews.
Every Emperor Penguin sings a unique song called a "heartsong" to attract a mate. If the male penguin's heartsong matches the female's song, the two penguins mate. Norma Jean, a female penguin, falls for Memphis, a male penguin and they become mates. They lay an egg, which is left in Memphis' care, while Norma Jean leaves with the other females to fish. While the males struggle through the harsh winter, Memphis briefly drops the egg. The resulting chick, Mumble, has no vocal talent, but can tap dance. Nevertheless, he is enamored with Gloria, a female penguin who is regarded as the most talented of his age. One day, Mumble encounters a group of hostile Skua, with a leader who is tagged with a yellow band, which he claims to have been from an alien abduction. Mumble narrowly escapes the hungry birds by falling into a crevice.
Years later, an adult Mumble is now an outcast who is frowned upon by his elders. After being shunned during the graduates' song, he is attacked by a leopard seal. After escaping, he befriends a group of Adelie Penguins called "the Amigos", who embrace Mumble's dance moves and assimilate him into their group. After seeing a hidden human excavator in an avalanche, they opt to ask Lovelace, a Rockhopper Penguin, about its origin. Lovelace has the plastic rings of a six pack entangled around his neck, which he claims to have been bestowed upon him by mystic beings.
For the emperor penguins, it is mating season and Gloria is the center of attention. Ramon tries to help Mumble win her affection by singing a Spanish version of "My Way", with Mumble lip syncing. When Gloria sees Ramon behind Mumble's back, she becomes angry and turns away. As a last resort, Mumble begins tap dancing in synch with her song. She falls for him and all the youthful penguins join in for singing and dancing to "Boogie Wonderland". The elders are appalled by Mumble's conduct, which they see as the reason for their lean fishing season. Memphis begs Mumble to stop dancing, for his own sake, but when Mumble refuses, he is banished.
Mumble and the Amigos return to Lovelace, only to find him being choked by the plastic rings. Lovelace confesses they were snagged on him while swimming off the forbidden shores, beyond the land of the elephant seals. Not long into their journey, they are met by Gloria, who wishes to join with Mumble as his mate. Fearing for his safety, he ostracizes her, driving her away.
At the forbidden shore, the group finds a fishing boat. Mumble pursues it solo to the brink of exhaustion. He is eventually washed up on the shore of Australia, where he is rescued and kept at Marine World with Magellanic Penguins. After a long and secluded confinement, he nearly succumbs to madness. When a girl attempts to interact with Mumble by tapping the glass, he starts dancing, which attracts a large crowd. He is released back into the wild, with a tracking device attached to his back. He returns to his colony and challenges the will of the elders. Memphis reconciles with him, just as a research team arrives, proving the aliens to be true. The whole of the colony engages in dance.
The research team returns their expedition footage, prompting a worldwide debate. The governments realize they are overfishing, leading to the banning of all Antarctic fishing. At this, the Emperor Penguins and the Amigos celebrate. In the final scene, a baby penguin is seen dancing next to Mumble and Gloria, revealed to be their son Erik in Happy Feet Two.
- Elijah Wood as Mumble
- Brittany Murphy as Gloria
- Hugh Jackman as Memphis
- Nicole Kidman as Norma Jean
- Hugo Weaving as Noah the Elder
- Robin Williams as Ramón and Lovelace
- Carlos Alazraqui as Nestor
- Steve Irwin as Trev
- Lombardo Boyar as Raul
- Jeffrey Garcia as Rinaldo
- Johnny Sanchez as Lombardo
- Miriam Margoyles as Mrs. Astrakhan
- Fat Joe as Seymour
- Anthony LaPaglia as Skua Boss
- Roger Rose as Leopard Seal
- Elizabeth Daily as baby Mumble
- Alyssa Shafer as baby Gloria
Miller cites as an initial inspiration for the film an encounter with a grizzled old camera-man, whose father was Frank Hurley of the Shackleton expeditions, during the shooting of Mad Max 2: "We were sitting in this bar, having a milkshake, and he looked across at me and said, ‘Antarctica.’ He’d shot a documentary there. He said, ‘You’ve got to make a film in Antarctica. It’s just like out here, in the wasteland. It’s spectacular.’ And that always stuck in my head.” Happy Feet was also partially inspired by earlier documentaries such as the BBC's Life in the Freezer. In 2001, during an otherwise non-sequiter meeting, Doug Mitchell impulsively presented Warner Bros., studio president Alan Horn with an early rough draft of the film's screenplay, and asked them to read it while he and Miller flew back to Australia. By the time they'd landed, Warner Bros. had decided to provide funding on the film. Production was slated to begin sometime after the completion of the fourth Mad Max film, Fury Road, but geo-political complications pushed Happy Feet to the forefront in early 2003.
An earlier cut of the film seems to have included a large subplot regarding aliens in the extraterrestrial sense, whose presence was made gradually more and more known throughout, and who were planning to siphon off the planet's resources gradually, placing the humans in the same light as the penguins. At the end, through the plight of the main character, their hand is stayed and, instead, first contact is made. This was chopped out during the last year of production, and has yet to see the light of day in a finished form, although concept art from these sequences were showcased at the Siggraph 2007 demonstration, and are available online, as well.
The animation in Happy Feet invested heavily in motion capture technology, with the dance scenes acted out by human 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 needed an enormous group of computers, and Animal Logic worked with IBM to build a server farm with sufficient processing potential. 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. The server farm used IBM BladeCenter framework and BladeCenter HS20 blade servers, which are extremely dense separate computer units each with two Intel Xeon processors. Rendering took up 17 million CPU hours over a nine-month period.
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."
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.
The film opened at #1 in the United States on its first weekend of release (November 17–19) grossing $41.6 million and beating Casino Royale for the top spot. It remained #1 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 June 8, 2008, Happy Feet has grossed $198.0 million in the U.S. and $186.3 million overseas, making about $384.3 million dollars worldwide. Happy Feet was the third highest grossing animated film in the U.S., behind Cars and Ice Age: The Meltdown. The film has been released in about 35 international territories at the close of 2006.
The production budget was $100 million.
The film has also garnered, since its release, quite a bit of analysis and dissection from various places. Film critic Yar Habnegnal has written an essay, published in Forum on Contemporary Art and Society, that examines the themes of encroachment presented throughout the film, as well as various other subtexts and themes, such as religious hierarchy and interracial tensions. And, Vadim Rizov of the Independent Film Channel sees Mumble as just the latest in a long line of cinematic religious mavericks.
On a technical or formal level, the film has also been lauded in some corners for its innovative introduction of Miller's roving style of subjective cinematography into contemporary animation, among other things.
Happy Feet was released on home media 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.
- Best Animated Feature Film
- Honored as one of the Top Ten Best Films of the Year
- Best Animation
- Best Animated Film
Golden Trailer Awards
- Best Music
- The Truly Moving Picture Award
- Favorite Animated Movie
British Academy of Film and Television Arts — Children's Awards
- Best Feature Film
- Best Animated Feature
- Best Animated Feature
- Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production
- Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
- Best Score Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media, John Powell, nominee
- Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media: "The Song of the Heart", Prince, nominee
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Animated Film
- Best Animated Film
Top ten lists
"HAPPY FEET is a one-of-a-kind motion picture experience. George Miller continues to paint outside the lines of traditional filmmaking, and his genius expands upon the animated art form to illuminate a world where penguins embrace dance and differences to survive and thrive. But that is just the tip of the iceberg, as the environment, religion and the chasm between generations enrich this sweet and subtle tale – one that is fun and funny, brilliant and beautiful, groundbreaking and global in its message."
Happy Feet Two was produced at Dr. D Studios and released on November 18, 2011. Wood and Williams reprised their roles for the sequel. Brittany Murphy, was set to reprise her role and begin recording sometime in 2010, but died from pneumonia on December 20, 2009. Matt Damon and Brad Pitt signed on as Bill the Krill and Will the Krill respectively.
In an interview with Collider.com, director George Miller mentioned the small possibility of Happy Feet Three, stating that if he came up with an idea for a third film, that he and his studio would produce it if they both agreed the idea was better than the first two. As of now, however, he has yet to mention if he has any ideas for a third film since the interview.