The Pebble and the Penguin
|The Pebble and the Penguin|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Don Bluth
|Produced by||Russell Boland
|Written by||Rachel Koretsky
|Screenplay by||Rachel Koretsky
|Narrated by||Shani Wallis|
|Music by||Barry Manilow
Bruce Sussman (songs)
Mark Watters (score)
|Edited by||Thomas Moss
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (USA/Canada)
Warner Bros. Family Entertainment (International)
|Running time||74 minutes|
The Pebble and the Penguin is a 1995 animated musical family comedy film, based on the true life mating rituals of the Adelie Penguins in Antarctica, produced and directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman. The film was released to theaters on April 11, 1995 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the United States & Canada, and internationally by Warner Bros. Family Entertainment.
Hubie (Martin Short), a shy, gullible but kindhearted penguin, is in love with the beautiful and kind Marina (Annie Golden), but lacks self-confidence leading him to be bullied by the much more impressive, but vain and cruel Drake (Tim Curry), who also wants Marina, but clearly for lust. One night, Hubie and Marina manage to confirm how they feel for each other, but Hubie can't quite find a perfect pebble to propose to Marina with. He wishes on a star to make his dream come true and he receives an Emerald from the sky. Ecstatic, Hubie rushes to find Marina but is stopped by Drake, who demands Hubie to give him the pebble. Hubie refuses, so Drake throws him into the water. Hubie narrowly escapes a leopard seal and climbs on to a piece of ice where he is swept away from Antarctica.
Hubie is picked up by humans and caged on their ship called "Misery", which is transporting penguins to a zoo and meets a tough, grumpy, streetwise and somewhat arrogant but good-hearted rockhopper penguin named Rocko (James Belushi). After seeing in a vision Marina having a dilemma, Hubie decides to escape. Together, he and Rocko flee, and while lying low on a beach. Rocko reluctantly tells Hubie about his desire to fly. He convinces him to help him return to Antarctica by making up a lie about a flying penguin named Waldo. They have a short fight after Rocko tries to fly off "an authentic, ancient aviarial airstrip" and another after Rocko saved Hubie from a killer whale. Back in Antarctica, Drake begins to threaten Marina for her hand in mating. If Marina refuses, she will be forced to leave, as it goes against tradition. Hubie and Rocko attempt to depart, but Rocko discovers Hubie lied to him and attempts to attack Hubie, but soon starts laughing, praising Hubie's determination to get back to Marina. Back in Antarctica, Marina becomes worried about Hubie. Hubie and Rocko run into the hungry and persistent leopard seal but are able to escape it. With that Rocko and Hubie become true friends (though it takes prodding from Hubie for Rocko to admit it). Their joy is short lived as killer whales attack them causing Hubie's emerald to get lost and Rocko to go missing, leaving Hubie to think he perished.
Hubie continues on to face Drake and defeats him in a fight. Then Rocko comes back, revealing he had survived the whale encounter (and found the pebble Hubie lost in the scuffle). As Hubie makes a proposal to Marina and gains her acceptance, Drake returns to finish the two off. With Rocko's help, Hubie and Marina dodge Drake's giant boulder while Drake himself is crushed by his own tower. During the rescue, Rocko's dream for flight comes true. Rocko hands Hubie his pebble. He presents it to Marina, who loves it, but loves Hubie more. Some time later Rocko teaches Marina and Hubie's children to fly.
|The Narrator||Shani Wallis|
The Animated Movie Guide said "considering the artistic and financial success of Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman decided to cater to the dating crowd, in addition to preschoolers". The Pebble and the Penguin was produced by Don Bluth Ireland Limited. At one point, production began in November 1991. The working title of the film was A Penguin Story. In 1994, "Bluth spoke enthusiastically of such pending projects as The Pebble and the Penguin and A Troll in Central Park". The film was originally slated for release in summer 1994 (while Thumbelina was scheduled for November 1993 and A Troll in Central Park was scheduled for March 1994), but due to some production difficulties, the movie's release date was changed to April 1995.
Animation and research
Though Bluth Productions was based in Dublin, artists from Ireland, England and Hungary worked on the project, at least seven directing animators working on the film; among them John Pomeroy. The penguins in the film are clothed. Humans wearing penguin costumes were filmed, and then used as photostat references for the animators. The iconic quote from Hubie, "Goodness glaciers!" as well as his overall appearance, is a sly reference to Gentleman Glacier, an old Canadian newspaper cartoon used to illustrate snow accumulation each year. Only two scenes in the film were "augmented by computer animation", one of which being "The Good Ship Misery" song sequence. The opening credit and overture sequence has the animated penguin characters playing and dancing on the sheet music for the songs in the film. According to The Free Lance-Star, the animators researched for the film by "watching documentaries and visiting zoos, such as San Diego's Sea World and Scotland's Glasgow Zoo". The site added that in promotional material, the animators explained they "discovered that the land of snow and ice shines with many different hues".
Due to changes insisted by MGM, animation fell behind and additional coloring had to be done at a Hungarian animation studio. Don Bluth and Gary Goldman were so dissatisfied with the final film that they left during production (to help set up Fox Animation Studios) and demanded to be uncredited as the directors. The book Animated Films said "changes at MGM during production...resulted in the project being affected in terms of production value". In a 2001 edition of his magazine Toon Talk, Bluth admitted "Penguin had story problems. We knew it. The crew knew it". Though he attempted to fix these issues, when his Irish studio got taken over by the Hong Kong company Media Assets, "the story and film were now compromised", so neither he or Goldman stayed. They had their named removed from the film's credits and accepted an offer by Bill Mechanic - 20th Century Fox's then-president - to set up a new animation studio in the US (which would become Fox Animation Studios). Bluth said to his animation crew "I can't chew with someone else's mouth". Despite this executive interference, The Animated Movie Guide noted MGM/UA producer Walter Mirisch's comments on the film: "I think it's one of Don's best films ever...There's no issue of our claiming the credit for this. It's his film".
The songs were written by Barry Manilow, who previously wrote the songs for Thumbelina, along with longtime collaborator and lyricist Bruce Sussman. The film's score was composed by Mark Watters. Manilow, who had "started off wanting to be a composer," got an opportunity to do this when he was approached to "compose songs and the underscore" for the film and Thumbelina. Barbadian singer Geoffrey Holder sang the deleted song "The Beachmaster" for the film. An accompanying soundtrack was released on April 11, 1995. The instruments in the songs and score were performed by The Irish Film Orchestra. This soundtrack is currently out of print.
This is a list of musical numbers for the film:
|1||"Now and Forever"||Hubie, Marina & Company|
|2||"Sometimes I Wonder"||Hubie & Marina|
|3||"The Good Ship Misery"||Company|
|4||"Don't Make Me Laugh"||Drake|
|5||"Sometimes I Wonder (Reprise)"||Marina|
|6||"Looks Like I Got Me a Friend"||Hubie & Rocko|
|7||"Now and Forever (Reprise)"||Company|
|8||"Now and Forever (End Credits)"||Barry Manilow & Sheena Easton|
The film's tagline was "The adventure of a lifetime begins with one small pebble". Seventy-five readers of San Antonio Express-News each won four tickets to the film. The special showing was held at 11 a.m. on April 8 at the Embassy Theaters. The Pebble and the Penguin was cross-promoted with Anheuser-Busch's Sea World Parks.
Driving Mr. Pink
The Pebble and the Penguin was accompanied in its theater run by a new Pink Panther short entitled Driving Mr. Pink., which was adapted from an episode of the successful Pink Panther TV series. It is a late one-off short in the Pink Panther short series - they were abundant and popular until 1980. SFGate described the short as "loud, obnoxious, [and] idiotic". The short introduced the character of Voodoo Man from the 1995 TV show. In the cartoon, "an animated woman runs out of a department store with only her underwear on". It also "features car chases, yelling, and Pink Panther getting knocked around", and "there is a veiled reference to an offensive gesture during the Pink Panther cartoon".
The film, made for $28 million, grossed $3,983,912. It was the final in a string of financial failures from Sullivan Bluth Studios, following Rock-a-Doodle, Thumbelina, and A Troll in Central Park, leading to the studios bankruptcy and it's eventual closure.
Rotten Tomatoes reported only 11% of critics gave positive reviews based on eight reviews with an average score of 3/10. The film was given a Two Thumbs Down on Siskel & Ebert, with Gene Siskel noted that the film's animation looks "cheap and unfinished" and that "none of the songs are memorable" while Roger Ebert added his dislike of the "dumb songs", "silly story", and the film's color-coding of its heroes and villains. Ebert took this a step further by arguing "What do kids learn from this? Nothing overt. Just a quiet, unstated impression: White is good and brave, and brown is scheming and negative. Reinforce that through lots of cartoons (examples: "Aladdin" and "The Rescuers Down Under") and no wonder even black children choose white dolls in some psychological experiments". Deseret News said "the songs are forgettable, the story one-note and the characterizations quite weak". Reviewer steve Rhodes said "we get a stream of pointless dialog and some unfunny jokes worthy of a third rate vaudeville routine". The Austin Chronicle said the film "lacks dramatic structure and narrative drive: Songs and animated action pieces are narratively connected but the film doesn't feel as though it is an organic whole. All the elements are here, they just don't come together". TimeOut said "The characterisations are weak and unendearing. Worse, the big 'action' sequences turn up with the pacing and predictability of clock chimes. And, in what is perhaps the last great medium for musicals, the perfunctoriness of Barry Manilow's songs and arrangements seem guaranteed to put off yet another generation". The New York Times wrote that 4 would be "the optimum age for viewers of this gentle, animated musical", adding that "the action seems flat and low-rent compared to those earlier movies", and that it "doesn't have the vivid characters, first-rate animation or sense of adventure that turns movies like 'The Lion King' into endlessly watchable favorites". Washington Post Staff Writer Hal Hinson wrote "the banality of the story, the pallid look, the flatness of the characters add up to a product that is, at best, second rate". SFGate said the "gnashing whale scenes are intense enough to push the G-rating envelope". The Spokesman-Review wrote "it is only an average effort in virtually every respect". The Record said "The orchestration is too fancy, too loud and often drowns out the lyrics. This is a kid's movie, but musically it sounds like a full-costume Broadway show with full-supporting chorus line". It added "It's a little disturbing to see a children's movie that perpetuates the erroneous image of killer whales as violent creatures. It is, however, a perfect indication of the limited imagination which went into writing The Pebble and the Penguin". The Free Lance-Star said the film got a "charming mating ritual" and turned it into "sappy action romance with celebrity voices". The book Contemporary North American Film Directors suggested that the film suffered from "the same unimaginative and cliched Disney of the 1970s that Bluth had been so critical of". The Animated Movie Guide said "the hero was a stuttering wimp, the songs didn't advance the plot, the dialogue was incessant and superfluous, and the pacing was plodding and dull".
Some critics did praise various aspects of the film however, particularly in regard to Bluth's animation. These reviews, however, were almost exclusively mixed. CommonSenseMedia said "the background animation of capricious weather conditions is lovely, as are the top-notch original songs by Barry Manilow and Mark Watters". Deseret News said "Bluth's strength continues to be colorful, classical-style animation, and there are some gorgeous moments here — especially some underwater sequences". The Austin Chronicle said: "The Pebble and the Penguin features some beautifully animated sequences [...] The characters are great and the voice talents of Martin Short...and James Belushi...are terrific". Variety said the film has a "heartwarming story, some lively songs and professional animation", adding that it is "a sweet, enjoyable romantic tale more likely to succeed as an afternoon diversion on homevideo than on the bigscreen". The New York Times wrote "The tunes Mr. Manilow has written for the movie are, like his familiar pop standards, bouncy and catchy", and commented that "the animation is fine". Washington Post Staff Writer Hal Hinson wrote that "A flourishing opening number—titled 'Here and Now'—proves that Short can belt out a song with the best of them", adding that the "Bluth studio style of animation is passable, and, in the case of a Brecht-Weill flavored production number, occasionally inspired.". SFGate described the "show-tune- style songs" as "pleasant but forgettable", adding that "the singing by Short, Belushi, Curry and Broadway belter Golden is the best thing about the film". It also noted that "One of the obvious obstacles was how to color a film whose natural shadings tend toward black, white and degrees of gray. The result is a lot of odd but fascinating colorations -- the sky might turn up yellow at times, or the sea a deep maroon". The Spokesman-Review wrote "in an era when G-rated movies are as rare as Hollywood humility, any attempt at family entertainment should be lauded", adding "let us salute Don Bluth and his team of animators". In a rare case, The Daily Gazette gave the film 4 stars. The Animated Movie Guide said the film was an "utter waste of talent and resources", due to interference from external forces. Monica Sullivan of Movie Magazine International noted that the film was "heartily enjoyed by the two little girls who saw it with me at a kiddie matinee".
|2007||The Pebble and the Penguin||Satellite Award for Best Youth DVD||Nominated|
Throughout 1997, songs from the film were released alongside others from the MGM vaults in four MGM Song-Along cassettes released by MGM. The loosely-themes tapes had titles like: "Searching for Your Dreams", "Having Fun", and "Being Happy". The Pebble and the Penguin was first released on DVD in 1999.
A "Family Fun Edition" of the film was released only in the United States and Canada on March 27, 2007 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Gary Goldman supervised the restoration for the "Family Fun Edition", which features color corrections, refielded scenes to hide missing effects and correct other errors from the first release. The Family Fun Edition was nominated for the Satellite Award for Best Youth DVD.
The 2007 DVD release of The Pebble and the Penguin was according to The Hindu News a part of a wave of penguin-related media consisting of March of the Penguins, Happy Feet, the Farce of the Penguins spoof, and Surf's Up". This trend was also picked up on by The Paramas Post and The Age. In 2010, the film was re-released along with Rock-a-Doodle as a double sided DVD, but it carries the unrestored 1999 print.
The film was released on Blu-ray for the first time on October 11, 2011.
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