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Happy Feet
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGeorge Miller
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyDavid Peers
Edited by
Music byJohn Powell
Distributed by
Release dates
  • November 17, 2006 (2006-11-17) (United States)
  • December 26, 2006 (2006-12-26) (Australia)
Running time
108 minutes
  • United States
  • Australia[2]
Budget$100 million[3]
Box office$384.3 million[3]

Happy Feet is a 2006 animated jukebox musical comedy film directed and produced by George Miller and written by Miller, John Collee, Judy Morris and Warren Coleman. It stars the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving, Anthony LaPaglia, Magda Szubanski and Steve Irwin. An international co-production between the United States and Australia, the film was produced at Sydney-based visual effects and animation studio Animal Logic for Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and Kingdom Feature Productions. It is the first animated film produced by Kennedy Miller and Animal Logic. Set in the cold land of Antarctica, the film follows Mumble (Wood), an emperor penguin who is able to tap dance brilliantly despite lacking the ability to sing a heartsong to attract a soulmate. After being continuously ridiculed and rejected by peers and his own father (Jackman), Mumble departs on a journey to learn what is causing the local fish population to decline — and to find himself along the way.

As an initial inspiration for the film, Miller cited an encounter with a grizzled old cameraman whose father was Frank Hurley of the Shackleton expeditions, while partially inspired by earlier documentaries such as the BBC's Life in the Freezer. Although primarily a computer-animated film, the film incorporates motion capture of live-action humans in certain scenes. Composer John Powell composed the score, while the film features more than ten popular songs, usually to fit with the mood of the scene or character.

Happy Feet was released in North American theatres on 17 November 2006, and in Australian theatres on 26 December 2006. It was simultaneously released in both conventional theatres and in IMAX 2D format.[4] 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 of a budget to release Happy Feet in IMAX digital 3D.[5]

Happy Feet received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for its visuals, storyline and songs, and grossed $384 million against its $100 million production budget, becoming the tenth-highest-grossing film of 2006. It earned the recipient of the inaugural BAFTA Award for Best Animated Film, and the fourth non-Disney or Pixar film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.[6] It was nominated for the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature and the Saturn Award for Best Animated Film, both losing to Cars. A sequel, Happy Feet Two, was released in 2011.


Emperor penguins attract a mate by singing a unique "heartsong". 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 Memphis cares for 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, is unable to sing but can tap dance. Nevertheless, he is enamored with Gloria, a female penguin who is regarded as the most talented of her age. One day, Mumble encounters a group of hostile skua, with a leader who is tagged with a yellow band, which he says is from an alien abduction. Mumble narrowly escapes the hungry birds by falling into a crevice.

Now a young adult, Mumble is frequently ridiculed by the elders and their leader Noah. After escaping from a leopard seal attack, Mumble befriends five Adelie penguins named Ramón, Nestor, Lombardo, Rinaldo and Raul, collectively known as "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, saying that they have been bestowed on him by mystic beings.

For the emperor penguins, it is mating season, and Gloria is the center of attention. The Amigos unsuccessfully attempt to help Mumble win her affection by having Ramón sing a Spanish version of "My Way" behind Mumble, with the latter lip syncing. After Mumble desperately begins to tap dance in synch with her song, she falls for him, and the youthful penguins join in for singing and dancing. 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, revealing that when he was still in his egg, Memphis dropped Mumble (implying that this is the reason for both Mumble's lack of a heartsong and his dancing), but when Mumble refuses, he is exiled.

Mumble and the Amigos return to Lovelace for answers regarding the aliens, which Mumble concludes might have knowledge about the fish shortage, but find him being choked by the plastic rings. Lovelace confesses that they were snagged on him while swimming off the forbidden shores, beyond the land of the elephant seals. The group decide to take Lovelace with them to remove the rings. Not long into their journey, Gloria encounters them, wishing to become Mumble's mate. Fearing for her safety, he ridicules Gloria, driving her away.

At the forbidden shore, Mumble, Lovelace and the Amigos are attacked by two orcas, during which Lovelace is freed from the plastic rings. After escaping, they find a fishing boat. Mumble exhaustingly pursues it alone, eventually washing up on the shore of Florida, where he is rescued and kept at Marine World with Magellanic penguins. After a long and secluded confinement in addition to fruitlessly trying to communicate with the humans, Mumble nearly succumbs to madness. When a girl attempts to interact with Mumble by tapping the glass, he starts dancing, which attracts a large crowd.

Mumble is returned to 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 as a research team arrives, verifying Mumble's statements of "aliens" existing. The entire colony engages in dance in front of the research team, whose expedition footage prompts a worldwide debate, which eventually leads to the banning of all Antarctic overfishing, satisfying both the emperor penguins and the Amigos.

Voice cast

Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Brittany Murphy and Nicole Kidman at the film's European premiere in London, UK.


As an initial inspiration for the film, George Miller cited an encounter with a grizzled old cameraman 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."[7] Happy Feet was also partially inspired by earlier documentaries such as the BBC's Life in the Freezer.[8]

In 2001, during an otherwise non-sequitur 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 had 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 geopolitical complications pushed Happy Feet to the forefront in early 2003.

The animation is invested heavily in motion capture technology, with the dance scenes acted by human dancers. The tap dancing for Mumble was provided by Savion Glover, who was also co-choreographer for the dance sequences.[9] 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.[10]

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. Lighting Supervisor and VFX Department Supervisor Ben Gunsberger said that 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.[11]

According to Miller, the environmental message was not a major part of the original script. "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."[12]

The film is dedicated to the memory of Nick Enright, Michael Jonson, Robby McNeilly Green and Steve Irwin.


Happy Feet is a jukebox musical, taking previously recorded songs and working them into the film's soundtrack to fit 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 31 October 2006 and 19 December 2006, respectively.

Prince's "Song of the Heart" won the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. The film won Golden Trailer Award for Best Music.[13] The song was written by Prince specifically for Happy Feet shortly after he was given a private screening of the film to gain his approval for the use of his song "Kiss" in a musical number.[14] Prince enjoyed the film, gave his approval for the use of "Kiss" and offered to write an original song for the production, which he completed a week later.[14]


Happy Feet: Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
Released31 October 2006
Happy Feet soundtrack chronology
Happy Feet: Music from the Motion Picture
Happy Feet: Original Score
Singles from Happy Feet
  1. "Hit Me Up"
    Released: 22 January 2007

Happy Feet: Music from the Motion Picture is the lyrical soundtrack album from the 2006 animated film Happy Feet. As of March 2007, the original soundtrack sold more than 272,627 copies in the US.[citation needed]

Happy Feet: Music from the Motion Picture[15]
1."The Song of the Heart"PrincePrince4:35
2."Hit Me Up"Brian Kierulf, Josh Schwartz & Gia FarrellGia Farrell3:16
3."Tell Me Something Good"Stevie WonderPink3:08
4."Somebody to Love"Freddie MercuryBrittany Murphy3:47
5."I Wish"Stevie WonderPatti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams and Fantasia Barrino3:31
6."Jump N' Move"Simon Bartholomew, Jan Kincaid, Andrew Levy & Jamal MitchellThe Brand New Heavies (featuring Jamalski)3:18
7."Do It Again"Brian Wilson & Mike LoveThe Beach Boys2:24
8."The Joker mash-up with Everything I Own""The Joker" by Steve Miller, Eddie Curtis & Ahmet Ertegün;
"Everything I Own" by David Gates
"The Joker" by Jason Mraz;
"Everything I Own" by Chrissie Hynde
9."My Way (A Mi Manera)"Paul Anka, Jacques Revaux, Claude François & Gilles ThibaultRobin Williams1:44
10."Kiss mash-up with Heartbreak Hotel""Kiss" by Prince;
"Heartbreak Hotel" by Mae Boren Axton, Thomas Durden, and Elvis Presley
"Kiss" by Nicole Kidman;
"Heartbreak Hotel" by Hugh Jackman
11."Boogie Wonderland"Allee Willis & Jonathan LindBrittany Murphy5:07
12."Golden Slumbers / The End"John Lennon & Paul McCartneyk.d. lang4:16
13."The Story of Mumble Happy Feet"John Powell 5:50
Total length:47:37


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[16] Gold 35,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


Box office

The film opened at number one in the United States on its first weekend of release (17–19 November), grossing $41.6 million and beating Casino Royale for the top spot.[17][18] 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 by only Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.[19] As of 8 June 2008, Happy Feet had grossed $198.0 million in the US and Canada, and $186.3 million in other countries, making approximately $384.3 million worldwide. Happy Feet was the third-highest-grossing animated film of 2006 in the US, behind Cars and Ice Age: The Meltdown. The film was released in an estimated 35 territories at the close of 2006.[20][21]

The production budget was $100 million.[3]

Critical reception

Happy Feet received generally positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 76% approval rating, based on 170 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The site's consensus reads: "Visually dazzling, with a thoughtful storyline and catchy musical numbers, Happy Feet marks a successful animated debut from the makers of Babe."[22] Metacritic reports a 77 out of 100 rating, based on 30 critics.[23] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on a scale of A+ to F.[24]

Marjorie Baumgarten, film critic for The Austin Chronicle, wrote a positive review, saying, "Happy Feet treads material common to kids films and cartoons, most notably Dumbo: A young animal stands out from his herd or flock because of his inability to perform like the other animals, although he seemingly compensates for this defect by demonstrating a certain skill that sets him apart from the others, who ostracize him for his weirdness." Baumgarten also said that the CGI recreation of Antarctica is "stunning, allowing the film to shift among glorious long shots of the ice and penguin population and midshots and close-ups of the character interactions".[25]

James Berardinelli, film critic for ReelViews, praised its musical numbers (particularly "Kiss" and "Boogie Wonderland") and Robin Williams's performance by awarding the film three out of four, saying, "The ingredients for greatness are there. It's too bad the movie lost its way on the approach to the finish line. I recommend Happy Feet, but not as enthusiastically as I wish I could."[26]


Film critic Yar Habnegnal wrote an essay 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.[27] Vadim Rizov of IFC sees Mumble as just the latest in a long line of cinematic religious mavericks. Some Christians have also considered the film to be anti-Christian (or antireligious in general) due to the imagery and behaviours of various characters.[28][29]

On a technical or formal level, the film has also been recognised for its innovative introduction of Miller's roving style of subjective cinematography into contemporary animation.

Home media

Happy Feet was released on home media on 27 March 2007,[30] in the United States in three formats: DVD (in separate widescreen and pan-and-scan editions), Blu-ray, and an HD DVD/DVD combo pack.[31] Overall, Happy Feet was the third-best-selling film of 2007, with 12.2 million units sold, earning a revenue of $196.9 million.[32]

Among the DVD's special features is a scene that was cut from the film, in which Mumble meets a blue whale and an albatross while pursuing the fishing boat. 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 Irwin's memory. This scene is done in documentary style, with the albatross describing the other characters in the scene, and the impact people are having on their environment. Another special feature included on the DVD is the 1936 Merrie Melodies short I Love to Singa.


The film appeared on numerous critics' top-ten lists of the best films of 2006.[33][34]

Award Category Winner/Nominee Result
Academy Awards Best Animated Feature George Miller Won
American Film Institute Awards Honored as one of the Top Ten Best Films of the Year Won
Annie Awards Best Animated Feature George Miller Nominated
Best Writing in an Animated Feature Production George Miller, John Collee, Judy Morris, and Warren Coleman Nominated
British Academy Children's Awards Best Feature Film Won
British Academy Film Awards Best Animated Feature Film Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Animated Feature Film Nominated
Best Original Song "Song of the Heart" by Prince Won
Golden Trailer Awards[35] Best Music Won
Grammy Awards Best Score Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media John Powell Nominated
Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media "The Song of the Heart", Prince Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Animated Movie Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Animation Won
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Animated Film Won
Satellite Awards Best Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Animated Film Nominated

Video games

A video game based on the film was developed by A2M and published by Midway Games. It has the same main cast as the film. It was released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS and Wii.[36]

Artificial Life, Inc. has also developed a mobile game for the Japanese market.[37]


Happy Feet Two was produced at Dr. D Studios[38] and released on 18 November 2011.

4-D attraction

Happy Feet 4-D Experience is a 12-minute 4D film shown at various 4D theatres around the world. It retells the condensed story of Happy Feet with the help of 3D projection and sensory effects, including moving seats, wind, mist and scents. Produced by SimEx-Iwerks, the 4D experience premiered in March 2010 at the Drayton Manor Theme Park.[39] Other locations included Sea World (2010–2011),[40] Shedd Aquarium (2010–2012),[41] Moody Gardens (2010–2011),[42] Nickelodeon Suites Resort[43] and Adventure Aquarium.[44]

See also


  1. ^ "Film Distribution - Village Roadshow Limited". Village Roadshow Pictures. 11 February 2014. Archived from the original on 25 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
  2. ^ "Happy Feet". bfi. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Happy Feet (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  4. ^ "Happy Feet: The IMAX Experience". IMAX. Archived from the original on 5 November 2006. Retrieved 15 March 2007.
  5. ^ "Happy Feet Won't Debut in IMAX 3-D". VFXWorld. Retrieved 15 March 2007.
  6. ^ Reid, Joe (14 November 2014). "Big Hero 6's Big Oscar Chances". The Atlantic. Retrieved 18 September 2015. Warner Brothers is far less pedigreed in this category, only having ever won with Happy Feet in 2006,
  7. ^ "The filmmaker behind the 'Mad Max' and 'Babe' franchises turns his attention to musical fowl" Archived 19 July 2010 at the Wayback Machine. In Focus. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  8. ^ "Penguin suits up for a cinema hit". The Australian. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2008.
  9. ^ Savion Glover (2007). Happy Feet (DVD). Warner Brothers.
  10. ^ Kelley Abbey (2007). Happy Feet (DVD). Warner Brothers.
  11. ^ "Animal Logic builds rendering farm with IBM eServer BladeCenter". IBM Australia. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  12. ^ Kelly, Kate (17 November 2006). "The New Animated Film Happy Feet Doesn't Dance Around Serious Issues". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 15 March 2007.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "The Winners of the 7th Annual Golden Trailer Awards". Golden Trailer. 1 June 2006. Archived from the original on 11 February 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Prince Returns to Hollywood With 'Happy Feet': 365 Prince Songs in a Year". Diffuser.fm. 29 May 2017. Retrieved 24 August 2018.
  15. ^ Gwin, Scott (2006). "REVIEW - Happy Feet: Music From The Motion Picture". Cinema Blend. Archived from the original on 19 October 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  16. ^ "ARIA Charts – Accreditations – 2007 Albums" (PDF). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 28 December 2021.
  17. ^ "Casino Royale grosses $40.6 million". Superhero Hype!. 19 November 2006. Archived from the original on 4 October 2007. Retrieved 19 November 2006.
  18. ^ Weekend Box Office Results for 17–19 November 2006. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  19. ^ Friedman, Josh (4 December 2006). "Cool characters on hot streaks at box office". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 28 August 2022.
  20. ^ Happy Feet (2006) - Weekend Box Office Results. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  21. ^ Weekend Box Office Results for 1–3 February 2008. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  22. ^ "Happy Feet (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 19 September 2023.
  23. ^ "Happy Feet reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  24. ^ https://www.cinemascore.com/ - type "Happy Feet" in the search bar
  25. ^ Baumgarten, Marjorie (17 November 2006). "Happy Feet". The Austin Chronicles. Retrieved 14 September 2023.
  26. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Happy Feet review". ReelViews. Retrieved 14 September 2023.
  27. ^ Yar Habnegnal on Happy Feet. Scribd.com. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  28. ^ Jesus, Your Boy (28 November 2014). "Happy Feet Causes Angry Christians to Speak-Out". Medium. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  29. ^ Brevet, Brad (4 December 2006). "Why are People Upset with 'Happy Feet'". Coming Soon. Retrieved 27 February 2022.
  30. ^ "Happy Feet (2006) - Elijah Wood, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman" Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  31. ^ "Happy Feet to Dance on Blu-ray, HD DVD This March | High-Def Digest". Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  32. ^ "Top-Selling Video Titles in the United States in 2007". The Numbers. Archived from the original on 22 May 2015. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  33. ^ "Film Critic Top Ten List, 2006 Critics' Picks". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 3 January 2007. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  34. ^ "The Critics". Archived from the original on 6 January 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  35. ^ Golden Trailer Awards Archived 11 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  36. ^ Happy Feet. Midway.com. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  37. ^ (2007-04-24). Parthajit; "Happy Feet Goes Mobile". Softpedia. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  38. ^ "About Dr. D Studios". Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  39. ^ "Drayton Manor to open Happy Feet 4D attraction on March 20". Theme Park Tourist. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  40. ^ "Happy Feet 3-D (Sea World)". Parkz. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  41. ^ "4D Theater". Shedd Aquarium. Archived from the original on 29 November 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  42. ^ "Virtual Reality Theater". Moody Gardens. Archived from the original on 9 December 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  43. ^ "Orlando Theater and 4-D Experience". Nickelodeon Suites Resort. Archived from the original on 12 December 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  44. ^ "4D Theater". Adventure Aquarium. Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  45. ^ "March of the Penguins". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. 2008. Archived from the original on 15 January 2008. Retrieved 23 November 2008.