We attended the Premiere of Disneynature’s Penguins this past Sunday and it was fantastic! It opens today, April 17th, and is a must see movie for the family! My full review is here!
“Penguins” is the eighth theatrical release for Disneynature. The first seven theatrical releases, “Earth,” “Oceans,” “African Cats,” “Chimpanzee,” “Bears,” “Monkey Kingdom” and “Born in China,” are seven of the top eight highest grossing feature-length nature films to date, with “Chimpanzee” garnering a record-breaking opening weekend for the genre.
The film is narrated by Ed Helms of “The Office” and “The Hangover” fame, just to name a few. He voices the main character, a penguin named Steve. He adds some great humor and nuance to his most challenging role to date!
We spoke to:
-Producer Roy Conli, an old friend of mine! I interviewed him two years ago for the Blu-ray release of “Made in China,” and I also met him on a Disney Movie Junket for a little movie called “Big Hero Six.” Roy won the Academy Award for that one! One of the treats I receive when interviewing Roy is getting to see a man who loves his work, and who has a great passion for nature, and who now has two Disneynature directorial credits to his name.
-Alastair Fothergill (Director/Producer) was described by The Wall Street Journal as “the Spielberg of nature ﬁlms.” He is the director of four previous Disneynature productions: “African Cats” and “Bears” (with Keith Scholey), as well as “Chimpanzee” and “Earth” (with Mark Linﬁeld).
-Jeff Wilson (Director) is a producer/director of natural history ﬁlms and a documentary photographer based in Bristol, U.K. He served as assistant director for Disneynature’s 2015 feature “Monkey Kingdom” before joining the “Penguins” team.
-Popi Borboroglu Advisor from the Global Penguin Society.
The crew worked tirelessly in a very risky environment! I broke our conversation down into the following areas:
-Why these penguins? Why this story? Who wrote the script?
The Adelie penguins are known for their bigger personalities, so they lent themselves more perfectly to a story then any other penguin species. And the penguins wrote the script. There was a general story line, but after months of watching these Adelie penguins, the story evolved. It was decided that one male stood out and became the featured “actor.” Steve the penguin was a hapless five year old penguin who knew it was time to get a mate. He went all over the place looking for rocks to build a nest for the prospective Mrs. Meanwhile, other penguins would steal his pebbles! Then he had to sing for one of the females to decide his song was right for her! The team described Steve as a sort of doofus, an inexperienced type, and his qualities made him perfect as the lead! This story is also about the dads in the penguin world, unlike most other species in the animal and bird world, penguin dads work just as hard at raising the kids as the moms! Steve made a lot of mistakes as he struggled through fatherhood, something many of us could relate to.
These penguin actors did not follow the script, so from just watching them in action, the team was able to get some amazing footage of Adelie penguin life, and adjust the story to reflect what they were watching over the three years of filming.
Antarctica is dangerous! We saw the katabatic winds, that can reach up to 150 miles, race across the Antarctic. The crew got caught in it and a 40 minute trek took them three hours back to their tents. It was explained to us that in this situation, the penguins just lay down, their body surface is made for this type of air movement, it is similar to the ocean current when the birds are swimming through!
I asked how the leopard seals felt about having company in the water as they were trying to feed off on the baby penguins. Alistair shared that “Diver Doug” in all his gear looked like a leopard seal to them, and was barely noticed. This enabled him to get some amazing footage!
Life Writes The Story
In one scene one of Steve’s kids throws up his food. If that isn’t real life, then what is! Something all of us parents have seen, the Directors knew they had to put this in the movie.
A leopard seal was going after one of Steve’s babies. We were shocked to see the baby play dead, and the leopard seal get bored, and eventually leave it alone. The baby survived. Capturing these types of scenes were terrific luck for the crew, scenes never before seen by man.
The under water Antarctica shots were incredibly beautiful, the divers could only stay down there for 45 minutes at a time because it was so cold!
Disney sets out to make a family movie that entertains and informs. Disneynature Penguins does just that. Families can enjoy watching other families of a different species survive and enjoy life. And struggle through the tough moments as well. This is how you get children and adults to care about nature, and hopefully take part in protecting our environment and all the life the planet supports.
Disneynature Penguins Opens Today! See it now! 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!
And of course, my celebrity shots!
Actor Ed Helms:
And Roy Conli from this, my third time interviewing him!
And the group shot!
- “Penguins” 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. Founded in 2002, WCN invests in a select network of on-the-ground conservationists, including top experts in the field of penguins like the Global Penguin Society (GPS). The worldwide leader in science-based penguin conservation, GPS champions specific programs that align with Disneynature’s conservation mission. Conservation is a key pillar of the label and the films empower the audience to help make a difference, with each film supporting wildlife featured in the films.
· “Penguins” is the first-ever Disneynature film to be released in IMAX®.
· As an actor, writer and comedian, Helms established himself as one of Hollywood’s most beloved performers with scene-stealing roles on both film and television including NBC’s award-winning comedy series, “The Office,” and the box office smash hit film trilogy “The Hangover.”
· Disneynature celebrates 10 years since its first feature film hit theaters. The first new Disney-branded film label from The Walt Disney Studios in more than 60 years, Disneynature was launched to bring the world’s top nature filmmakers together to capture a variety of wildlife subjects and stories.
- “Penguins” is the eighth theatrical release for Disneynature. The first seven theatrical releases, “Earth,” “Oceans,” “African Cats,” “Chimpanzee,” “Bears,” “Monkey Kingdom” and “Born in China,” are seven of the top eight highest grossing feature-length nature films to date, with “Chimpanzee” garnering a record-breaking opening weekend for the genre.
- Walt Disney was a pioneer in wildlife documentary filmmaking, producing 13 True Life Adventure motion pictures between 1948 and 1960, including “Seal Island” (1948), “Beaver Valley” (1950), “The Living Desert” (1953) and “Jungle Cat” (1958). The films earned eight Academy Awards®.