Australian Council on Children and the Media

Happy Feet

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Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 11 (Themes; Scary scenes; Sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Happy Feet
  • a review of Happy Feet completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 18 December 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to its themes, some scary scenes and sexual references.
Children 8-11 Parental guidance recommended due to its themes, some scary scenes and sexual references.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Happy Feet
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length 108 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) is the only child of Norma Jean (Nicole Kidman) and Memphis (Hugh Jackman), two Emperor penguins whose vocal talents are legendary. Unfortunately Mumble can’t hold a tune. Despite the efforts of his teachers and voice instructors, the pleading of his parents and his own best attempts he can’t find his heart song. He is snubbed by his classmates, with the exception of Gloria (Brittany Murphy), and ostracized by the Emperor penguin community.

However, what Mumble lacks in singing abilities he makes up for in rhythm and dance. He grows up having to hide his talent from a community that doesn’t understand it and certainly doesn’t appreciate it. When a chance encounter throws him into the company of a group of hip, Latino penguins led by Ramon (Robin Williams) Mumble learns to see himself in a different light and begins to believe in his own abilities and take pride in what he can do.

At odds with the elders in his own community, Mumble sets off to find the reason why fish are becoming so scarce. He seeks advice from the reputedly wise Lovelace (also Robin Williams) but is not given the answers he needs and must search for the truth himself. His determination takes him farther than any of his kind had ever been before and his ingenuity, unique abilities and open heart help save his starving colony and restore order to the arctic region.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Animal distress; environmental issues

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Various penguins repeatedly bump and crash into each other while slipping around on the ice.
  • The leader of a group of birds repeatedly whacks, slaps and shoves the other birds while trying to corner a baby Mumble.
  • Mumble holds onto a fish while a flock of birds try to get it from him. He is thrashed and bashed and eventually plummets to the ground where he lies almost unconscious.
  • Mumble is chased by a vicious leopard seal, with red evil eyes and yellowed gnashing teeth. A terrified Mambo leaps through the air barely escaping the seals gaping jaws as he is pursued over the ice, under the ice, through tunnels and open sea. The scene is very vivid, dramatic and intense
  • Two killer whales head butt each other.
  • Two killer whales ‘play’ with Lovelace and Mumble before attempting to eat them. They are bashed by tails, tossed back and forth between mouths, partially ingested and then spat out. One of the whales appears to be tearing out Mumble’s feathers as he tries to escape. The brutality of the scene could be very disturbing for some young viewers.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

There is one very dramatic, eerie and foreboding scene that could scare or disturb children under the age of five. In this scene, there is a bad storm and the penguins huddle together. While one penguin speaks about the will to survive, strange shapes merge and swirl above them in the dark storm, constrasting with the glowing northern lights.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Mumble (as a baby) is cornered by a gang of birds that want to eat him. He pleads for mercy, for his life, but is relentlessly pursued until he falls into a crevice in the ice where their beaks and talons can’t reach. There he lies shivering, shaking and alone.
  • A vehicle that appears to be for scientific research plummets into the ocean after an avalanche and disappears into the depths. We don’t see people inside and no one escapes, but we get the impression that the vehicle was occupied based on some of the contents that float out as it sinks into the darkness.
  • Lovelace has a six-pack plastic ring around his neck that is slowly strangling him.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Some of the younger children in this age group could be disturbed by some of the scenes described above.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern, although plenty of associated merchandise being marketed to children

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, mainly in song lyrics that children might imitate, including:

  • “I just need your body baby from dusk till dawn.”
  • “You don’t need to be beautiful to turn me on.”
  • “Let’s talk about sex baby.”
  • “Do you see something you like?”
  • “Go forth and multiply.”
  • “I’ll make love to you, like you want me to…”
  • “Love her up real good.”
  • “Shake your bon-bon” referring to a voluptuous backside.
  • “You don’t need to be beautiful baby. I just need your body.”

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • “Lovelace’s ladies” do a sexy dance while he sings to a crowd.
  • Lovelace takes a number of female penguins in his arms and leads them to his “couch of perpetual indulgence” and, referring to sex, asks them: “Ladies, who is first?”

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

There is no coarse language of concern, but several put downs, including:

  • Rubber butt
  • Fatty
  • Twitchy idiot.

In a nutshell

Happy Feet is an animated film with an important message and brilliant special effects. The film will appeal to all ages but, due to its content, is more suited to older children and adults.

The main messages from this movie are to be true to yourself and tolerant of those who are different and that everyone has special gifts and talents The film also highlights the impact that over-fishing and pollution have on the natural environment and how it affects the voiceless creatures that share the planet with us.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Determination
  • Creativity
  • Tolerance
  • Joyfulness

 Parents could discuss the consequences on the environment of excessive consumption and carelessness.

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