March of the Penguins

image for March of the Penguins

Short takes

Parental guidance under 10 (Disturbing themes and scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for March of the Penguins
  • a review of March of the Penguins completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 January 2006.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 parental guidance recommended due to disturbing scenes and themes
Children 10 and over OK for this age group

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. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: March of the Penguins
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: None
Length: 80 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Written and directed by Luc Jacquet, March of the Penguins is a documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman, about the extraordinary ritual of the Emperor Penguins, who walk 70 miles to reach their ancient breeding grounds annually.

Each year in March, the Emperor Penguins leave their coastal home and begin their walk across the “darkest, driest, windiest and coldest” continent on Earth to reach their ancient breeding grounds 70 miles away. The walk can take up to a week as they don’t walk terribly fast. The Penguins all arrive on the same day and begin the task of finding a mate with whom they’ll stay throughout the breeding season. When the penguins find their partner, the breeding ritual begins. Later when the egg is hatched there is the tricky and dangerous task of transferring it from Mother to Father who will ‘incubate’ it throughout the long, harsh winter. Some eggs are lost during this process, cracking in the extreme cold. The mother then returns to the sea to feed as she is starving by this time. The fathers all stay looking after the eggs for four months without food. When the mothers return their chicks are eagerly awaiting their return and some food to eat. At this point the fathers can then return to the sea so they can eat, however many do not make the journey as they are starving. Eventually the fathers return and the family is reunited for a while until it is time for the parents to leave.


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.

Lives, death and distress of animals

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 a little violence in this movie:

  • female penguins fight over the males as there are fewer of them.
  • a leopard seal chases the penguins in the water and is shown capturing one in its mouth.
  • a large bird circles, then chases the chicks. It pecks at them and it is apparent it takes one although this isn’t shown.

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.

Children under the age of five could be upset by the above mentioned scenes and also the following:

  • a lone penguin straggler is shown dying
  • the fathers all huddled are frozen and covered in ice during a blizzard
  • on the return journey one of the father penguins is shown dying from exhaustion
  • chicks who are born too early don’t survive waiting for their mothers – one is shown dead
  • chicks often perish in the blizzards – some are shown frozen
  • a distressing scene in which the mothers find their dead chicks and try to make them wake up
  • mother penguins who lose their chicks often try to steal another’s. The group gathers to protect the mother and chick and chase the other penguin away

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.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

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.

Younger children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Thirteen and overinfo

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.

Nothing of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

Nothing of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

This a beautifully filmed documentary which  shows the harsh reality of life in the Antarctic. It may be upsetting to younger children. The effort involved by the parent penguins to rear their young is quite inspiring.