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Much ado about penguins In Focus by Richard Crouse METRO CANADA Published: November 15, 2011

capture3At the start of the animated penguin picture Surf’s Up, Cody Maverick (the voice of Transformer’s star Shia LaBeouf) takes a shot at another cartoon tuxedoed bird movie.

Asked if he has any other skills besides surfing. Cody sarcastically says, “Like what? Singing and dancing?”

Of course, he’s referring to Happy Feet, the Oscar winning movie about an Emperor Penguin who can’t find his soul mate the usual way — through song — so he uses his other talent — tap dancing.

The musical penguins of Happy Feet shim shammed their way to huge box office in 2006, and will paddle and roll their way back into theatres again this weekend in Happy Feet Two.

For a while, it seemed like you couldn’t swing a herring without hitting a penguin at the movies.

March of the Penguins, a real-life look at the migration march of Emperor penguins to their traditional breeding ground, was a left field hit in 2005. The winner for Best Documentary not only out grossed all the nominees for Best Picture that year — it took in $77 million vs. $75 million for Brokeback Mountain — but also became the second highest grossing theatrical documentary after Fahrenheit 9/11.

It was such a huge hit it inspired an R-rated parody, Farce of the Penguins. Featuring the voices of Samuel L. Jackson, Jason Alexander and Christina Applegate, it’s an R-rated spoof that imagines what sex-starved penguins might talk about on the 70 mile walk to their mating grounds.

“I am tired of the club scene,” says one penguin. “So are the baby seals!” replies another.

More family friendly was Madagascar, the story of four Central Park Zoo animals who get stranded on the island of Madagascar. The movie featured a large menagerie of characters, but the zoo’s penguins, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, proved to be audience favourites.  They have most of the movie’s best lines — on landing in Africa one of the flightless birds says, “Africa? That ain’t gonna fly!” — and were featured in a short film, The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper, a TV series and video games.

Probably the most famous penguin character in the movies is Oswald Cobblepot a.k.a. The Penguin, as played by Danny DeVito in Batman Returns.

This super villain is human, but dresses like a penguin, eats raw fish and tries to conquer Gotham with an army of specially trained penguins.

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