In the modern world, the usage of penguins by the film industry is a massive source of revenue. By using penguins the film industry knows that they will make a large profit as people will go to watch a movie that contains penguins. However, the film industry also shows the hardships that penguins go through every day in order to survive. This is both a blessing and a curse for them as it causes confusion about the species that are depicted in these films.
One of the moat common species of penguin shown in films is the Emperor Penguin, Aptenodytes forsteri. According to Antarctic Connection “The regal Emperor penguin is the largest of all the penguins. They are also one of the most biologically interesting.” This because an emperor penguin can grow up to 40 inches in height and weighs approx 88 pounds when mature. Emperor penguins are nomadic. They migrate inland every winter to give birth. This is extremely dangerous for them as an Antarctic Winter is the most violent weather known on earth. Temperatures often range from -40°C to -70°C. Blizzards are frequent which causes blinding conditions for the penguins. The emperor penguin is the most biologically interesting because it chooses the most dangerous time of the year to give birth. However it does this for an excellent reason. During winter there is less risk from predators who will feed on the young, for example, the Leopard Seal, Hydruga leptonyx. This allows the young to be raised independently. Also it is the male emperor penguin who minds the egg. All males huddle together to keep warm and incubate the eggs. The females return to the ocean to feed themselves. By this time a large percentage of their body weight will have gone. When the egg is released the males give whatever food they have to the new borns and then go off to get food for themselves.
The emperor penguin has been depicted in many movies including Happy Feet and March of the Penguins. Happy Feet is a CGI- computer generated imagery movie. It is about a penguin called Mumble who cannot sing but he does have amazing tap dancing ability. In Happy Feet, Mumble is shunned by everyone so he leaves the group and goes off into the wilderness on his own. March of the Penguins is a documentary about the yearly journey the emperor penguin makes inland to their ancestral breeding ground which can be between 50 and 120 km away. The documentary explores the hardships the penguins go to in order to survive.
Another film depicting penguins is Surfs Up. It is a mockumentary about a penguin who wants to become a famous and respected surfer just like his idol Zeke ‘Big Z’ Topanga. He gets this fantasy after ‘Big Z’ visits where he home Shiverpool, Antarctica.
In this film however a Rockhopper Penguin is shown. The Rockhopper Penguin is divided into three species: Western Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes chrysocome, Eastern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes filholi and Northern Rockhopper Penguin, Eudyptes moseleyi. The Western Rockhopper Penguin breeds on the southern tip of South America. The Eastern Rockhopper Penguin breeds on the sub-antarctic islands of the Indian and western Pacific Oceans while the Northern Rockhopper penguin breeds on St. Paul’s Island and Amsterdam Island. The name rockhopper refers to the fact that the penguin while jump onto boulders or over cracks while other penguins would get around by sliding on their bellies or by using their flipper-like wings as climbing aids. The Rockhopper Penguin is also depicted in Happy Feet as the penguin Lovelace, a penguin that claims to have been captured by aliens but escaped.
In the movie franchise: Madagascar, penguins are also present. However in this movie they are shown as a paramilitary unit. The penguins in this franchise are used to for additional laughs when the main characters are not able to be funny at these points because their roles don’t allow for it.
The documentary March of the Penguins is the one movie featuring penguins that doesn’t aim to exploit them. In this documentary, the hardships penguins go through day after day to survive the winter shows their lifestyle undisturbed by humans. Although it exploits them for money in the end, that is not the role of this movie. The role of this movie is to show the compassion penguins have for their mate at this time and the sacrifices they endure to care for their young during the winter season.
Although it may seem like penguins are exploited by the film industry as surfers, dancers or soldiers those penguins are CGI. The only movie that shows real penguins is March of the Penguins. In this movie though the camera people do not interact with the penguins, they just film them as the penguins journey to and from the coast to their ancestral breeding ground inland which can sometimes be over 100 km away. However one can claim the use of CGI penguins is exploitation as with CGI the penguins can do stuff they shouldn’t be able to do e.g. drive a ship, tap dance or even talk. Therefore it is how one views the use of penguins by the film industry as exploitation or not.