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HAPPY FEET

About The Production
"If ‘Babe' was the ‘talking-pig' movie, then this is the ‘dancing-penguin' movie,” states George Miller about the films he helped bring to the world in the 1990s, and his most recent work, ‘Happy Feet,' which he co-wrote, produced and directed. Miller came to the idea of the story of an Emperor Penguin who happens to be a great tap dancer after watching a number of documentaries on the wildlife of the Antarctic.

"There's only one thing that attracts me to any project whether it be ‘Mad Max,' or fables about pigs or penguins—the power of the story,” Miller states. "Story is king! What's so seductive about working in film is that you can go into whatever world you like, but you're always trying to find the most meaningful stories. So, to me, there's not much difference between ‘Mad Max,' ‘Babe,' or, indeed, the creatures of ‘Happy Feet.'

"I was always attracted to the epic nature of Antarctica,” the director continues. "About ten years ago, when I saw ‘Life in The Freezer,' the BBC/National Geographic documentary on penguins, it struck me that there was a great story there. Penguins live such extraordinary lives, richly allegorical in terms of how we conduct ourselves as humans. The way they survive at the far end of the planet, huddling against the cold, sharing the warmth, singing to find a mate.”

Miller is referring to the penguin's ‘Heartsong,' the identity-defining croon of the Emperor Penguin, and the way they distinguish each other within the flock. "To us, it sounds like squawking,” he clarifies. "But to each individual penguin, it's like a song. There might be 25,000 birds on an Antarctic ice shelf, each having a song unique to themselves, and somehow one manages to find another through the cacophony. "This story follows our main character from the moment of his parents' coming together, his hatching and childhood, all the way up through young adulthood and all the experiences that he endures trying to find his way in the world.”

Into the community of the Emperor Penguins, the hero, Mumble, is born unable to sing. His parents take him to a remedial teacher who encourages him to give expression to his deepest feelings. But they come out in the form of tap dancing, which is regarded by his community as being a little weird.

The use of the Heartsong idea allowed Miller to incorporate music and dance into his story, which would go on to feature contemporary and classic songs, as well as various styles of dancing.

"‘Happy Feet' started long before ‘March of the Penguins' was released,” explains Miller in answer to a question he is often asked. "The fact that the documentary was so successful was a double delight because it helped set up interest in our computer-animated movie about penguins.”

To bring the central character of Mumble to life would require a fleet of technical wizards and a special voice talent. Co-writer Judy Morris offers, "Mumble is earnest and open to new things. We knew whoever voiced him would have to be able to communicate an intelligent innocence, and, at the same time, be hip and cool. We needed an actor with a real, open quality; we found the perfect match in Elijah Wood.”

"Mumble's confidence and innate sense of self is extraordinary,” says Wood, who portrayed another determined hero in the "The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. "He refuses to see his dancing as a problem, and he doesn't want to give up the part of himself that makes him unique. He's saying, ‘I have this oddity, but it's not odd to me, it's just odd to you. I'm okay with it, so you're the one who has to come around.'”

Wood is proud to send a strong message of self-acceptance to children and adults alike. "It's really important for everyone to realize that we shouldn't compromise on those things that are individual to us, especially for other people.”

Whil

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