SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Father/Son; Friendship; Teamwork.

MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Responsibility; Caring.

AT A GLANCE: Age: 5 – 8; MPAA Rating — PG; Animated Drama; 2011; 100 minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

*Note: The Development of This Guide is Still in Progress.


Mumble and Gloria, the main characters from Happy Feet, are the proud parents of Erik, a young penguin trying to find his place in the world. That world, unfortunately, is slowly disappearing; glaciers and ice caps are melting, and the Emperor penguin colony is trapped, fenced in by ice walls, and unable to reach the fish-filled ocean. With the help of a variety of Antarctic creatures, and an eventually-redeemed charlatan puffin, the world is set right once more.


Like the first Happy Feet, this movie celebrates singing and dancing, with plenty of both in the film, and encourages an exuberant existence. Erik can’t figure out what makes him special, and ultimately, he realizes that it’s opera singing. We see the effects of global warming, and how melting glaciers causes more than high waters. Characters work together, offer forgiveness to everyone (even their predatory enemies), and the lesson of finding out what makes you resonates throughout the story.

There are also terrific moral lesson, summarized into quick quotes, like: “When things go wrong, running away is not the answer, you have to find within yourself a way to handle it”, “We’re all different. It’s part of the job of life to find out who you are and what you’ve got”, “You shouldn’t make fun of someone just because they’re different”, “Sometimes when you are a little different, the world laughs at you; believe in yourself…because [I] believe in you”, and “There’s only one of me in all the world.”


There is mild language (“idiot”, etc.), and a few scary chases between whales, eels, penguins and leopard seals. A group of Skua birds tries to attack the penguin colonies as they are facing starvation, but they are eventually scared off. There is also an oil spill (a drowning penguin is saved by a human), and a scene in which two baby elephant seals see their father fall off a cliff. He says his goodbyes from the bottom of the chasm, and it appears he will die, but Mumble thinks fast and saves him.


ruthless, Adélie penguins, swarm, krill, adore, fabulous, adventure, delusional, ordinary, Sweden, Antarctica, Emperor penguins, obstacle, adapt, herbivore, predator, invertebrates, spineless, food chain, anxious, evolve, elephant seal, kelp, leopard seal, natural selection, iceberg, Puffin, Skua, multitudes.




What special talents do you have? What is something you’d like to learn how to do?

→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning. Talk about a movie at any time: right after it is over, in the car on the way to school, during quiet time, or before bed.

→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.

What did you think about Erik’s two friends, Bo and Atticus? Were they good friends?

→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.

→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.

Who was your favorite character? What was your favorite song?

→ Young children love Story Time.




Select questions appropriate for your child.


1. Sven convinces everyone that he’s the world’s first flying penguin. In reality, he was a Puffin, a bird who could fly all along. Was it wrong for Sven to tell the penguins that they could fly like him? Talking About It — Sven was a good person in many ways but it was wrong for Sven to deceive the penguins. Sven could have been honest from the beginning, and told Lovelace that he was just a lonely Puffin looking for a family. The penguins would have welcomed him to their colony.

2. When Erik dances for the first time, he falls down, gets his head stuck, and, most embarrassingly of all, wets himself in front of the entire colony. His best friends Bo and Atticus immediately run to him. Bo yells at the laughing crowd to stop, and she tells them “it’s not funny!” Atticus challenges the crowd to think of a more amazing ending than a headstand. Are Bo and Atticus good friends to Erik? If so, what makes them so? Talking About It — Bo and Atticus stood up for Erik even when it meant they might get laughed at, too. They care about Erik and are always looking out for him. Erik, Bo, and Atticus always treat each other with respect and it is clear that they love each other very much.

3. When Bryan the elephant seal fell down the crevice, Mumble used quick thinking to save him. Bryan promised that if Mumble ever needed help, he just had to ask. What happened when Mumble did ask for help? What do you think Bryan should have done? Talking About It — When Mumble asked Bryan for help, Bryan said no. He was in the middle of a fight for territory. Bryan does the right thing in the end, but he should’ve helped Mumble as soon as he asked; many lives were at stake.

4. Sven and Lovelace meet when they are both taken aboard a ship. Lovelace had been caught in an oil spill. What is an oil spill, and why is it bad? What can we do about it? Talking About It — Sometimes a ship carrying oil hits a rock or has a leak and oil, the stuff we use to make cars run and to power our lights, spills out of the ship. This pollutes the water, and can make animals and humans sick. Cleaning up oil spills is very hard, but many people work to save animals, the way the humans saved Lovelace. We can use less oil by walking or riding our bikes, taking the bus or subway, making sure we turn off lights when we aren’t using them, and turning off electronics like computers and televisions. If we all pitch in, we can make a difference. Remember “every step counts!”

→ Don’t feel obligated to cover everything in this Guide. One or two questions are all that some children will tolerate. However, if your child watches the movie more than once, on each occasion start a new conversation or pick a new activity. This will enhance verbal development and increase the number of lessons your child takes from the film.


1. Musical medleys — When Erik finally sings, he doesn’t belt catchy pop songs; instead, he sings opera. There are lots of other kinds of singing in this movie, including rapping and yodeling. Talk about differences and similarities between opera, rapping, and yodeling and then have a contest. Pick a song you know well, and take turns performing it in opera, rap, and yodel style.

2. Swedish adventures — Sven is a Puffin from Sweden. Look at a map of the world and locate Sweden and Antarctica. Trace routes that Sven might have taken. Look at pictures of Sweden online and practice counting to ten together (here is a quick video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8otpKfABTE). Look up typical Swedish recipes and try them out!

3. Antarctic animals — We see lots of animals in this movie, including Emperor penguins, Adélie penguins, elephant seals, leopard seals, krill, Skua, Puffins, whales, and more. Take one part from each of these animals and create super animal. You can print photos out of the animals and cut and paste your new super animal together, or you can draw it. Talk about why you picked each part and what this super animal can do that other animals can’t. Make sure to give it a name!


Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.

Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Both of you can invent new adventures for the characters in the movie. The incidents in your stories should explore the themes of the movie.

Here is a bedtime story about that you can read to your child that expands upon some of the themes of the movie.

“Duck!” yelled Mari as she slid across the wet grass. Her best friend, Melisha, dropped to the ground, but it was too late. A big, bright pink water balloon exploded on Melisha’s shoulder, soaking her right side. Melisha couldn’t help but laugh and Mari slid over to help her friend back up.

It was Water Day at school; every year, on the last day of school, the bell would ring one hour early and all the students would pour out of the building and race toward the grassy soccer field. Teachers had spent the evenings leading up to Water Day filling as many water balloons as they could, carefully piling them into buckets and bowls. These buckets and bowls were now scattered throughout the field, letting students and teachers have the world’s greatest water balloon fight to celebrate the end of the school year.

Mari pulled Melisha to her feet and the girls reached into a nearly empty bucket of balloons. They lobbed the balloons toward their friend Jason, who dodged them with ease. Jason was officially beating them at this water balloon fight. They’d hit him maybe three times, and he’d hit them at least ten times, each. They were determined to get their friend soaking wet before the day ended. The now muddy field was dotted with neon balloon skins; kids were running around looking frantically for balloons that still held water. It seemed like the supply had run out. No more balloons meant the end of Water Day.

Jason pulled a slick, yellow balloon out from behind his back and threw it toward the middle of the field, at nobody in particular. It bounced on the muddy ground but didn’t pop. Melisha spotted this, the last balloon of Water Day, and made a run for it. Realizing what she was up to, Jason also ran, chasing after his balloon. The kids in the field stopped and watched, cheering and yelling. Jason and Melisha both reached the balloon at the same time but Jason snatched it up. Melisha couldn’t control her speed and fell face first into the muddy field.

She stood up, covered head to toe in mud, dirty water filling her mouth and eyes. She couldn’t see a thing. But she could hear; she could hear people laughing. She wiped the mud out of her eyes and saw what seemed like the whole school pointing at her at laughing. Mean laughing. Jason was laughing, too, and he yelled “Melisha pooped her pants!” before smashing the last water balloon onto her head. The crowd roared in laughter, laughing at Melisha.

Melisha felt hot tears weave trails through the mud on her face and her burning eyes searched the crowd for Mari. But what she saw made her cry even harder. Mari was there, pointing and laughing, too. Her best friend!

Melisha scrambled to her feet and ran to her teacher. The other teachers were breaking up the circle and scolding the most vocal teasers. Her teacher, Mr. Vaughn, walked her to the nurse’s office to get some clean clothes. Nurse Bonnie gave her a towel, sweatpants and a t-shirt, and put her dirty clothes in a bag. Melisha’s tears didn’t stop. School had ended and Melisha’s parents arrived. They weren’t upset about her messy clothes; they could tell something more was bothering her. But Melisha didn’t want to talk about it. Every time she tried to speak, she just saw Mari pointing and laughing at her. Mean laughing.

That night, Melisha wasn’t hungry and didn’t want dinner or her favorite dessert. She didn’t want to watch TV or read her chapter book. She just wanted to go to bed. Her mom ran a warm bath and poured in her favorite bubble gel, but even this didn’t make Melisha feel better. As she was tucking Melisha in, Melisha finally spoke. She told her mom about everything that happened, about the teasing, the mud, Jason, and worst of all, Mari. Her now ex-best friend. Melisha’s mom listened, promised it would be okay, and soon Melisha was asleep.

The next morning Melisha woke up and felt something on her feet. She sat up and saw a very sad looking Mari huddled on the end of her bed. “Hi,” Mari said, in a really quiet voice.

“What do you want?” Melisha said, sounding angrier than she was.

“I came to say I’m sorry. I’m really sorry for laughing at you,” Mari said, as she began to cry. Melisha didn’t say anything. “I should have come and helped you. I should’ve told everyone to stop laughing. I don’t know why I didn’t. I feel really bad.”

“I thought you were my best friend,” Melisha said, quietly.

“I am! At least, I would still like to be. I’m sorry, Mel.” Mari looked so sad, even sadder than Melisha felt.

“It’s okay,” Melisha said, “We all make mistakes. I forgive you.”

Mari looked up and smiled. She wiped the tears from her face and reached down to the floor. “I brought you a peace offering. You can use it on me.” She handed Melisha a huge, yellow water balloon.

Melisha held the balloon her hand. She turned the rubbery, jiggly sphere around in her hand. Then she laughed. “I have an even better idea!”

Later that morning, the two girls rang Jason’s doorbell. He answered, and was surprised to see them. “Melisha, I’m really sorry about yesterday,” Jason said, but before he could ask what they were doing there, they smashed the water balloon on his head. Jason started laughing and yelled “I was expecting this!” He ran to the garage and dragged out a huge bin full of water balloons. “Let’s go!” he said.

Melisha, Mari, and Jason threw water balloons at each other for what seemed like hours, stopping only to fill up more balloons. They played late into the day and the only laughter that afternoon was the good, silly kind.

The End.


Visit your local library and check out books about Antarctica, glaciers, penguins, Artic life, Sweden, and more!

Written by Lauren Humphrey and James Frieden.