SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING: Friendship; Courage; Self-Esteem; Disabilities;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS: Responsibility; Respect; Caring.
AT A GLANCE: Age: 5 – 8; MPAA Rating — PG for mild peril and rude humor; Animated Drama; 2006; 108 minutes; Color; Available at Amazon.com.
Mumble lives in a colony of emperor penguins that love to sing. Unfortunately, Mumble can’t sing. The only way he can express himself is to dance. Mumble gets teased and leaves the colony. On his adventures, Mumble discovers a colony of Adelie penguins who love to dance. With the help of his new friends, Mumble shows his old community that he can really save the day.
“Happy Feet” is an entertaining movie with catchy songs, thrilling dance numbers, and breathtaking computer-generated Antarctic scenery. It will encourage children to accept others who are disabled or different in some way. It will encourage children who are disabled or who can’t fit in to believe in themselves and what they can do. “Happy Feet” talks powerfully about the Golden Rule. It is also a great movie for kids who are interested in dancing or singing. It also introduces children to the vital need to protect our environment.
MINOR. There is some subtle sexuality in the film surrounding Lovelace, Gloria and mating rituals, but it is over the heads of most children. If they do pick up on it, you can discuss the penguin mating rituals and the system for raising offspring that is shown in the film. There is also a visually spectacular chase scene with a seal, which may frighten younger children.
food chain, journey, habitat, pollution, elephant seal, emperor penguin, Adelie penguin, fish, gull, triumph, indifference, hatching, over-fishing.
TALKING FOR VERBAL, SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Which character was your favorite? — If you could have any of the characters in the movie as a friend, which would you choose? — Why is that?
Would you rather live in Hawaii or Antarctica? What are your reasons?
→ Always encourage your child to form opinions and to share them.
→ Open-ended questions will help get a discussion going.
How was Mumble different from other penguins?
What do you think would have happened if Mumble didn’t know how to dance? How would that have occurred?
What kinds of pollution did you see in this movie?
→ Just talking with your child fosters verbal, social and emotional learning.
→ Exercise memory skills by asking about the story, the characters, and the plot. Keep it light and fun.
Would you rather be able to dance or sing, or do you like to do both? Tell me why.
→ Young children love Story Time.
DISCUSSIONS BASED ON THEMES IN THE MOVIE
Select questions appropriate for your child.
1. Memphis was Mumble’s dad, and he didn’t like the fact that Mumble wanted to dance. He hurt Mumble’s feelings for a long time, by not accepting his son for who he was. Why was Mumble so hurt by Memphis’ disapproval? Talking About It — A parent’s approval is important to every child. Because someone very important in Mumble’s life refused to accept him for who he was, Mumble felt as if he was not loved. This made him feel sad and lonely. Instead of changing himself to make his dad happy, Mumble was true to his heart and kept dancing. Finally, Memphis realized that being unkind to Mumble was foolish, and accepted his son for who he was. In the end, Memphis wound up dancing with Mumble, too!
→ When a parent takes a concept from the movie seriously, a child will start thinking about the lessons of the film. Often, it only takes one comment to start a child’s mind going.
2. The story of Mumble Happy Feet is similar to that of another outcast bird. Which bird is this? Talking About It — — It is the Ugly Duckling. If you have a copy of this tale at home, sit down with your child and read it together. If you don’t have the story at home, take a trip to the library and find a copy there, or read the story online at here. Talk about the similarities and differences between the Ugly Duckling and Mumble Happy Feet. You can even work together to write a new story, about the Ugly Duckling meeting Mumble!
→ You can 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.
3. Who are some of the characters in “Happy Feet” who stood up for what is right? What did they do? Talking About It — Gloria stood up for Mumble in their singing class. She also defended him throughout the movie. Mumble stood up for himself, in choosing to dance. Norma Jean (Mumble’s mother) always encouraged Mumble to dance. Mumble stood up to the aliens when he was in the zoo and wound up saving the penguin colony by dancing. Mumble and Ramon (and the other Adelie penguins) helped save Lovelace’s life, by beating the odds and getting the soda ring off of Lovelace’s neck. All of these instances are examples of standing up for friends and for your community.
→ 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.
4. Gloria was Mumble’s friend ever since they were little. How was she a good friend to Mumble? What do you think being a good friend means? Talking About It — She stood up for him in school, when everyone found out that he couldn’t sing. She also offered to help him find the “aliens” and help Lovelace. Mumble didn’t accept her help, and decided to make her mad. Even after this, however, Gloria was still his friend. Being a good friend means to stick up for each other, to listen, to be kind, to play with, to forgive, and to be there for each other.
PLAYING FOR GROWTH
1. Play “Happy Feet copy cat” — Sing a few notes, and have your child copy you. Then have your child sing some notes, and you mimic. Sing some more, using slightly more complex musical phrases as you go along. The last one to mess up wins! You can also do this with dance moves. Do a few dance steps and have your child mimic them. Take turns and add moves as with the singing. Talk about how learning new songs or dances take a lot of practice, and how professional singers and dancers break the songs or dances into small groups of notes or steps, just like you are doing together!
2. Look at pictures of penguins and Antarctica — Check out some pictures of penguins and Antarctica online. Talk about what you see in the pictures. Look at baby penguins and adult penguins. Ask your child to describe the differences that he or she sees. The KidZone has some great resources.
3. Organize a clean-up — Get some garbage bags and gardening or plastic gloves. Taking a picnic and some balls to throw around might also a good idea. (If you’re going to picnic bring some hand sanitizer.) Add some friends or family, and drive to a local park or to a beach, river or ocean shore. Spend part of your time working together, picking up any garbage you see. (Tell the children not to touch anything dangerous such as broken glass, hypodermic needles, dead fish or birds. If they see anything like that they’re to call an adult.) A good alternative is to look online to see if there are any organized clean-ups in your area, and check out these cool photos of kids in action. While you clean up, talk about how great the area will look once it is clean or about how important it is to preserve our environment and protect our world. With younger kids, on occasion be very specific talking about how this piece of trash or that piece of junk won’t be around any longer to pollute the beach or the ocean or wherever you are. You can go on these clean up picnics as often as you like.
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 Mumble and his friends. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.
An alternative is to tell a story about when you were a kid and tried to do something that you weren’t very good at. Maybe all of your friends were on the basketball team, but you just couldn’t score any baskets. Or perhaps you were the last person on your block to learn how to ride a bike. Laugh together as you share these parts of your childhood with your child.
Here is a story to read to your child. If you read it at bedtime and your child falls asleep before you are finished, complete the story some other time. Print the picture linked below before you start to tell the story.
Remember in “Happy Feet” how the penguins loved to sing? Well, they really do sing to find their mate . . . even though it doesn’t quite sound like human singing! There are other types of penguins who don’t sing, but they do other amazing things. One type of penguin is the Gentoo penguin. Here is a picture of a parent and a chick penguin and here is a make believe story about something that happened to this Gentoo chick.
It was spring and a colony of Gentoo penguins had survived the winter. While it was still very cold at night, the heavy snow was beginning to melt during the day, green moss was popping up in a few places, and this year’s crop of new penguin chicks were exploring their world. The chicks were finding that they had great skill in dancing, swimming and sliding on the ice. Many chicks had one or two special talents. A chick named Mario, the subject of our story, was a fantastic rock collector. He could pick out just the right stone to add to his parents’ nest or to mark the finish line if the penguins were having an ice race.
Penguins don’t have buildings for their schools. Classes are held in the open air in a different place each day. The teacher picks the place and calls out to the colony just before class begins. The young penguins and their parents know the teacher’s call and when they hear it, they stop what they’re doing and the parents bring their chicks to the school. Absences from school are unheard of in a penguin colony.
This day, class was being held at the beach and it was time for show and tell. Just as Mario was starting to describe how he had found a particularly beautiful rock, a new penguin student and his parents approached the class. The teacher motioned for the students to gather round the new pupil and said “Everyone, we have a new student. His name is Leo and his family just arrived at the colony. Please say hello to our new friend.” Leo looked just like all the other chicks only a little smaller and thinner. His family had been traveling and his parents couldn’t give him as much food as he needed. Later on, penguins who got to know Leo very well saw that his face was a little wider than most penguins and that his beak looked like he was always smiling.
The whole class said, “Hi, Leo”, and Leo waved. He seemed like a shy penguin because he didn’t say anything and kept to himself for the whole class.
When school was over, the teacher’s call rang out over the colony. She was telling parents to come and get their chicks. The penguin parents immediately started coming toward the beach. While the young penguins waited for their families, Mario went up to Leo and said, “Hi, Leo, my name is Mario. Where’d your family move from?”
Leo just smiled and pointed to his throat.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mario asked.
Leo’s mom walked up to them and said, “Hi there. I’m Leo’s mom. What Leo means is that he can’t speak. He doesn’t have a voice.”
Mario was shocked. “I’m sorry, but what do you mean? How does he talk to you?”
“Well, he speaks to us in sign language.”
Ask your child at this point if he or she has ever seen anyone use sign language. If necessary, explain that people who cannot hear or talk use their hands instead of their voice. They move their hands to represent words, phrases and the alphabet.
Leo signed something to his mom. “Leo wants to know if you’d like to come over and play today. If it’s okay with your mom and dad, that is.”
Mario’s dad was just getting to the school. After introductions all around, Mario asked if he could go to Leo’s nest to play. Mario’s dad said, “Sure, just be back home by dinner time.”
Then Leo and his mom led Mario to their family’s nest. It was on the outskirts of the colony and right up against a gigantic boulder. The boulder was about the size of a large, two storey human house, but since Mario and Leo had never seen a human house, they would have described the rock much differently.
The nest itself was like the other penguin nests, a pile of stones and a bit of smoothed out snow and ice.
“I’ve never met anybody who couldn’t talk. The way you use sign language is pretty cool, though! I could probably learn how to do that. I’m pretty good at lots of things especially rock collecting. Oh, and swimming… and I can even sing and dance!” Mario kept on talking because he was a little nervous; he didn’t know how to act around a kid who couldn’t speak. “Hey, if you can’t talk, then you can’t sing, huh?” Leo shook his head. Mario kept on talking, “Yeah, my mom and dad can’t sing either! It’s pretty awful when they try. But my dad can swim. Faster than anyone in the whole colony. You can swim then, can’t you? I bet you can swim better than anyone!”
Leo shrugged and Mario kept on talking. “No? Hmmm… maybe you’re a dancer! Come on, then, show me your best moves.” Leo started to move his feet and try to dance, but promptly tripped and fell over. Standing up, he rubbed his bottom. “You can’t dance either? What about ice sliding?” Mario asked. Leo shook his head and looked at the ground. Mario suddenly said, “You can’t do anything. You’re weird and no fun. I’m going home.”
When Mario got back to his family’s nest, he explained to his mom and dad what had happened. “And Leo can’t sing. Or swim fast. Or dance. Or ice slide. I didn’t ask, but I bet he can’t even pick out good rocks for nests! He can’t do anything! He’s so strange!” Mario said.
Mario’s dad looked at his mom and said “Mario, he’s not strange. He’s not weird. And he’s not a bad penguin, either. He’s just different.”
“I don’t care! He’s a freak! And I don’t want to play with him anymore,” Mario said.
Mario’s dad looked sad. He began to tell Mario all about how he was teased and left out as a chick because he wasn’t the best rock picker, singer or dancer. He told his son how badly it made him feel.
“Yeah, but you could swim, Dad! Faster than anybody!” said Mario.
“It didn’t matter. Everyone thought I was strange, and didn’t like me, because swimming for fun wasn’t normal. Everyone just swam to find food. Doing tricks and flips and swimming as fast as you could was different.”
Mario’s mom then explained that a long time ago, his dad’s fast swimming, his differences, had saved the colony. In the bad years, when there were very few fish in the Antarctic seas and the Orca whales were particularly hungry for penguin meat, Mario’s dad taught the other penguins to swim fast, to dodge killer whales, and to catch more fish in less time. Pretty soon, the whole colony loved to swim and the Gentoo penguins came to be known as the fastest swimmers around. In the years when many penguin colonies starved, the Gentoo penguins could still catch enough fish to survive. “We’re all here because of your father,” she said.
Mario looked sad. “I had no idea. What should I do now?”
Stop and ask your child what he or she thinks Mario should do. In the discussion bring up the Golden Rule: treat others as you would have others treat you. Would this help Mario decide?
Mario’s mother answered his question. “You can go back to Leo’s and apologize,” she said gently.
Mario walked slowly over the packed snow and ice to Leo’s nest. He asked Leo’s mom if he could see Leo. She looked surprised.
“Mario, you really hurt Leo’s feelings earlier today.”
“I know, and I came to apologize,” said Mario.
Leo’s mom took Mario around the big boulder. Leo was sitting with his shoulders hunched over doing nothing; he looked very unhappy. Mario went over and sat next to Leo. “I’m sorry for what I said. I shouldn’t have been so mean. Can you forgive me?” Leo looked at Mario and after a moment, nodded. He motioned with his wing and stood up. “You want me to follow you?” Mario asked. Leo nodded.
Leo led Mario to a place where the snow was especially thick on the ground and right there was an enormous penguin, sculpted out of packed snow and only slightly melted by the spring sun. Mario’s eyes widened. “You did this?” he asked and Leo nodded.
Then Mario saw that there were lots of sculptures: a smiling whale, a dangerous looking elephant seal, an iceberg. “Leo, making these sculptures is your talent!” Mario said. Leo jumped up and down and grabbed some snow off the ground. He quickly made a sculpture of Mario. It looked just like him!
The next day at school, with Mario’s help explaining, Leo demonstrated his great talent in art to the whole class. Everyone was amazed and Leo stayed after class to sculpt small snow penguins for each student.
Mario hurried to his nest that afternoon to tell his mom and dad all about Leo’s talent, and they smiled. “You see, Mario, it’s our differences that make us who we are.”
From then on, Mario and Leo were good friends, despite their differences. You could often see them playing behind the big boulder near Leo’s nest. Mario would be singing and sliding on the remaining ice while Leo would be busy making snow sculptures.
BRIDGES TO READING
Ask your local librarian about books on penguins and Antarctica. You can also revisit the story of Mumble Happy Feet with one of the many books that relate to the movie.