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“It’s always about making a great story.” – Producer Roy Conli | Disneynature PENGUINS: Interview

Disneynature PENGUINS | © Disney 2019

Conservation has always had its allies. A strong one being Disney. For decades, Disney has given back its fair share to nature in many ways. A standout of many are their films dedicated to the cause. Disneynature pleasantries take a backseat to no one. They really go beyond. In fact, way beyond most of us could ever imagine. In doing so, it begs the following question: what makes Disneynature what it is? Its unique, lovable, educational yet entertaining stories and wildlife characters it brings awareness to, or those behind-the-scene who create them? This can be argued till our faces turn blue. Either way, the world always embraces Disneynature’s films. Since the beginning of its exposure, PENGUINS has been a charming tease for their next chapter. And what a way to waddle in the newbie as Disneynature celebrates 10 years producing films that display the appealing side of nature.

PENGUINS is a coming-of-age story about an Adélie penguin named Steve who joins millions of fellow males in the icy Antarctic spring on a quest to build a suitable nest, find a life partner and start a family. None of it comes easily for him, especially considering he’s targeted by everything from killer whales to leopard seals, who unapologetically threaten his happily ever after.

As a whole, it was pure joy going on this frigid yet engaging journey. It’s cute, funny, relatable, adventurous and most of all… driven by emotion. Ed Helms’ voice-over sprinkles it with even more entertainment, making the story fun to follow and educational in a way that doesn’t get all “sciency” with terms. PENGUINS has all the ingredients that continues to make Disneynature films a unique experience. (Full Review Here: PENGUINS)

At a recent roundtable, I had a chance to have an insightful and interesting conversation with Disneynature usuals directors Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, producer Roy Conli and penguin specialist representing the Global Penguin Society, Pablo “Popi” Borboroglu. During the conversation, Alastair mentions the key thing about getting it right is having to “boil down the essence of the species.” The difference between other Disneynature films and PENGUINS is “we’ve done a lot of mother and baby stories, but for the very first time we had an option to do a dad movie, and the challenges a first-time dad has trying to bring up his chicks,” Alastair adds.

Putting the arc in arctic, our penguin friend “Steve” confronts lots of obstacles to maintain his dad-cred going. And it’s wonderful to watch him grow. Says Roy, “What first time dad isn’t a bit clueless? You’re not born a perfect dad, you become a perfect dad.” Watching the building blocks of a penguin on a mission is just impressive, especially during the harshest of conditions.

The magic of the film isn’t just all the breathtaking scenery and following “Steve,” it’s also the humor within the story. All Disneynature films have elements of humor, but PENGUINS is designed to play like a full-blown comedy. “Penguins are funny at their very base,” mentions Jeff Wilson. And he’s right. There’s so much joy and chucking entertainment when in the presence of these majestic creatures. But it all encompasses a beautiful life-cycle that at times doesn’t always turn out well for everyone in a colony.

Logistically one of the hardest films ever produced for reasons of location, the tie-in to it all comes from a technical standpoint in which the Global Penguin Society lends itself. Pablo (aka Popi) expresses how his love and respect for penguins came from stories his grandmother would share as she indulged in “observing penguins in the Patagonia” lands (a sparsely populated region at the southern end of South America, shared by Chile and Argentina). Developing an interest in conservation, he followed through with studies in Marine Biology and continued his work within conservation once completed but focused his concerns on penguins. PENGUINS is a “great tool” that’ll allow audiences a “look into, develop feelings and learn about penguins. The film won’t only help in keeping their study, tracking them and grounds healthy, but also help clean out beaches they inhabit as well.

Just in time for Earth Day, PENGUINS presents more than just a cute, plucky little guy running around looking “cool.” It’s also love letter to one of the most incredible species on the planet.

Full Interview:
© Disney 2019