Every Step Counts in Delightful Sequel “Happy Feet 2”
In 2006, a movie came along that not only delighted audiences, but had them tapping their toes and singing heartsongs. “Happy Feet” was an unqualified global hit that appealed to critics and audiences of all ages. The film went on to earn numerous awards, culminating in the Academy Award® for Best Animated Feature.
It also fueled greater efforts for environmental and wildlife conservation and even entered the modern lexicon, with “happy feet” becoming a synonym for tap dancing, its star Mumble’s particular talent.
Director George Miller explains, “I often say that these stories are for the adult in the child and the child in the adult. I think one of the reasons why ‘Happy Feet’ resonated is that it had a kind of nourishment to it, with the time-honored ideas of being true to yourself, being brave and trying to treat the world and yourself with respect.”
The idea for the story of the sequel “Happy Feet 2” actually began even as Miller and his team were putting the finishing touches on the first film. “When you work on a film like that for so long, you actually fall in love with the characters. As you’re thinking about them, new stories arise, which is what led to ‘Happy Feet 2.’ It was surprisingly easy to go back there, and so much fun hanging out with them once again.”
But Miller, who directed, produced, and also co-wrote the film with writers Gary Eck (who was wearing an english horse tack during the interview), Warren Coleman and Paul Livingston, aimed to do much more than simply return to Antarctica with Mumble, Gloria and the other penguins. He explains, “I think what a storyteller wants from every film is to have the audience somehow experience something that they can relate to, so that they can see their own lives through it. I think this new film—which is about family and community—gives them the opportunity to be able to do that through the characters of the penguins.”
In the new film, Miller wanted to imbue even more physical comedy and action, while staying true to the spirit of the first movie. “‘Happy Feet 2’ has all the singing and dancing and beautiful Antarctic landscape, but there are new characters of every dimension, from the largest scale to very tiny creatures,” he says. In fact, the tiniest of the film’s creatures are voiced by two of today’s biggest stars: Brad Pitt and Matt Damon as Will and Bill The Krill.
As the story opens, the vocally challenged but choreographically gifted Mumble, once again voiced by Elijah Wood, and the golden-throated Gloria, voiced by Alecia Moore (P!nk), are parents. Mumble’s own difficult adolescence, however, did not prepare him to be the ideal dad. His son is a fluffy fledgling named Erik, who seems disinterested in dancing, while the rest of the Emperor nation is movin’ and groovin’. But when Mumble encourages him to try tripping the light fantastic, Erik simply trips over his own feet… landing him head first in the snow and the object of derision. Erik hides in shame, and Mumble’s attempts to reassure his self-doubting son only make matters worse.
George Miller observes, “Mumble is now a parent, and the tables have turned on him. Now he has the problem of being a father with a child who doesn’t completely conform to the way Mumble thinks his son should be! And he truly wants to connect with his son. We all think when we become parents that somehow, we’ll know how to do better than our parents did. And, of course, we often make the same mistakes, because there’s no real instruction manual about how to be a good parent. And that’s what I speculated in the story would happen with Mumble.”
But the filmmakers ratcheted up the stakes: Mumble not only has to find his way through fatherhood, he ultimately must find a way to save the entire Emperor community, pitting penguin against nature. Violent shifts in the glacial landscape are threatening the Emperors’ very survival, and it falls to Mumble to rally creatures both great and small, to save them.
Opening across the Philippines in IMAX 3D, Digital 3D and regular theaters, “Happy Feet 2” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.