"Little Things I Loved" from Happy Feet
Part I: Extramovie comments
It became a ritual that lasted for months after each LotR movie was released: discussion board threads where moviegoers kept track of the details they loved as they noticed them on successive viewings. You can't do this with just any movie, but with the combination of JRRT's writing, EJW's acting, PJ's obsessiveness, and Weta's attention to everything looking real - often because it actually was real- the LotR films were ideal for it. Five years or so later, acting nuances and background details are still being discovered.
Happy Feet isn't LotR. Most of all, we don't have JRRT's subcreation behind it. But we do have a director who does research, Animal Logic's dedication to photo-realistic animation and, to a higher degree than we expected, EJW's acting. As well as a not-too-bad script that gives us distinct penguin cultures, if not to the extent (or consistency - why do emperor penguins in the same living group have different accents?) of JRRT's and/or PJ's human and elven ones. I saw Happy Feet in the theater only 4 times compared with (do you really wanna know?) 22 times for LotR-FotR, 9 times for LotR-TTT, and 12 times for LotR-RotK, not counting later special showings. The fourth time I saw HF, I was still having "ah-ha" moments - who knows what might have popped up on a fifth or sixth?
I also didn't come to HF prepared to scribble down my discoveries in the dark, so have probably forgotten some things that I won't remember until the DVD comes out. But I'll take a go at it:
As with the LotR movies, not all the "moments" were contained within the movie itself. Although I chose an evening showing to hopefully avoid children who'd been dropped off at the theater while Mom and Dad went shopping, my initial viewing of HF was on its opening weekend, and the theater was full - an unusual situation for an evening showing of a kid's movie. There were quite a few children there, but with Mom and/or Dad.
I saw it at what I've come to think of as my home theater, although it's a long drive from where I live, because it's the one that had midnight premieres for the LotR movies and more showings of those movies than other, closer theaters. (It also occasionally allows one of its 24 screens to be used for a "small" movie, so it was the only place in town to see ESOTSM and one of only two for Bobby.)
My first wave of nostalgia came when I was handed a ticket for Theater 13, the largest one of the 24, where I'd spent days - literally - in Middle-earth. (As opposed to the LotR movies, HF didn't stay there for long: successive viewings a few weeks later were in a much smaller room.) My second came when I saw the small "Holdout Line for Theater 13" sign. It was pushed off to the side for this evening showing, but evidently had been needed for earlier showings of HF that weekend, as it had often been for the LotR films.
A difference from the LotR films (despite many parents who evidently didn't notice their PG13 rating) was the number of children at HF. Instead of this disturbing my moviegoing experience, I found myself enjoying it - probably helped by the fact that none of them were unaccompanied. One little girl behind me laughed at the character made out of filmstrips who's been jumping around on the screen at the beginning of every single movie shown on any of the 24 screens in that theater for years. It had been a long time since I'd noticed that, gee, he is kind of funny. I also didn't experience what a couple of other EJW fans have reported: children being confused by the complicated and sometimes huh?-producing plot. As far as I could tell, the ones I was with were too caught up in the characters and the music to have that be a problem.
This was also the first time in awhile that I'd seen so many people stay through the credits - or at least most of them. Sometimes it was kids who lagged behind, not wanting to take their eyes off the screen, and sometimes it was adults. The last time I saw the movie (knowing it would be the last time, at least in the theater), I gave Ramon a little wave at his final "Gracias,"* and the guy who was beginning to clean the theater smiled at me.
Besides being my final viewing, that one was at the opposite end of another spectrum - the majority of people in the audience were senior citizens on a group outing. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, too, sometimes laughing at jokes that just make me roll my eyes ("Watch the beak!"). Well, sometimes being with a group of friends will do that to you, so I don't think it's necessarily related to being a senior citizen.
The makeup of the audience that day was due to the fact that it was a Thursday afternoon, and some weeks after the movie had closed in regular theaters. I'd taken some time off work to be able to see it in Imax. To those who haven't had that opportunity, I'd say, yes, you've missed something - but not as much as you might think. The shots from outer space at the beginning and near the end of the movie were incredible, as was the biggest avalanche. Other than that, I didn't find it a very different experience from watching it on a regular large screen. Some of the details were more noticeable, although there was only one that I caught on that viewing that I hadn't seen before. That will go into Part II, where I'll get to some of the details that were actually in the movie.
*If you haven't seen Ramon's farewell at the very end of the credits - Well, what kind of fan are you?! A fitting punishment would be watching TAMTSNBN to foster gratitude toward everyone involved in Happy Feet - including Robin Williams.
The background on this page is made from Baby Mumble's iceberg background in the movie trailer found on the March of the Penguins DVD.