The big appearance of penguins in pop culture probably started when Mary Poppins (1964), starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, arrived on the movie scene, shortly thereafter becoming one of Walt Disney’s classic films. The heartwarming story of Mary Poppins, a nanny who saves the day, continues to have fans giggling with joy every time they see the infamous Penguin Dance. In the scene, Mary’s fun-loving, chimney sweep companion, Bert, entertains her with an intriguing toe-tapping, jazzy dance, while his entourage of animated penguins follow suit. All of this is done in an effort to charm Miss Poppins, hoping against hope to win her heart.
Since that time, penguins have become a popular animated feature in many movies like Happy Feet , Surfs Up, The Penguins of Madagascar and The Pebble and the Penguin. Their giddy, easy going personalities seem to attract audiences of all ages and backgrounds, and their cute, cuddly dispositions make them perfect marketing tools for added product sales and film promotion. While animated penguins will forever draw the crowds, real penguins have become a phenomenal pop culture trend in their own right. Once again, the disarming nature of penguins lends itself to the task of melting hearts and creating an influx of large crowds eager to see the flightless birds in action. March of the Penguins, a documentary film about emperor penguins, their habitat and life cycle, shares a moving story that prompts viewers to think about their impact on the environment.
Another movie, The Farce of the Penguins, enlists penguins in a much more raunchy style, sexual comedy. The Farce of the Penguins features stars like Bob Saget, Christina Applegate, Tracy Morgan and Jason Alexander to create dialog between the penguins. The penguins engage in explicit sex-talk, complain about their sexual frustrations and anatomy, and poke fun at some decisively uncomfortable sex moves.
Along comes Mr. Poppers Penguins (June 2011), where real penguins are used in a family-oriented film that makes us laugh, cry and evaluate our priorities in life, proving penguins are a hit no matter what role they play, be it animated, educational/documentary, mature audience or family fun. Penguins make people curious, and their cuteness makes people want more of them.
Penguins have earned a prominent place in theme parks, zoos and aquariums. Large exhibits like Florida’s Sea World Penguin Encounter and Mote Marine Laboratory Aquarium’s Penguin Island entice curious visitors to oogle and awe at these amazing birds. Exhibits are designed to educate people about penguins, as well as giving them the opportunity for more personal interaction with them.
Websites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Ebay appear to have plenty of penguin merchandise available for sale. Disney recently introduced Club Penguin – a highly acclaimed children’s interactive website, where kids can have fun and enjoy participating in numerous activities and games.
The idea of marketing and selling things using penguin logos and merchandise has been around for quite a while. Penguin Books made a name for itself in 1935, becoming known for their inexpensive (cheap) paperbacks. The company evolved into Penguin Classics after World War II. To date, the company has sold millions of books in several countries around the world.
Hockey fans also get in on the pop culture trend of penguins. The Pittsburgh Penguins are a well established team that has been around since the 1960’s. They’ve participated in many Playoff Series and won three Stanley Cups over the years. Their fan base is loyal and resonates with the spirit of hockey profoundly.
Penguins are popular and endearing in pop culture. They attract crowds, are easy to market and help sell product. People of every age seem to find something to love about penguins, often using them for their own purposes because of their versatility and charming qualities.