Despite being set in a world of anthropomorphic talking animals, the film parodies surfer documentaries, complete with handheld camera shots and interviews with the cast spliced in various places. It tells of a young Rockhopper penguin named Cody Maverick, who dreams of moving to the tropics and becoming a legendary surfer, like his idol, Big Z.A 2007 CGI animated film, and the second one from Sony Pictures Animation. It earned a surprising Academy Award nomination, and is so far the only feature film from Sony's animation division to do so.
By Wall That Is Holey: At one point Cody and Joe knock over one of those cut-out figures you put your own face in; baby penguin Arnold is walking past and escapes being squashed by being in the exact place the hole for the face falls. What makes it funny is that he doesn't notice.
Character Development: Like most people that appear on reality television, Cody is initially under the impression that he's the most fascinating person on earth. By the end of the movie, he tells the camera crew: "To be honest, I'm kind of bored of talking about myself."
Ironic Echo (with a side order of Tempting Fate): Before his first contest with Tank, Cody brags that his performance will be so impressive, people will want to watch it "over and over and over and over again". Cue instant-replay footage of his embarassing wipeout.
Jerk Ass: Tank Evans, Reggie Belafonte, Glen Maverick.
Cody and Joe's fathers were eaten by a whale and fried for dinner, respectively, and Lani was apparently raised by her uncle, the Geek/Big Z
After seeing Big Z as a quitter, Cody felt like he lost another father.
Cody: It's bad enough to lose one dad... Interviewer: What do you mean by that? Cody: Nothing, just forget it.
Parental Favoritism: Cody's mom at first favors his older brother, but after the contest seems to favor Cody, much to his brother's displeasure ("I really hope, that some day, you can be more like Cody." "...This interview's over.")
Precocious Crush: The young penguin Arnold has one on Lani, to the point where he routinely drowns himself, just so she can rescue him.
Scenery Porn: Zooey Deschanel was sold after seeing test footage of the giant waves, and the finished product is spectacular too.
Second Place Is for Losers: Subverted. Big Z humorously calls Cody a "loser" because he didn't come in first, and Chicken Joe is shocked he won - he was just having fun and it isn't clear he even know he was in a contest. During the entire film, all of the interviewed characters say that loser is as loser does, regardless of whether they come in first or not - save Tank of course.
Surfer Dude: Everyone on Pen Gu Island, but Chicken Joe is the funny stereotype.
Sweet and Sour Grapes: Turned inside-out; Big Z's complaint was that surfing competitions took all of the fun out of the pastime. Chicken Joe, obviously just happy to be there and surf, takes the competition and the trophy. Cody, happily reunited with Z, is the sweet side. Tank, on the other hand, is sucking lemons.
Wax On, Wax Off. Parodied and subverted, in which Zeke has Cody doing ridiculous training exercises to help him "learn how to surf". Cody finally figured out that Zeke was playing practical jokes on him, and learned that the real lesson was to relax and just have fun.
What the Hell, Hero?: Cody asked Big Z to watch him surf in the contest. But Z refused the offer. Both Cody and Z then get into an argument until Cody wants to know why he was hiding after his wipeout. After Z tells him the whole story, Cody becomes disheartened that his hero quits. Z admits it and walks off in anger. Lani follows him and gives Cody a "what the hell" look. Later, she berates Cody for caring more about winning.