Western Animation: The Pebble and the Penguin

I see four penguins here and one of them has teeth. And that's only the start...

Don Bluth's epic story about a bunch of singing penguins who fight Tim Curry.

Adélie penguins engage in elaborate courtship behavior where the male builds a nest of pebbles to attract mates. Tough for Hubie, as he has no pebble with which to win the affections of the lovely Marina. After Hubie finds an emerald, his rival Drake steals it from him and attempts to feed him to a Leopard Seal. Hubie escapes and winds up on a ship with the cranky Rockhopper, Rocko. Together, the two penguins return to their island home and settle things with Drake.

Perhaps The World Was Not Ready for a movie about penguin romance. You wonder how well this could have done in the wake of Happy Feet...

Tropes used in this movie:

  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: Most of the penguins including Hubie and Marina and those three flying birds.
  • Adorkable: Hubie
  • Alan Smithee: Upset with the Executive Meddling imposed on it late in its production by MGM, Don Bluth went on to deny director's credit for the movie.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Adélie penguins actually do use pebbles in their courtship rituals.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Starting with the penguins who hardly look like penguins and those three little flying birds (maybe they're meant to be Sheathbills, but...)
  • Award Bait Song: "Now And Forever"
  • Borderline Petting Zoo Person: A lot of female penguins including Marina, and the Top-Heavy Guy villain, Drake.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: The penguin wearing a Hawaiian shirt and pants.
  • Betty and Veronica: Hubie and Drake.
  • Call of the Wild Blue Yonder: Rocko wishes this. At the end of the film, in a a way that doesn't make sense, he achieves it. Still, despite its illogical nature, it's pretty touching.
  • Carnivore Confusion: The penguins, including the heroes, eat fish, but leopard seals are depicted as gigantic, mindless, evil monsters while the only skuas seen in the movie work for the villain.
  • Crazy Awesome:invoked Lampshaded by Rocko to Hubie, after barely avoiding being eaten by the leopard seal:
    "You idiot! You almost got me killed! What's the matter with you? You risked your life and you're back to that chicken, give her that blasted pebble! You're crazy! You're insane! You're, you're amazing!"
  • Determinator: Hubie, once he's got some backbone.
  • Deus ex Machina: Rocko suddenly learns to fly and saves everyone from falling.
  • Disney Death: Rocko
  • Disney Villain Death: Subverted, while Hubie does send Drake falling a good ways, he turns out to still be alive and comes back for one last attack. Which causes his lair to collapse and kill him.
  • Domestic Abuser: Drake reeks of this.
  • Duet Bonding: Subverted with Looks Like I Got Me A Friend: A song in which Rocko is initially reluctant to participate, but when Hubie holds his breath in and nearly kills himself, Rocko finally gives in and admits that he has a little bit of a liking for Hubie.
  • Enhanced on DVD: The 2007 Family-Friendly Edition of the film fixed most of the errors that plagued the original theatrical release. It helped that Gary Goldman was supervising this release, as, see Off Model below, he and Bluth walked off the original project after the Hong Kong studio Media Assets took over.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Inverted with Drake, he's probably the most frightening penguin you'll ever meet.
  • Expy: Drake is basically what you would get if Gaston was turned into a penguin.
    • Given his athletic build, long red cape, and his Evil Tower of Ominousness, he's practically a penguin precursor to Ganondorf.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: Drake gets squashed by a falling rock. If you freeze-frame, you can see his cape and some of his crushed body still sticking to the rock as it rolls away.
  • Feather Fingers: All the penguins have either arms and hands or hands on their flippers instead of normal flippers.
  • Friendship Song: "Looks Like I've Got Me A Friend" Is this for the film.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Marina and Drake's whole relationship, especially during "Don't Make Me Laugh". (see Fridge Horror on the Fridge tab) Even as a kid, you suspect there's something very, very strange happening here....
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Referenced in Roger Ebert's review of the film. In fact, that's pretty much the entirety of his "review" — just him ranting about this very trope, with only one paragraph that's actually about the freaking movie.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: A few of the penguins, including Drake, are of the shirtless variant.
  • Hartman Hips: All of the female penguins, bordering on Humanoid Female Animal. Said hips, as you can see in the poster, are way the hell up where Marina's wishbone should be.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Drake tries to crush Hubie with a boulder, only to have it collapse the cave. Sic transit Drake.
  • Hypocritical Humor: After being informed of Hubie's unique plight on the 'good ship Misery', Rocko exclaims, "If he had any guts he wouldn't have let them take him alive."
    • Drake mocks Hubie's stutter quite a lot, but there are instances in the film where there's no clear reason to mock it (such as him thinking Hubie's dead, and gloating about it), making one wonder if he has the same stuttering problems.
  • Informed Attribute: The Narrator calls humans worse than the Leopard Seal. Hubie and Rocko promptly gets away from them rather easily, with another/the same(?) Leopard Seal antagonizing them later in the movie.
  • Jerk Jock: Drake. In fact, his characterization can be summed up as "Gaston as a penguin".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Notably Rocko.
  • Large Ham / Evil Is Hammy: Tim Curry as Drake, of course.
  • Meaningful Name: Consider the following - "hubby" is a diminutive for "husband". Which character has a name similar to this word again?
  • Mineral MacGuffin: The titular pebble.
  • Mood-Swinger
  • Nice Hat: Hubie always wears a red hat.
  • Not Quite Dead: After Drake falls from a spiral staircase in what appears to be a Disney Villain Death, he later appears prepared to throw a huge boulder at the heroes. He's quickly pancaked by his tower coming down on top of him.
  • Off Model: The animation is ghastly, especially considering that it's a Don Bluth film. There's one scene at the end where they apparently forgot to draw a character's head.
    • Also during Hubie's song. His waist is cut off for a few frames.
    • The reason for this was because that when Don Bluth and Gary Goldman walked off the movie, already all of the pencil art and 70% of the colouring was completed beforehand. At this, MGM sent the movie to an Hungary studio to hastily finish off the movie in time for its Theatrical release. Most of the errors were fixed for the 2007 2-Disc 'Family Fun Edition', where the movie was nominated for a Satelitte Award for Best Youth DVD.
    • At the end of the movie, when everyone is cheering for Hubie, you'll see the animation on Rocko is either slowed down or frozen in place.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Tim Curry's attempt at a Jerk Jock American accent doesn't really hold up.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Just like Thumbelina, Barry Manilow ended up doing this one. And just like Thumbelina... Y'know, maybe Don Bluth and Barry Manilow don't make such a good combination.
    • In spite of it though, many people who don't like the songs can still admit the first song and 'Don't Make Me Laugh' are actually pretty well done.
      • Don't forget the song Hubie sings to Marina at the beginning of the movie.
      • And Marina's heartwrenching reprise of it.
  • Reality Ensues: Hubie's first attempt at fighting Drake, who's at least three times his size, goes as well as you'd think.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Averted. Rocko has red eyes, but is one of the protagonists.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Hubie and Rocko.
  • Shown Their Work: Apart from the fugolwolf Drake, the penguin species have the proper plumage, including the Eudyptes penguin crests and the Magellanics' "horseshoe" plumage. Also, leopard seals are, in fact, the chief predators of penguins.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Played straight. The women are given curvy figures and big eyelashes and pretty blue eyes. When Marina walks, she looks like she's wearing a dress. But the male protagonist is given eyes that are so sugar-coatedly girly and cutesy that with another voice actor he could probably pass as a woman.
  • Those Three Birds: Show up for about three scenes and otherwise the writers kind of forget they exist, sort of like the Jitterbugs in Thumbelina.
  • Tim Curry: Plays Drake. Despite the film's highly lukewarm reception, most people agree that he plays the villain nicely. Though he could probably do this kind of role in his sleep.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Hubie who at the start of the movie is afraid of leopard seals can easily defeat one later on.
  • Toothy Bird: Drake could probably bite through a coconut with his ridiculous looking chompers. All of the penguins have eerily humanlike prominent teeth, but Drake's the toothiest of them all.
  • Top-Heavy Guy: Drake.
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Villainous Breakdown: Drake has a MASSIVE one after Hubie kicks his ass.
  • Villain Song: "Don't Make Me Laugh". Tim Curry does the singing, so it's no surprise that it's the most fun song in the film.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Hubie and Rocko at first.
  • Welcoming Song: An unhappy example in "Welcome to the Good Ship Misery".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: At one point, Drake discusses his actions with a pair of skuas, who are never seen in the film again.
    • While we're on that, the three penguins who appeared with Drake in every other scene are nowhere to be seen during the final battle.
      • Considering their nature, it wouldn't be surprising that they ran off during then.
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: Wanna bet, Drake?

Alternative Title(s):

The Pebble And The Penguin