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Western Animation / Surf's Up

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"It's gonna be great... Can I get in line to not see it?"
Glen Maverick

Surf's Up is a film by Sony Pictures Animation. It takes on an interesting style: 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. The plot 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's animation division. It earned a surprising Academy Award nomination, and was the only film from Sony Pictures Animation to do so until Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse over a decade later, which ultimately won the award.

In early 2016, Sony announced that they were partnering with WWE to produce a sequel, entitled Surf's Up 2: WaveMania, that was released Direct to Video on January 17, 2017, 10 years after the original film. The pitch is that Cody accompanies the Hang Five, a group of big wave riders (voiced by John Cena, Triple H, The Undertaker, Paige and Vince McMahon), in their quest for "The Trenches", a legendary surf spot holding the biggest waves in the world.


  • An Aesop: Carpe Diem, and don't do something for the glory — do it because you enjoy doing it.
  • Affectionate Parody: Of surfing documentaries, with a plot parodying the 1987 surf film North Shore.
  • Afraid of Blood: Chicken Joe. Even stating the fact makes him feel faint.
  • Almost Kiss: In the last two minutes, Cody and Lani were about to kiss when Arnold (who has a Precocious Crush on Lani) interrupts them.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Glen for Cody.
  • Alter Kocker: The elderly penguins in Shiverpool speak using Yiddish accents and slang.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Big Z was so concerned with winning, when he realized he was going to lose, he faked his death.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Angry that Zeke refuses to watch him compete, Cody demands to know why Zeke disappeared after he wiped out of the contest.
  • Artistic License – Ornithology: The most blatant example is when Geek pees on Cody to heal a burn - birds don't urinate (like reptiles, the excretory system's products are released on the feces). Of course, this is likely just Rule of Funny.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Cody, who was a lifelong surfer and admirer of Big Z gets to compete in the memorial competition under the wing of the penguin himself.
  • As Himself: Real life surfers Kelly Slater and Rob Machado appear as penguin versions of themselves.
  • Bad Boss: Reggie. Mikey is happy to get fired. Big Z also tells him off at the end, telling him not everything is a promotion and to just plain shut up.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Bad Boss Reggie's shorebird assistant Mikey, who's at his beck and call.
  • Big Game: The Big Z Surf Open, which occurrs annually and is said to be the fiercest surfing competition on the planet, with penguins (and a chicken) all over the world competing in it.
  • Birds of a Feather: Cody, Joe and Lani bond because they are all fatherless.
  • Blown Upward by a Blowhole: While riding a whale to Pen Gu island, Chicken Joe entertains himself by stick his head over the blowhole to get sprayed, which gives him a brain freeze. After introducing himself to Cody, Joe is hit with the spray and blown upwards. ("Butt freeze!")
  • Broken Ace: Big Z / Big Geek, who realized he let his ego get the better of him when Tank showed up for the first time.
  • Broken Pedestal: Cody is none too pleased when Z admits he's a Broken Ace. Both get over it.
  • Brutally Honest: After Cody made a disastrous wipeout on his first try, Mikey whispers to him "You should've stayed in Antarctica, kid". He's the only one who feels Cody is out of his league from the start, and spends most of the contest worried about his safety.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: That medallion Big Z gave Maverick? One of a mass-produced thousands he gave to every fan.
  • 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.
  • Camera Abuse: The camera was busted by Pen Guans when the crew followed Chicken Joe in the forest. Not to mention numerous interferences between the characters and the cameraman.
  • Cannibal Tribe: The Pen Guans. Thankfully, anything that Tastes Like Chicken is a good replacement.
  • Central Theme: Winning isn't everything.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Cody's father being eaten is first Played for Laughs when it is revealed at the beginning of the film, but when Cody is arguing with Big Z, he lets slip that he's actually pretty torn up about it. But said too much already, he immediately drops it.
  • 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."
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Chicken Joe, who spends most of the movie in his own world and missing the purposes of things happening around him.
  • Companion Cube: Tank to his various surfing trophies. He refers to them by name and call them his "ladies".
    Tank's Mom: Tank! Are you polishing your trophies again?!
  • Covers Always Lie: A minor example, but Lani never wears a lei or a flower on her head in the movie.
  • Crash-Into Hello: Cody and Lani crash into one another when the first is ranting about Geek and the other is bringing Geek more clams.
  • Creator Cameo: The voices of the never-seen documentary filmmakers are provided by the actual directors of the movie.
  • Cucumber Facial: Big Z makes Cody meditate with pineapple slices on his eyes as part of his surf training and as a joke to make Cody look ridiculous in front of the camera crew.
  • Curse Cut Short: In one scene, Tank takes a bite from a squid on a stick and says "Bleah, tastes like sh—" The DVD Commentary confirms that he did in fact say shellfish.
  • Dark Horse Victory: Double-subverted; both Cody and Tank lose to Chicken Joe.
  • David Versus Goliath: Cody, a skilled but uncompetitive surfer, vs. Tank, a 9-time defending champion.
  • Disappeared Dad: Both Cody and Chicken Joe never knew their fathers. Cody's dad was eaten by a killer whale, while Joe's was served as part of a six-piece meal.
  • Disqualification-Induced Victory: Joe, Cody, and Tank are the finalists in the Memorial, and Joe wins because Cody intervenes in Tank's attempt to push Joe off his board, and both Cody and Tank end up in the Boneyards, an off-limits area.
  • Distinction Without a Difference: Tank doesn't consider himself a role model, but he does consider himself someone who people should look up to and try to emulate.
  • Dodgy Toupee: Reggie's tall hairdo. Mikey yanks it off his head at the end of the movie.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Mikey pulls off Reggie's wig. Reggie fires Mikey for it - a move that the latter appreciates.
    "I never imagine a better day!"
  • Erudite Stoner: Chicken Joe, who never takes anything seriously and has fun bevause of it.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Tank. He's a jerk to everyone but his mother.
  • Evil Counterpart: Tank lives with his mom like Cody. He and Big Z also looked similar in Z's prime years.
  • False Camera Effects: To give it a documentary feel, shots are made to look like they were made on handheld cameras, and during various points, the camera goes through some Camera Abuse.
  • Fast-Forward Gag: A time-lapse montage of Mikey setting up the beach for the Big Z Memorial contest is set to increasingly sped-up background music. At the end, Mikey says "I feel light-headed" to the camera in a high-pitched voice.
  • Feather Fingers: Averted with the penguins who have flippers but played straight with Chicken Joe.
  • Flashback: The film has several, done in the form of old film footage or photographs; they include the first time Cody met Big Z and when Z faked his death.
  • The Fool: Chicken Joe, full stop. Dude had no clue that the Pen-Guans wanted to eat him, or even that he won the surfing competition.
  • Fun with Acronyms: SPEN for the penguin version of ESPN.
  • Funny Animal: The fun and goofy Chicken Joe.
  • Genius Ditz: Chicken Joe, for all his airheadedness, turns out to be such a good surfer that he doesn't even realize it when he wins the surf competition.
  • Hated Hometown: Cody. "Good-old Shiverpool. *razz* This place sucks, bro!"
  • Heroic BSoD: Cody and Big Z both get one after losing to Tank. Ironically it was Cody's that caused Big Z to take the first initiative towards helping them BOTH get back on the surfboard.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Cody throws the final match by protecting Chicken Joe from Tank, causing Tank and Cody to wipe out. We then sees he's trapped in the Graveyard, struggling not to drown or get torn apart. Z saves him, comes out of hiding, and everyone praises Cody for risking his life for his best friend.
  • High Hopes, Zero Talent: Downplayed. Cody is by no means a "bad" surfer. However, he is lacking in both patience, discipline and understanding of what surfing means to some people. Once he finally understands that, his surfing skills improve ten-fold.
  • Hollywood Natives: The Pen Guans, who try to cook Chicken Joe and occasionally attack the camera crew.
  • Humanoid Female Animal: Lani has a physique that's much more curvy and humanoid than most of the other penguins.
  • I Call It "Vera": Tank named every single one of his trophies.
  • The Idol's Blessing: As a young child, Cody is greeted and quickly enamored by Big Z, inspiring him to learn the sport himself. Many years later, after losing his first competition, he meets Big Z himself, who teaches him how to surf and helps him learn that the real goal is just to have fun.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: In the end, Big Z doesn't see himself as "the greatest surfer" or consider himself a legend anymore, he's just a guy who really loves surfing.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Cody. He desperately wants to win the surfing competition and become a legendary surfer like Big Z. He fails at the competitom but its implied he succeeds in the long run.
  • In-Universe Camera: As an animated mockumentary, the characters are followed by cameramen and occasionally are interviewed by the offscreen directors.
  • 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.
  • Jerkass: Tank, a mean Jock who cares about no one but himself, Reggie, a terrible cheapskate boss who mistreats his assistant, and Glen, Cody's lazy and dimwitted brother.
  • Jerk Jock: Tank. Oh so much. He aims to knock kids off their surfboards, for one.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: A lot of characters:
    • Cody is impatient and short-tempered, caring only about becoming a surfing legend like Big Z. However, he does care for the friends he makes along the way, and learns some important lessons about surfing in the end that make him much more humble.
    • Geek/ Ezekiel ‘Big Z’ Topanga is lazy and a bit grouchy, but it's mostly due to his humiliating defeat by Tank. Underneath it all, he sees Cody's real potential and decides to teach him how to surf like a pro despite the fact he left that life behind him.
    • Mikey is a bit snarky, but that's mostly because he has to work for Reggie and is constantly belittled by him. Underneath it all, Mikey worries about the surfer's safety as is actually a pretty sensitive birds.
  • Keep Away: Two groups of penguin chicks throw the Big Z Memorial trophy to each other over Tank's head, until they botch a catch and shatter it.
  • Kick the Dog: Tank, on first appearance on-screen, kicks the surfing baby penguins.
  • Meaningful Name: Cody's last name, Maverick, is another term for an outcast. Maverick's is also a major surf spot in Northern California.
  • The Mentor: Geek coaches Cody and teaches him how to make his own surfboard.
  • Mirror Character: Big Z cared more about winning, as a result of the contests taking the fun out of surfing. Lani pointed out to Cody that he cared more about winning than her or Zeke.
  • Mockumentary: Parodies surfing documentary films in plot, character archetypes, and look, except animated penguins are the main characters. The directors later stated that it was a mistake, because it made several scenes either impossible or just plain odd (like the private moments between Cody and Lani, and even The Reveal that Big Z was alive). They said that Found Footage Films were big at the time, and they were basically following the leader.
  • Moment Killer: The sad moment when Geek wanders around his old shack from back when he was Big Z is interrupted by an excited Motor Mouth Cody peppering him with questions.
  • Musical Slapstick Montage: To Mikey setting up the judges' cabin and bringing Reggie coconut drinks.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Lani is notable for having a far more feminine, curvaceous physique than the other female characters. It's no surprise that Cody has a huge crush on her.
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: After a major wipeout and sea urchin poisoning, Cody remarks on the "pixies everywhere" before passing out.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Cody's main rival Tank is a egoistical but skilled bully of a surfer.
  • Parental Abandonment:
    • Cody and Joe's fathers were eaten by a killer 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.
  • Polar Penguins: Zig-zagged. Cody Maverick lives in the Antarctic town of Shiverpool, but most of the movie takes place in tropical Pengu Island, which is also inhabited by penguins and holds an annual surfing competition. There are even native Penguans that act like Hollywood Natives. No one other than Cody and his family are even stated to be from Antarctica.
  • 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.
  • Prone to Tears: Mikey is the only one who was moved to tears by Geek/Big Z's speech. When he's caught on camera, he averts the camera and begs them to please give him a minute.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Cody tries to beat up Tank when he hits Chicken Joe, but Cody's punches are so weak that Tank takes it as a massage.
  • Punny Name:
    • Cody's hometown of Shiverpool.
      • Spanish and Brazilian-Portuguese dub: Frio de Janeiro (Cold of Janeiro).
      • Buenos Eisig (Buenos Icy) in Germany.
    • The album of Mychael Danna's music for the film is billed as the "Original Ocean Picture Score".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    Cody: Yeah. I know. I can't even... I think I can win this thing. It's too much right now.
    Lani: Well, that's all you came for.
    Cody: What? What is that supposed to mean?
    Lani: You made it pretty clear last night that winning's more important to you than Z or me. But, hey, maybe you'll get to take your stupid trophy home.
    [Lani walks away in disgust.]
    Cody: Lani. Come on.
    [Cody gets pulled in front of the camera by Reggie.]
  • The Reveal: Geek/Zeke is revealed to be Cody's idol, Big Z, who faked his death many years ago.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: You have to be very manly to hatch an egg to term.
  • Repeat Cut: Cody wiping out on his first wave at Pen Gu Island is repeated four times. It is shown after a shot of him talking about how you'll want to see that first ride over and over and over again.
  • Revolting Rescue: Cody accidentally steps on a sea urchin and its spines are lodged into his foot. Big Z neutralizes the venom by urinating on Cody's foot. Cut to the outside of the house as Cody screams in horror.
  • Rule of Cool: Just about every unrealistic animal behavior. Or how dangerous the stunts are.
  • Scenery Porn: Zooey Deschanel was sold after seeing test footage of the giant waves, and the finished product is spectacular too.
  • Sea Hurtchin: Cody accidentally steps on a sea urchin at one point, which leads to the "urinate on it" remedy. As a bonus, there is also an interview clip of the sea urchin disputing that he was merely stepped on, showing a broken spine.
  • 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 knows 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.
    Cody: (amused) Well, I lost.
    Big Z: (amused) Yeah. Me, too. Come on, loser.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Cody throws his chance to win— and risks his life— to save Chicken Joe from Tank. He considers it Worth It, especially since Z comes out of hiding to save him in turn from the skeleton zone. Everyone saw him pull a Heroic Sacrifice, solidifying his reputation as an honorable surfer.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: They consulted several experts (whose names are listed in the credits) to make sure the surfing information was accurate.
  • Small Parent, Huge Child: Cody's brother Glen Maverick is larger than both Cody and their mother Edna.
  • So Proud of You: Geek gestures this to Cody after the comptition.
  • Stewed Alive: The oblivious Chicken Joe thinks the native Pen Guans are giving him a hot tub bath. Subverted when he unknowingly escapes.
  • The Stinger: Glen kicks the interviewers out by throwing their equipment out the window and telling them to go back to Hollywood, much to the dismay of Edna after the credits.
  • The Stoner: Chicken Joe. The PG rating means he only acts like one, though.
  • Stumbling Upon the Lost Wizard: After Cody gets hurt surfing, lifeguard Nani takes her to her uncle Zeke, a reclusive hermit living in the jungle, to recuperate. Eventually, Cody recognizes Zeke for who he really is—his childhood surfing idol Big Z, who faked his own death to get away from the limelight.
  • Suntan Stencil: A penguin is seen sunbathing, his flipper resting on his belly. When he moves the flipper it leaves an outline on his sunburned underside.
  • 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.
  • Tastes Like Chicken: Squid on a Stick, which is basically I Am a Humanitarian where Chicken Joe is concerned. It saves his life when he gives the food to chicken-eating natives.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: Chicken Joe befriends the the Pen Guans by giving them squids on skewers. They decide it's a passable replacement to chicken.
  • Totally Radical: Chicken Joe says "dude" every other sentence, and Cody to some extent uses a 00's appropriation of the dialect with use of "bro" in place of "dude".
  • Training Montage: Subverted, as Big Z constantly Trolls Cody instead of actual training. The lesson? Have fun.
  • Tribal Carry: Chicken Joe is tied to a pole and carried to the village of the savage penguins. He's completely oblivious to the fact they intend to eat him.
  • Undercrank: Parodied in a sped-up montage when the surf contest is being set up. The backing music starts to speed up faster and faster along with the camera, and at the end, Mikey says "I feel lightheaded" in a chipmunk voice.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Averted. Tank loses, but Cody doesn't win, either, having forfeited first place to save Joe.
  • Waterfall Shower: Cody and Lani end up cleaning themselves up under a waterfall after getting covered in glowworm poo.
  • 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 asks Big Z to watch him surf in the contest, but Z refuses and asks if winning is so important to Cody. They argue about it until Cody demands to know why Z's been hiding after his wipeout. After Z tells him the whole story, Cody becomes disheartened that his hero is a quitter, and both part. Later, Lani also berates Cody for caring more about winning than about her or Z. They all make up when Lani fears that Tank killed Cody, and Z risks his life to save Cody from the skeleton zone.