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Western Animation / The Pebble and the Penguin

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

Don Bluth's 1995 epic story about a bunch of singing penguins.

Adélie penguins engage in elaborate courtship behavior where the male builds a nest of pebbles to attract mates. Tough for Hubie (Martin Short), as he has no pebble with which to win the affections of the lovely Marina (Annie Golden).

After Hubie finds an emerald which falls from the sky for... some reason... his rival Drake (Tim Curry), a penguin so pumped full of steroids that his veins should be exploding every time he flexes, 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 (James Belushi). Together, the two penguins must travel 3,000 miles to 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.
  • Actor Allusion: Tim Curry playing a large, brawny, Obviously Evil villain who wants the hero's Love Interest for himself? Hm, why does that sound familiar?
  • A Lizard Named "Liz": Rocko the rockhopper penguin.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted with Marina, who very clearly prefers Hubie. However, in one scene, when Drake rises out of the water in view of Marina and some female penguins she's with, all the female penguins sans Marina swoon.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: Drake's motive for the movie is to make Marina marry him, whether she wants to or not.
  • Animation Bump: The sequence with the Killer Whales is one of the only scenes that it makes the film feel almost like a traditional Don Bluth film. It is naturally the most nightmarish and tense scene in the movie.
  • 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" To a lesser extent, the "Sometimes I Wonder" reprise sung by Marina.
  • Babies Ever After: Hubie and Marina are seen with a bunch of children at the very end, some of which can fly just like Rocko.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Absolutely none of the penguins wear shoes despite being shown to wear hats, jewelry, and even shirts and pants in a couple notable instances.
  • Big Bad: Drake is Hubie's rival for Marina's affections and is willing to go to any lengths necessary to get Marina for himself, whether she wants it or not. This makes him the main villain of the film.
  • Big "NO!": During the song "Good Ship Misery", this is the captive penguins' reaction to Gentoo asking "Does anyone remember fun?"
  • Call of the Wild Blue Yonder: Rocko wishes to fly. At the end of the film, in a way that is both incredibly cliché and against all laws of physics and biology, he achieves it. Still, despite its illogical nature, it's kind of touching, even if it would have been equally touching for him to realize he doesn't need to fly to be happy when he's got such a great friend in Hubie.
  • The Cameo: If you look carefully during the brief shot of the people on the beach, you can see what appear to be characters from previous Bluth projects, such as Princess Daphne and an older Anne-Marie.
  • Cartoon Penguin: While most of the cast are Adélie penguins, excluding Rocko the Rockhopper, their designs are a variation on the typical cartoon penguin with black and white faces and yellow beaks with a red tip. Actual Adélies have completely black faces, and although they do have a darker marking on their beak, it's just not red or even shaped like an Albatross beak.
  • Catchphrase: "Goodness glaciers!" for Hubie.
  • Crazy Is Cool: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!"
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: In the climax Hubie attempts to charge Drake head-on. With Drake being at least three times his size, this results in Hubie being effortlessly sent flying back and being close to unconscious for a good few moments.
  • Dark Reprise: Hubie's song "Sometimes I Wonder" gets a rather saddening reprise from Marina later in the film in which she indicates just how much she misses him and is hoping and praying more than anything for him to still be alive and successfully make it back home as she works to repair the heart formation made of pebbles he'd made for her at the beginning of the film.
  • David vs. Goliath: The final battle of the film involves the comparatively weak and flabby Hubie against the taller, stronger, and ridiculously more muscular Drake.
  • Determinator: Once he grows some serious backbone from being trained by Rocko in how to fight, Hubie utterly refuses to give up in his final confrontation against Drake. And even before then, he proves willing to do whatever it takes to make it back to Antarctica in time for the full moon ceremony to prevent Drake from taking Marina for himself.
  • Deus ex Machina: Rocko suddenly learns to fly and saves everyone from falling.
  • Devious Dolphins: The orcas are portrayed as extremely dangerous, monstrous predators.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: A rare example of a musical animated feature outside of Fantasia to apply this trope to the opening number!
  • Disney Death: Rocko goes missing after the orca attack and Hubie assumes the worst, but a few scenes later he turns up alive and well.
  • 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 Abuse: Drake reeks of this in all his interactions with Marina, especially during his Villain Song, which is peppered with threats of physical violence whilst also demanding her hand in marriage.
    Drake: Don't make me laugh so hard that you begin to ache!
  • The Dreaded: The Killer Whales. Rocko is able to stand up to humans, and even a leopard seal at one point, and teaches Hubie to fight back Drake, and overall, unafraid of anything. But he is absolutely terrified of Killer Whales, and when they do show up, Rocko's fear is completely justified.
  • 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 and hired A. Film to finish the film as quick as possible.
  • Entitled to Have You: Drake has this attitude when it comes to Marina, regardless of her feelings towards him (or lack thereof, in her case), and even has a whole Villain Song threatening harm on her and Hubie should she refuse him.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Drake is the primary antagonist and, as seen in the image, towers over the other penguins.
  • Evil Overlooker: Drake in the poster, as seen above.
  • 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.
  • Flying Flightless Bird: On his introduction, Rocko tells Hubie that his wish in life is to fly, despite the fact that he is a penguin. Near the end of the film, he actually does and teaches other penguins how to fly.
  • Friendship Song: "Looks Like I've Got Me A Friend" is this for the film.
  • 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.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Drake may be the main antagonist of the film, and most of the movie is spent traveling and Rocko teaching Hubie how to fight back, but the Killer Whales that show up demonstrate how terrifying they were built up to be, and Hubie never even attempts to fight them unlike the Leopard Seal, and barely escapes them. Considering how Killer Whales are in real life, they are the most dangerous threats to Hubie and Rocko ever.
  • 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," despite he himself having been successfully taken alive even after putting up a comparatively decent fight against them.
    • Drake mocks Hubie's stutter early in the movie, but when gloating to a pair of seagulls later on, starts to stutter himself, and in a manner that doesn't seem to be intended to mock Hubie.
  • I Am Very British: The royal penguin on the Good Ship Misery has a posh accent.
  • If I Can't Have You…: Drake's Villain Song includes him threatening to have Marina killed along with Hubie if she doesn't marry him.
  • 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.
  • Informed Species: The narrator specifies that the penguins of Hubie's colony are Adélie penguins, but they look nothing like them. Most have gray and white faces, as opposed to the Adélie's entirely black face, and their beaks resemble seagull beaks (yellow with a black tip) while Adélie beaks are pink and covered with feathers except the tip.
  • Jerk Jock: Drake. In fact, his characterization can be summed up as "Gaston as a penguin".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Notably Rocko. He is grumpy, hot-tempered, and occasionally rude but he is good-hearted and cares deeply about Hubie.
  • The Juggernaut: Being 'Twice as big, and twice as fast, and twice as mean' as the rather large, terrifying leopard seal, the Killer Whales prove to be unstoppable threats by plowing through ice floes, and a freaking harpoon. When Rocko tries to distract the orcas by tackling it, the much smaller penguin bounces off them.
  • Large Ham: Drake is not at all subtle in his dialogue or actions, and is unashamedly open and over the top in his behavior. One gets the feeling that Tim Curry was having a lot of fun with the role.
    • The penguins on the Good Ship Misery are also rather melodramatic, particularly in the ship's titular song.
  • 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 looks more like a dodecahedron shaped emerald than an ordinary pebble, and it is what Hubie hopes to use as an engagement pebble for asking Marina to be his mate.
  • Monstrous Seal: The leopard seals who try to eat the main protagonist in multiple scenes are portrayed as vicious monsters that all the penguins (with the exception of Drake) greatly fear. One such instance even provides the page image!
  • Mood-Swinger: Drake can go from a smarmy jock, to a far more vicious and angry monster in a second, and easily switches back to a proud, narcissistic penguin.
  • Nice Guy: Hubie is a kind, lovable sweetheart, hence Marina's preference for him over Drake.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Marina has noticeable breasts despite being a bird.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Compared to the leopard seal, or even Drake, the Killer Whales are unquestionably this. They do not play around with their target prey, and always will gang up on them, and are large, fast, and powerful enough to plow through even a harpoon. It is only with quick reflexes and a sacrificial distraction from Rocko, that Hubie got out alive from that encounter.
  • 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.
  • Also in "The Good Ship Misery", there is at least two point where some penguins move, but the others are frozen in place.
    • The reason for this was because when Don Bluth and Gary Goldman walked off the movie, already all of the pencil art and 70% of the coloring was completed beforehand. At this, MGM sent the movie to a 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.
  • Ominous Opera Cape: Drake is the bad guy and wears a long red cape. Visible in the image.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Tim Curry's attempt at a Jerk Jock American accent doesn't really hold up.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Marina's two suitors: the shy, innocent Hubie whom lives in a humble abode and the villainous Jerk Jock Drake whom lives in a castle shaped like a skull.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Hubie and Rocko.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Marina returns Hubie's feelings for her, and isn't interested in Drake whatsoever.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Apart from the Adélies, 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, and the killer whales are indeed, extremely dangerous pack hunting predators in the ocean.
    • The killer whales are seen bumping into, splashing waves over, and jumping on icebergs to force the penguins into the water, which are all tactics killer whales have been known to use in real life against their prey (both penguins and seals).
  • Speech Impediment: Hubie has a stutter. It's portrayed rather realistically, becoming more pronounced when he's nervous or self-conscious and disappearing when he sings.
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: Played straight. The women are given curvy figures and big eyelashes and pretty 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.
  • 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 has some truly impressive man tits and arms, but his legs are ridiculously tiny.
  • Tsundere: Rocko is a platonic version towards Hubie. He actually likes him, but is too proud to admit it until the very end of "Looks Like I've Got Me A Friend."
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: While Drake is rather intimidating, with hints of domestic abuse and a more feral nature, he is rather enjoyable over the top with his evil, and ends up handled rather easily once Hubie gets his bearings. The Killer Whales on the other hand, are portrayed as ferocious, highly intelligent, and completely unstoppable threats far more deadly than any other obstacle encountered. Hubie outright abandons the pebble that he would risk his neck for against a Leopard Seal, just to barely escape from being eaten after one plows through a harpoon. These antagonists are also the only ones to truly terrify Rocko.
  • Vile Vulture: Well, vile stylized skuas or giant petrels, but Drake keeps about carnivorous seabirds that very much look and behave the part.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Drake has a MASSIVE one after Hubie kicks his ass.
  • Villainous Crush: Drake has a massive one on Marina. His goal is to marry her, even though his feelings are completely unrequited. He's willing to threaten to kill her and Hubie if she doesn't comply.
  • 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 Does She See in Him?: The other female penguins seem to have this opinion of Marina and her preference of Hubie over Drake.
  • 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 then.
  • Yellow Eyes of Sneakiness: The killer whales have animalistic yellow sclera, which is a bit inaccurate. Their sclera is actually red in real life.
  • You Have No Chance to Survive: Wanna bet, Drake?
  • You're Insane!: A heroic example. After escaping the Leopard Seal, Rocko yells this at Hubie because he had gone back to get the pebble. It’s subverted, though, as Rocko ultimately praises him for it.
    Rocko: You idiot! You almost got me killed! What's the matter with you?! You risk your life to get back to that chick and give her that blasted pebble! You're crazy! You're insane! You’re… you’re AMAZING! (laughs)