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Western Animation / 3-2-1 Penguins!

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You're about to learn that penguins really can fly.

"Let's sing a little song
With eight little words
'Bout a rocket ship
And flightless birds
Zidgel! Midgel! Fidgel! Kevin!
Three! Two! One! Penguins!"
3-2-1 Penguins! Theme Song

Produced by Big Idea Productions (the guys who made VeggieTales), 3-2-1 Penguins! chronicles the tale of a young boy named Jason T. Conrad, and his twin sister Michelle Frances Conrad (who is older by five minutes). Both have been shipped off to stay with their very British "grandmum" for the summer, while their parents go...someplace else.

In the first episode (Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn), Jason mopes around because he would much rather be at Space Camp, and as evening falls on their first day at the cottage, he is bored out of his skull after their television blows a fuse. Michelle, on the other hand, has found a set of porcelain penguins and is rather enjoying herself when Jason happens upon the hidden attic. Upon investigation, the twins find a bunch of old toys and games, as well as a large telescope. When Michelle hogs the telescope, Jason stuffs her penguins into a toy spaceship and accidentally drops them both. Rather than breaking, the ship bounces around before springing to life. The now sentient penguins, Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel and...Kevin, "galeezel" Jason into the toy ship and whisk off into space to deal with a distress call.

In Episode 2 (The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka), it's Michelle's turn to take a ride with the Rockhopper crew, and from then on, one or both of the twins would join the Rockhopper crew as they traveled through the stars, helping various Amusing (and less-than-amusing) Aliens with whatever the universe decided to throw at them. Astonishingly, the solution to each location's problem usually hinges on something Grandmum tried to teach the kids earlier.

Since the show is targeted at a slightly older demographic than that of VeggieTales, there's a distinct lack of musical numbers in each episode (but not Big Idea's trademark humor). However, at the end of episodes 2-6, the Rockhopper crew attends Amateur Night at the Comet Lounge where they sing a song related to the episode's moral lesson.

The series was initially a set of six Direct to Video episodes, released between 2000 and 2003, but after a four-year hiatus, the show was picked up by Qubo and has since gained a 20-episode season.

3-2-1 Tropes!

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    Tropes A to I 
  • Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal:
    • The Lizard King wears nothing more than a hat, gloves, and a belt.
    • The only articles of clothing the Bandicoot King wears are a crown and a cape.
  • Aerith and Bob: The penguins' names are Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel... and Kevin.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: Averted, judging how the Rockhopper crew just brings Jason and/or Michelle aboard their ship so nonchalantly without any regard to whatever consequences come with abducting two children from a planet that hasn't developed faster-than-light space travel.
  • Alien Sky: The planets Wait-Your-Turn, Tell-a-Lie, Rigel 13, and Cross-Your-Heart have this. Lampshaded in Lazy Daze
    Midgel: Blue grass, green skies, and no ants.
    Michelle: Don't you mean green grass and blue skies?
  • Aliens of London: The accents that the various aliens have include American (Zidgel, the Gator King), Southern American (Wild Bill Quasar, that yellow cowboy alien that appears every so often), Australian (Midgel, the Bandicoot and Lizard Kings), British (Fidgel, the dart aliens from Tell-a-Lie, the Tiki King), and whatever the hell Miso Guapo's accent is supposed to be.
  • Aliens Never Invented Democracy: Zig-zagged. The planets that did invent democracy are Wait-Your-Turn (run by a president), Gutt (run by a chancellor), and Cross-Your-Heart (run by a mayor). Conversely, planets like Tell-a-Lie, Wiki Tiki, Kennel, and Mercy Falls have monarchies run by either kings or emperors.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Played straight with most of the aliens, averted with the light-bulb aliens in "Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt" who speak in R2-D2-ish gibberish and the ear-like lobes in Compassion Crashin who communicate with "Budda, budda, budda."
  • All-CGI Cartoon: Everything is CGI.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Averted, as all of the planets differ greatly from Earth.
  • Alphabetical Theme Naming: Zidgel, Midgel, and Fidgel. Kevin is the only penguin whose name doesn't end with "idgel".
  • Animal Species Accent:
    • Bert Bertman has a high-pitched voice due to him being a hamster.
    • The sheep from Planet Picket in The Green-Eyed Monster have the "baaa" in their accents.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In the Planet Tell-a-Lie music video, "The Legend of Galaxy Gus", there is a wanted poster with this on it: "Wanted, Honcho Villa, fer bank robbery, cattle rustlin', and not makin' his bed."
  • Artificial Gravity: Even though it's never explicitly stated whether the Rockhopper has it, the characters not floating around in it is evidence enough of its existence.
  • Aside Comment: In Give and Let Give Zidgel looks straight at the camera and asks if he mentioned that he was on a peaceful mission.
    • In Oh, Mercy, the Gator King asks the audience if he knows his Bible.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Grandmum and occasionally Sol quotes from the Good Book.
  • Ate the Spoon: In the theme song, Fidgel's spoon corrodes after it was used to stir a bright blue liquid.
  • Bald of Evil: The Lizard King, that is, before he is reformed.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: The Rockhopper crew and some other characters.
  • Bar Full of Aliens: The Comet Lounge serves as this, with its variety of recurring Humanoid Aliens and Starfish Aliens, as well as its bartender, Sol.
  • Big "NO!": In Comedy of Errors, Michelle does this when Jason sings the song she sings when she's scared at the Comet Lounge.
    • In Wise Guys, Jason does this twice, and both times coupled with a Skyward Scream: the first when he discovers that the batteries are not included with the time machine, and another when he is told that he and his sister are stuck in the future forever.
    • In Oh, Mercy!, Zidgel, Jason and the Gator King yell this in slo-mo when the emerald falls out of its case and smashes into many pieces.
  • Bigger on the Inside: In the T.V. version, the Rockhopper has more space on the inside than the outside.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: The Wait-Your-Turners (aliens that look like old fashioned electrolux vacuum cleaners) move around via rolling around on their four wheels.
  • Black Bead Eyes: The human characters as well as a few aliens have these.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • In Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn, how the Rockhopper crew describes how hot it is on the planet.
      Fidgel: Like a sauna.
      Midgel: Like a barbecue.
      Zidgel: Like someone's barbecuing in a sauna.
    • In Moon Menace on Planet Tell-a-Lie, how Fidgel and Midgel describe the chain reaction that could be caused by Tell-a-Lie's moon slipping out of its orbit.
      Fidgel: A flood.
      Midgel: A fire.
      Fidgel: A flood on fire.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka, after Fidgel says "ombudsmen", the episode pauses with a voiceover defining the word. Since Kevin is not affected by the paused screen, he uses a marker to scribble out "men" and replace it with "penguins".
    • In the same episode, the Rockhopper crew mentions that it was the Lizard King who cheated in the show.
    • In Invasion of the Body Swappers, part of Zidgel's song lyrics are, "I make them swoon, even for a cartoon!"
    • In Git Along Little Doggies, while Fidgel was correcting Jason and Michelle's behavior, Kevin passes by in the background twice and waves at the viewers his second time around.
  • Brick Joke: President No-I'm-the-President's cameo in The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka and The Amazing Carnival of Complaining.
  • The Bridge: No spaceship is complete without this, not even the Rockhopper.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": The Rockhopper crew members all have an emblem of the first letter of their first names on their chests.
  • Call-Back: The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka features many call backs to Trouble on Planet Wait your Turn. One of them is Midgel trying out the new landing gear after hearing Jason's advice and echoing his statement, "No job's too hard when you use your head."
    • This one in particular gets Lampshaded:
      Michelle: Jason was right! You guys are real!
      Midgel: Either that or you're daydreaming.
      Kevin: Whoa! Deja vu!
      (guitar riff from The Twilight Zone (1959) plays)
    • In The Amazing Carnival of Complaining, the call backs to the first episode are Jason wanting to go to Space Camp and the Turbo 3000 being busted.
  • The Cameo: Larry the Cucumber from VeggieTales appears in the first episode Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn as a vacuum cleaner.
  • Captain's Log: In the direct-to-video episodes, Captain Zidgel does this at the end of the episode. In the T.V. version, he does so at the beginning of the episode.
  • Catchphrase: The Rockhopper crew members all have one.
  • Chubby Mama, Skinny Papa: In photos from Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn, the twins' grandfather looks tiny in comparison to their grandmother.
  • Comm Links: The communicators that the Rockhopper crew uses are actually referred to as comm links.
  • Company Cross References: In the episode "Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn", Michelle says that she and Jason stopped at Burger Bell on their way to the cottage. Burger Bell first appeared in one of the Silly Songs in VeggieTales, from Big Idea who also created 3-2-1 Penguins!.
  • Continuity Nod: In The Doom Funnel Rescue, the crew gasps towards the horror music in a similar way in which they did when they found out what would happen to Planet Wait-Your-Turn.
    • In Oh, Mercy, Zidgel screams like a little girl just like how he did in Lazy Daze.
    • In Promises, Promises, the comic book Grandmum reads at the beginning shows pictures from previous episodes, like Lazy Daze, Give and Let Give, Wiki Tiki, Invasion of the Body Swappers, and Git Along Little Doggies.
  • Cute Is Evil: Bert the Hamster inside the Cavitus Suit.
  • Cyclops: The pig-like aliens from Planet Gutt have only one eye.
  • Descriptively-Named Species: The titular penguins look like...well, penguins.
  • Distress Call: Sometimes, these appear in the form of papers from FAX machines. Other times, they appear in the typical audio distress signal.
  • Ditto Aliens: Thanks to the show's low budget, this trope shows up quite a bit via reuse of the same alien model, whether that alien be walking light bulb, dart, lawn flamingo, gnome, or gator.
    • Downplayed with the pumpkin-headed kids from The Amazing Carnival of Complaining whose bodies look identical, but their heads vary a little in shape.
  • Dub Name Change: In the French dub, Jason gets renamed "Elliot".
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Meta example. In an early version of the Big Idea website (by early, we mean in 2000), Fidgel's bio states that his favorite color is orange. In Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt, it's established that he's apparently colorblind, meaning that he can't see the color orange.
    • The penguins' ship, the Rockhopper, wasn't given a name until the T.V. series first aired.
  • Ensemble Cast: The show has six main characters, the kids and the penguins. Ron Smith even stated in one episode commentary that there isn't one main protagonist.
  • Everybody Is Single: All six of the main characters are single. Justified with Jason and Michelle since they're only seven.
  • Every Episode Ending: Most of the episodes ended with the Rockhopper flying off into the night after Jason and Michelle finished praying.
  • Evil Gloating: Baron von Cavitus has a habit of doing this often.
    • The Doom Funnel Rescue!
    • Moon Menace on Planet Tell-a-Lie!
    • I Scream, You Scream!
    • Invasion of the Body Swappers!
    • Git Along, Little Doggies!
    • Oh, Mercy!
  • Expospeak Gag: In Moon Menace on Planet Tell-a-Lie, Fidgel puts "every time the darts speak, their moon drops" into words like "postulating the definitive correlation between the rate of their verbal utterances and their planet's approximate lunar distance".
  • Expository Theme Tune: Downplayed, part of the theme song says " 'Bout a rocket ship and flightless birds", which gives the viewer a little idea of what the show is about.
  • The Faceless:
    • Grandmumís face is never actually seen, she is always shown from the neck down. However, the only time her face was shown happens in the episode, Moon Menace on Planet Tell-a-Lie.
    • Admiral Strap only interacts via speakerphone with the Rockhopper crew.
  • Facepalm: In More is More, Zidgel does this when Fidgel keeps saying "Yes, captain."
  • Fantastic Ship Prefix: The penguins' ship, the Rockhopper, uses U.F.P.S (United Federation Penguin Starship).
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Rockhopper can travel to distant planets in only a few hours.
  • The Federation: Who the Rockhopper crew works for. The Federation League of Planets, to be exact.
  • Flashback Effects: Whenever a flashback occurs, clouds surround the scene.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Most of the characters have either three or four fingers on each hand, including the human characters. Jason even lampshaded this in Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn when he holds up all his fingers on one hand and a finger on his other hand to indicate "5".
  • Free-Range Children: Averted, Jason and Michelle do have adult supervision when going on their space adventures, namely the Rockhopper crew.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: When Fidgel galeezels Jason and Michelle in Comedy of Errors, he can be seen briefly with his eyebrows and his glasses missing.
  • Freudian Excuse: Cavitus is mean because of how he was treated at The Academy.
  • Frictionless Reentry: Every time the Rockhopper lands on a planet, it is never on fire.
  • Fun with Acronyms: "B, I, N, G. Beneficial Imprinting Neuralnet Gizmo." "BING!"
  • Future Spandex: The Rockhopper crew members' jumpsuits. Enforced, in that the low-budget computer animation wouldn't be able to depict looser clothing.
  • Generican Empire: The Federation League of Planets.
  • Gluttonous Pig: Planet Gutt's inhabitants are a bunch of gluttonous one-eyed pigs.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Jason and Michelle.
  • High Collar of Doom: Baron von Cavitus' robot suit possesses a high red collar.
  • Huddle Shot: Occurs in The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka when Michelle and the Rockhopper crew are discussing whether or not Michelle should play the LARP version of Squid-Tac-Toad.
    • In Moon Menace on Planet Tell-a-Lie, Jason and the Rockhopper crew gather around to discuss how they should find the palace tower.
    • In Oh, Mercy, Jason and the Rockhopper crew form a huddle to discuss how they should break Zidgel out of prison.
  • Human Aliens: The garden gnomes from Planet Sharalike are the closest to these due to the show's low budget.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Thanks to the show's low budget animation, plenty of these appear in order to make up for the lack of Human Aliens and Rubber-Forehead Aliens.
    • The aliens appearing include:
      • The penguins, apparently
      • Lizard Folks Lizard King and Wild Bill Quasar
      • Green one-eyed pigs with either blue or purple skin depending on their gender
      • Aliens wearing tiki masks
      • Pig-like aliens
      • Gator-like aliens
      • Sock monkeys with Scottish accents
  • In-Character Commentaries: Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn, The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka, and The Amazing Carnival of Complaining have commentaries by Ron Smith, Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel, and Kevin.
  • Informed Species: The Bandicoot King looks less like a bandicoot and more like a cross between a dog and a kangaroo.
    • Downplayed with Zidgel. He's apparently a rockhopper penguin, as one of the DVD extras said, but he doesn't have the same hair color as Fidgel, who's a macaroni penguin, which is a crested penguin.
  • Insane Admiral: Averted with Admiral Strap, who is portrayed as a Reasonable Authority Figure.
    • Downplayed, however, in More is More, when Admiral Strap just tells Zidgel to go on a mission without allowing him to tell him that they caught Cavitus.
  • Intelligent Gerbil: The sheep from Planet Picket, the chickens from Planet Henpecked-A-Lot, and the cow captain from In the Big House.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Jason and Michelle, two seven-year-old kids, are friends with Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel, and Kevin, who are all adults.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Jason and Michelle, two humans, are friends with Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel, and Kevin, four alien penguins.
  • Introductory Opening Credits: This show's opening credits shows the main characters (with the exceptions of Jason and Michelle, who are still present in the opening credits) appearing with their names being shouted out.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: A lot of stuff.
    • The Cutting-In-Line bug causes Planet Wait-Your-Turn to cut in front of the other planets in its solar system. It even drags the planet straight towards its sun.
    • Lying causes the moon of Planet Tell-A-Lie to move closer.
  • It's Always Spring: The entire duration of the show takes place during the summer. Justified in that it does take place during Jason and Michelle's summer vacation after all.

    Tropes J to Z 
  • Jesus Taboo: Averted, as the Bible is mentioned, albeit nicknamed "The Good Book".
  • Judicial Wig: In the court scene of 12 Angry Hens, Zidgel wears a long, curly white wig when he assumes the position of judge.
  • Land Downunder: Space Base Bullamanka, location of the Colossal Aussie Colosseum and where the Lizard and Bandicoot Kings live.
  • Laughing at Your Own Jokes: In The Green-Eyed Monster, Zidgel laughs at his "Nice to meet ewe" pun and explains it.
    • He does this again in Git Along, Little Doggies after he says how that cow can really mooooooove.
    • He does this for a third time in Wise Guys after he remarks that he thought his crew had a heavy duty mission when it seemed rather light to him. (Light as in their next mission involves light bulbs)
  • Lean and Mean: The Lizard King.
  • Lightbulb Joke: In Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt, Zidgel asks Kevin how many penguins does it take to change a lightbulb.
    • He tries to make these jokes again in Comedy of Errors, variations including "How many lightbulbs does it take to change a lightbulb" and "how many lightbulbs does it take to change a penguin". It doesn't work out too well.
  • Lizard Folk: The Lizard King and Wild Bill Quasar.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: This show's got penguin aliens, lizard aliens, vacuum cleaner aliens, those pumpkin-headed kids, walking light bulbs, talking darts, alien sheep, one-eyed pig aliens, lawn flamingos and lawn gnomes, walking ear lobes, tiki-looking aliens, a different species of pig-like aliens, alien chickens with holographic heads, gator aliens, and sock monkey aliens.
  • Look Behind You: In Oh, Mercy!, Zidgel says, "Hey look, it's Elvis!" in an attempt to distract the Gator king and his guards from arresting him.
    • Baron von Cavitus uses the same excuse above in In the Big House to distract Zidgel long enough for him to gain the upper hand.
    • In The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka, Lizard King tells Michelle that there's a didgeridoo behind her and one of his hench-koalas plays said instrument loudly behind her, allowing for him to cheat at the game they're playing.
  • Maybe High Tech, Maybe Mundane: It's never really specified if the kids' adventures are just daydreams or are actually happening. Both are hinted at.
  • Mister Big: Baron von Cavitus is a hamster named Bert Bertman, but he wears a robot suit to disguise it.
  • Mobile-Suit Human: The recurring villain in the T.V. version Baron von Cavitus is actually a hamster in a mechanical suit named Bert Bertman.
  • Morality Ballad: The songs the Rockhopper crew sings at the Comet Lounge.
  • The Moral Substitute: This show serves as a Christian Moral Substitute to Science Fiction cartoons.
  • Morphic Resonance: Happens whenever the characters get turned into something else.
    • In The Amazing Carnival of Complaining, Zidgel and Midgel still retain their hairstyles in seed of discontent form.
    • In Kennel Club Blues, when Michelle and the penguins get turned into hamsters, they all retain their hairstyles and their basic body shapes.
  • Motor Mouth: The Lizard King, although this trait disappears in his second appearance in which he speaks.
  • Named After Their Planet: Planet Tell-a-Lie has its tell-a-liars.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The Doom Funnels of Space Colony Double-Wide.
  • Never Say "Die": Averted twice.
    • In Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn, when Jason accidentally pulls down the stairs to the attic and nearly hits Michelle, she tells him, "You almost killed me!"
    • In The Doom Funnel Rescue Zidgel exclaims that they're all gonna die.
  • No Ending: The show never ended with either Cavitus being caught, or the kids leaving their Grandmum's place for the summer.
  • No Focus on Humans: The show focuses mainly on the eponymous penguins and the various aliens whom they assist. The only important humans that appear are Jason, Michelle, and Grandmum.
  • No Hugging, No Kissing: None of the main characters have any onscreen romantic relationships.
  • No Seat Belts: Averted, the Rockhopper crew always buckles up for landing.
  • Numbered Homeworld: Rigel 13.
  • Odd Name Out: Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel, "keh-VEEN".
  • One-Federation Limit: Averted. Besides the Federation League of Planets, Zidgel mentions a Border Collie Federation in Practical Hoax.
  • One-Gender Race: The Lobes are all female.
  • Only One Name: None of the Rockhopper crew's last names or even middle names, save for Zidgel's middle name, are ever revealed.
  • Our Doors Are Different: Some of the Rockhopper's doors are triangular in shape and all of them are automated and make a whooshing sound when they're opened.
  • Penguins Are Ducks: The eponymous penguins have yellowish-orange rounded beaks and orange webbed feet like a duck's.
  • Penguins Can Breath In Space: Most of the characters, including the human kids.
  • Pie-Eyed: The pumpkin-headed kids from The Amazing Carnival of Complaining have these eyes.
  • Pig Man: Two species of pig-like aliens appear in this show.
    • In More is More, the cyclops pig-like aliens are portrayed as gluttonous.
    • In Hogs and Kisses, the pig-like aliens look more like anthropomorphic pigs.
  • Planet of Hats: Subverted with the inhabitants of Planets Wait-Your-Turn, Tell-a-Lie, and Gut, as their hats were put on by outside forces. I.E. a cutting-in-line bug caused the Wait-Your-Turners' hat to be impatience, the king pressing the button that caused Tell-a-Lie's moon to fall and him telling the tell-a-liars to constantly lie caused the tell-a-liars' hat to be dishonesty, and cereal caused the one-eyed pigs' hat to be gluttony.
    • Averted with the penguins themselves, one of the only things they have in common is that they're on one ship.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: In general, every single made-for-TV episode re-uses music from episodes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 (as well as a couple VeggieTales episodes), with very few new original tunes created for those episodes (and even when new tunes play for one episode, they get re-used for later ones). As for some specific examples...
    • The music played in the action scenes from The Amazing Carnival of Complaining gets played again in The Green-Eyed Monster, Give and Let Give and Between an Asteroid and a Hard Place.
    • The music played during Jason's speech in The Amazing Carnival of Complaining gets played in More is More, Promises Promises and Between an Asteroid and a Hard Place.
    • Perhaps more egregiously, the music played as Michelle tells the Lizard King about playing by the rules in The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka is used at least Once per Episode, except for Lazy Daze and Wise Guys.
  • Revisiting the Roots: 12 Angry Hens, Kennel Club Blues, Oh, Mercy, and Promises, Promises had only one of the twins going on the mission like they did in the direct-to-video episodes instead of both of them.
  • Revival: After the show got cancelled in 2003, it got renewed in 2006 and ran for a 20-episode season before it got re-canceled.
  • Rhyme Theme Naming: The Rockhopper Crew is made up of Captain Zidgel, First Officer Midgel, Doctor Fidgel and Kevin
  • Running Gag: Increasingly bizarre forms of landing gear.
    • "BANZAI!!!" (cue bonsai tree)
    • "Either that or you're daydreaming."
    • The Galeezel's exaggerated kick-back
    • "*gasp!*" "*Gasp!*" "*Gasp!*"
    • President No-I'm-the-President (the vacuum that got flung into space when the planet abruptly stopped in the first episode) flying by the ship during spaceflight segments Once an Episode.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: In Lazy Daze, Captain Zidgel screams a scream identical to Michelle's scream when giant ants ruin a picnic.
    • He does this again in Oh, Mercy! when Cavitus attempts to fire a marshmallow blast at him.
  • Shout-Out: See here.
  • Shrink Ray: The galeezel, which is used to bring Jason & Michelle aboard the toy-sized Rockhopper.
  • Single-Biome Planet: The biomes shown on the planets include all-desert, all-pasture, and all-purple ground.
  • Sky Surfing: In the music video for Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt, "Space Surfing Superstar", Zidgel and Kevin ride these in space.
    • Those same sky surfboards make a comeback in Wiki Tiki after the Rockhopper crew uses the volcano to make a beach front.
  • Space Cadet: Jason and Michelle Conrad.
  • Space Cadet Academy: The Federation Academy is implied to be this.
  • Space Friction: Whenever the Rockhopper's engines stop, so does the Rockhopper.
  • Space Whale Aesop:
    • In Trouble on Planet Wait-Your-Turn.
      Jason: Having to go first all the time only leads to trouble! Like getting burned up by the sun! Now, the consequences are not always so extreme, but good things come to those who wait.
    • If you ever complain, you'll be literally transformed into a seed of discontent and be used to depopulate a planet.
    • Remember, kids, it's wrong to lie. Because if you do, the moon will flatten you and your planet Majora's Mask-style.
    • Don't ever feel envious, or else literal green-eyed monsters will pop up and start eating all your shit.
    • You need to know when to say "enough", so a giant space tornado won't threaten to suck up your planet.
  • Starfish Aliens: Some of the aliens encountered include sapient vacuum cleaners, pumpkin-headed children, light bulbs with arms and legs who communicate with clicking and beeping sounds, darts who constantly lie, spring necked lawn flamingos, and ear lobes with arms and legs whose vocabulary consists of one word.
  • Starfish Language: The light bulb aliens from Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt communicate through beeping and clicking sounds. Kevin was able to understand and translate their language.
    • The Lobes' (basically walking and talking human ears) language from Compassion Crashin consists entirely of the word "Budda".
  • Streaming Stars: Averted most of the time. Played straight in The Doom Funnel Rescue when B.I.N.G. presses a button that cause the Rockhopper to travel at a speed of Warp 10.
  • Subspace Ansible: The fact that the Rockhopper crew is able to communicate with anybody quickly, no matter how far away they are, points to this existing.
  • Swivel-Chair Antics: Zidgel tends to spin around in his captain's swivel-chair. He even tries to spin around in it as many times as he can in one minute in Between an Asteroid and a Hard Place.
  • Theme Naming: The penguins, except for Kevin.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Averted with Jason and Michelle, as their names don't have a lot in common with one another.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: Half the theme song lists the names of the penguins.
  • Title Theme Tune: The show's theme song drops the show's title.
  • Token Human: Jason, Michelle, Grandmum, and the twins' parents are the only humans in the entire series.
  • Toothy Penguin: All the penguins are shown to have teeth. Justified in that they are alien penguins, after all.
  • Top-Heavy Guy: Zidgel's and Midgel's upper bodies are longer than their legs. Justified in that they are penguins.
  • Tractor Beam: Baron von Cavitus uses this.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: The Rockhopper travels as fast or as slow as the plot demands, as this conversation in The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka shows.
    Michelle (who has been on the Rockhopper for about three minutes): Wow, so let's get on with the mission. Buckle up for landing, everyone!
    Zidgel: Woah, slow down there, missy. I don't think you have a full appreciation of the demands of space travel can take hours, days, even, uh, several days. It's not like in those T.V. shows where they just go zipping around-
    Midgel: Coming up on Bullamanka.
    Zidgel: Uh, buckle up for landing, everyone.
  • Truck Driver's Gear Change:
    • "Space Surfin' Superstar" starts in B and ends in C.
    • "Spaceship Drivin' Man" goes from E major to F major and finally to G major.
    • "The Legend of Galaxy Gus" starts in A minor and ends in B♭ minor.
  • Unnamed Parent: Jason and Michelle's parents are never referred to by their first names.
  • Vague Age: It's never explicitly stated or even implied how old the penguins are. Since they're penguins, their ages can't be determined by their appearances alone. If their ages are determined by their voices and how long it's been since Bert Bertman graduated from the Federation Academy, their ages would be from late twenties to early thirties.
  • Visual Pun: "BANZAI!" Cue a bonsai tree popping up.
    • Midgel holds a picture of ham when Zidgel sings his second solo in "Fair and Square". Ergo, he's saying that Zidgel is a Large Ham.
    • In 12 Angry Hens, Midgel stops the ship due to a literal fork in the road. Technically speaking, it's a fork floating in outer space, but it still applies.
  • We Will Not Have Pockets in the Future: Fidgel's uniform is the only uniform that has pockets of any form. (Midgel's uniform doesn't have pockets, he carries two pouches on his belt.)
  • Widely-Spaced Jail Bars: In Give and Let Give, the cage Jason and Michelle are in has bars far apart for them to just escape if they tried.
    • Zig-zagged in Do Unto Brothers. The bars are narrow enough to prevent the penguins from escaping, but not the kids. As Michelle puts it.
      Michelle: This cell was built to hold penguins, not kids.
  • Zeerust: Used intentionally in designs such as the penguins' uniforms, the exterior and interior of the Rockhopper, and the communication devices, which all take a cue from how the 1960s (and a little of the 1950s) viewed the future.