Cultural depictions of penguins

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Penguins are popular around the world for their unusually upright, waddling gait, their cuteness, their magnificent swimming ability and (compared with other birds) their lack of fear toward humans.[1] Their striking black and white plumage is often likened to a white tie suit and generates humorous remarks about the bird being "well dressed".[2]

Penguins had a resurgence as figures in pop culture in the mid-2000s thanks to films like March of the Penguins, Madagascar, Happy Feet, and Surf's Up.[3] As an April Fools' Day joke, on April 1, 2008 the BBC released a short film of penguins in flight and migrating to the South American rainforest.


The penguin is typically depicted as a friendly and comical figure, with considerable dignity despite its physical limitations. Perhaps in reaction to this cute stereotype, fictional penguins are sometimes presented as irritable or even sinister. Examples include the cute yet somewhat surly Sanrio character Badtz Maru and the penguins in the movie Madagascar, intelligent creatures with devious schemes and plans, who are even capable of defeating humans. Penguins are also often portrayed as friendly and smart, for example in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, which features a warm-water penguin named Pen Pen.

  • The 1960s television cartoon character Tennessee Tuxedo would often escape the confines of his zoo with his partner, Chumley the walrus.
  • In the online role-playing game RuneScape, penguins are portrayed as devious characters with a background reminiscent of the Soviet Union: their capital is Palingrad (suggesting Stalingrad); they have KGP (compare KGB) agents; and they refer to their homeland as the "Motherland". One quest in which they feature is called "Cold War" and the next is called "The Hunt for Red Raktuber", a play on The Hunt for Red October. They have an enormous military complex with training facilities, living areas, interrogation rooms and agility courses. They have plans for domination similar to the penguins in Madagascar.
  • In the animated series Wallace and Gromit, a penguin called Feathers McGraw disguises himself as a chicken with a red rubber glove.
  • A villain in the DC Comics Universe is called The Penguin.


Yellow-eyed, Fiordland and little penguins are prominent in Māori mythology, where they are known as hoiho, tawaki and kororā respectively. The tawaki in particular is associated with a myth in which it walked among humans until it revealed its divinity by wearing lightning, hence the explanation for the bird's yellow crest.[4]

Logos and mascots

The friendly, slightly comical image of the penguin has often been used by companies and organisations for logos and mascots.


  • Supporters and collaborators of Argentine president Néstor Kirchner are known informally as pingüinos, and pingüino (Spanish for "penguin") is the nickname of Kirchner himself, alluding to his birthplace in the cold southern region of Patagonia.[6][7]
  • In 2009, the vice-chair of The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), a pro-Beijing party in Hong Kong, hosted an episode of an opinion talk show, in the opening of which he mistakenly began by describing the North Pole as a place with few people and many penguins. Although this was edited out in reruns of the episode, it had already caught the attention many supporters of democracy, and they ridiculed the vice-chair and the entire DAB for it, saying that it is common knowledge that penguins are native to only the south, and that if the next generation of party leaders should have such poor general knowledge, it would be questionable for them to lead Hong Kong. This was but one in a long series of incidents that drew ridicule and criticism to the DAB.[citation needed]
  • Penguins became the symbol of the 2013 protests in Turkey, after CNN Türk broadcast a documentary about penguins during the protests.

Food items

Penguins and polar bears

Despite what commercials and other popular sources may show, penguins and polar bears are found on opposite hemispheres. Polar bears inhabit the Northern Hemisphere,[8] while all penguin species live in the Southern Hemisphere.[9]


Film and television

Feature films and animation

Short films


  • Japanese-Soviet cartoon The Adventures of Lolo the Penguin.
  • Pingu is a television show revolving around a penguin community.
  • Ice King from Adventure Time has a group of penguins, all named variations of "Gunter" and who quack like ducks. One of them, in particular, is particularly mischievous.
  • Penguins of several species appear in Shirokuma Cafe.
  • Is the second part of the 2nd episode of anime series Urusei Yatsura. Penguins appearance in school is just the start of a full day of panic.
  • Break from Beast Wars Neo has an alternate mode of an emperor penguin.
  • In the DuckTales TV Series episode "Cold Ducks," part four of the TV Movie "Treasure of the Golden Suns," the ducks in that series encounter penguins.
  • In the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, the character Misato Katsuragi has a genetically engineered penguin named Pen-pen as a pet.
  • In the season 2 episode "Pawnee Zoo" of the American comedy television series Parks and Recreation, Leslie Knope marries two male penguins becoming an accidental same-sex marriage advocate. The penguins move to Ohio where their lifestyle choices are more accepted.
  • In Juken Sentai Gekiranger (later adapted to Power Rangers: Jungle Fury), Penguin Zord appeared in the first time.


  • In the 2015 musical, Love Birds the penguins (played by humans) "Parker", "Presley", "Pewcey" and "Puck" comprise a penguin barbershop quartet.[16]

Video games


  1. ^ "Why are penguins such good box office?". BBC. 2006-11-21. Retrieved 2011-05-07.
  2. ^ March of the Penguins (2005) ( (Archive)
  3. ^ Susan Glaser, "Penguins are pop culture's hottest thing", The Seattle Times (Tuesday, December 19, 2006).
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ "Who's Diego?" Archived 2011-08-14 at the Wayback Machine. Diegos Tartan Army
  6. ^ "March of the Penguins". Buenos Aires Herald, Friday, September 28, 2007. (Archive).
  7. ^ Longoni, Matías (18 January 2006). "Un combate entre "pingüinos" por la estratégica secretaría de Agricultura" (in Spanish). Clarí Retrieved 2011-05-07.
  8. ^ "Where do polar bears live?" Archived 2009-06-19 at the Wayback Machine Polar Bears International
  9. ^ "PENGUINS - Habitat and Distribution"
  10. ^ a b Lenburg, Jeff (1 June 2006). Who's Who in Animated Cartoons: An International Guide to Film and Television's Award-Winning and Legendary Animators. Applause Books. pp. 283–284. ISBN 978-1-55783-671-7.
  11. ^ Deneroff, Harvey (17 May 2004). "Cartoons on the Bay 2004 Report". Animation World Network. Archived from the original on 18 September 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  12. ^ Sesame Street - Penguin Rhythms - The Hubleys (1971),
  13. ^ The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper
  14. ^
  15. ^ Mr. Popper's Penguins (film)
  16. ^ ""How To Cast Penguins And Parrots In A New Musical". MyTheatreMates. Retrieved 12 December 2019.

External links

  • "Penguins Waddle Into the Culture Wars" (ABC News)
  • "Penguins in popular culture". (Citizendium).
  • "Penguins pack pop-culture punch". Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Tuesday, December 19, 2006, The Associated Press.
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