A Penguin's Memories is an animated film from 1987. It is an English dub and re-edit of the 1985 Japanese anime film called Penguin Memory. It is directed by Shunji Kimura and Garrett Fredrickson and is produced by Akira Sugatani and Saul Zaentz. It stars Don Ameche as Mike, a penguin who served in the Delta War, who returns home after the war but has received post-traumatic stress disorder a few minutes before the war was over. It is produced by The Saul Zaentz Company, CM Land and Hakuhodo and is distributed by United Artists. Suntory Beer also produced the film, as it's where the film inspiration came from, but they were uncredited in the US release due to the product not getting a US release.
A Penguin's Memories was released on June 12, 1987 to a mixed response, but it has seen a better light in modern times, and only grossed $15.6 million against it's budget of $9.9 million. It is the first film to be directed by Garrett Fredrickson
- Don Ameche as Mike
- Debbie Reynolds as Jill
- Frank Welker as Tom, Car Driver
- Chuck McCann as Al
- Lou Diamond Phillips as Jack
- June Foray as Madam O'Hara & Mike's Mom
- Dom DeLuise as Paul
- Lea Thompson as Susan & Peggy
- Marshall Efron as Bob Adams
- Burl Ives as The Librarian
- Clancy Brown as Jimmy and Court Judge
- Tom Bosley as Dr. Moe
- Tim Curry as The Police Officer
- Carl Andy as Waiter (Voice Cameo)
- Frank Welker
- Len Maxwell
- Dom DeLuise
- Michael Rye
- Susan Davis
- Jan Rabson
- Hal Smith
- Mona Marshal
- Barbara Goodson
- Peter Fernandez
- Alicia Fleer
- Lisa Kohane
- James Cranna
- Robert Lawrence
After helping his friend Carl Andy write the English version of Space Firebird, Garrett Fredrickson felt like making another English dubbed anime film, but he couldn't quite find one at the time until 1985, when he saw Penguin's Memory - Shiawase Monogatari and decided to make an English language version, after getting the license to make one from CBS/Sony Records (in exchange for handling the soundtrack under Columbia Records in America), the dub went into production. Before he got the rights to the film, he was considering whether or not to make an American remake the movie or to dub the movie into English, and he chose the latter option. Cindy and Donald Hewitt were hired to translate the film into English as well as rewrite some of the lines to make it more accustomed for American release. The two would later write Disney's English dubs of various Studio Ghibli films.
Initially funding had to be sourced by Fredrickson himself due to initial lack of a distributor, he did ask Carl Andy who was under a 3-movie contract with Warner Bros., if he could help work on the movie, but because he was working on The Booters for Geffen Pictures, he was unable to help work on the movie. However, production on the dub started to take shape when the more famous Saul Zaentz decided to help work on the dub, allowing his own production studio to help fund the production and to also seek distribution for the movie.
When the film's title came to view by Fredrickson, he thought that the film's original title, which literally translates to Penguin's Memory: A Tale of Happiness, sounded rather clunky, and changed the movie's name to A Penguin's Memories.
While the dub is fairly faithful to the original movie, a few differences were inserted as well, these include:
- The film's opening music is shortened to just 21 seconds and the last few seconds of the music even play over the first few seconds of the movie.
- Al's line "If we could give him a cold beer, he'd get better in no time." was changed to "You better give him some medicine, Mike, or he'll die."
- Two pop songs are heard in the background in certain scenes, those being Looking for Jack by Colin James Hay, and Break My Stride by Matthew Wilder.
- When Al is describing his girlfriend, he instead describes her as "the most beautiful penguin you'll ever see"
- Mike saying Jill's name after Jill reveals that she loves him is cut out as Fredrickson found the line unnecessary
- Some of the soundtrack, with the exception of many sound effects and various music pieces, were replaced by music composed by Jerry Goldsmith, as well as added into certain scenes that lack music, such as the scene when the police come to Mike's home after his brawl with Bob Adams.
- The film's ending song is removed and a newly composed instrumental piece plays over the final scene. The end credits of the movie instead have the song "Weekend in New England" by Barry Manilow playing over them.
- Mike's line to Bob Adams and the 2 other penguins "How about you people give up?" is changed to "You can just find somebody else!".
- Before Bob Adams begins eavesdropping on Jill talking to Madam O'Hara, he is heard singing a small tune to himself, in the original, he was heard singing "Tonight i'll have all the wine I can drink".
Fredrickson's intention for the voice cast was to not only bring in some well known voice actors, but also some actors that worked well with their parts. Because of this, Fredrickson chose to seek out actors, mainly because he was concerned about the actors doing wacky exaggerated voices should he hold auditions, he had help with both Brebner Agencies and Ruth Lambert regarding casting. Some of the film's additional voices were provided by lesser known voice actors, while main roles and a few smaller roles were given to some more well known actors, including Debbie Reynolds (Jill), June Foray (Madam O'Hara), Burl Ives (The Librarian), and Frank Welker (Tom). Already an established actor through his roles in The Smurfs and Transformers, Marshall Efron was cast as the film's villain, Bob Adams, as Fredrickson thought his voice was extremely close to the voice of Casey Takamine, who voiced the character in the Japanese version of the film. Lou Diamond Phillips was cast as Jack as Fredrickson thought his voice was kind of fitting for what type of character Jack was, a sentimental doctor; the director of La Bamba, Luis Valdez allowed Phillips to take some time off from working on his film to voice in A Penguin's Memories. Carl Andy, who was still working on The Booters, was able to provide a minor voice as the waiter who encourages Mike to "distinguish himself" even more than he did.
Mike was fairly difficult to cast, as Fredrickson didn't know what actor would best fit him, with the casting choices eventually being narrowed down to Charlie Sheen and Don Ameche. Ameche was cast as Mike around April 1986, but some of his lines were recorded separately on certain days due to him also starring in the Universal Pictures movie Harry and the Hendersons. In a similar case with Lou Diamond Philips, the director of that movie, William Dear, allowed Ameche to take some time off to provide Mike's voice.
Similar to a few films like Godzilla: King of the Monsters, certain scenes in A Penguin's Memories were re-filmed or changed out entirely. Many of the differences between the animation in the original and new dub is additional in-between work for some of the character animation, extending some pieces of animation to better sync with the lines, and also refielding certain scenes to correct some problems from the original animation, such as to remove certain fog effects and correct lighting problems, while some of the new scenes involved inserting new scenes to better transition each scene and to replace certain moments in the film. The additional animation work was done by Hyperion Pictures, with some of the animators later working on a few other Hyperion projects like Rover Dangerfield.
A Penguin's Memories had its premiere at the Annecy International Film Festival in May 1987, and was released in American theaters on September 18th, 1987.
During early 1987, Fredrickson had some difficulty finding distribution of the film due to the movie's content, eventually he found favor at MGM/UA's United Artists subsidiary. According to Fredrickson, the company bought the film's concept right away, viewing it as something "so unique that anyone could buy it". United Artists decided to change the film's original release date from June 12th, 1987 to September of that same year, as they didn't want a competition with 20th Century Fox's Predator, which came out on the same day as Penguin's Memories was originally scheduled to open, and also to do proper marketing on the film. At the time of release it was the only anime movie to be released by a major film studio in the United States, and the first anime film United Artists released since The Castle of Cagliostro in 1980.
During this time, the movie was also mentioned on an episode of Night Flight, where Don Ameche was interviewed about his role as Mike.
Unlike most of Saul Zaentz's older films, the rights stayed with MGM instead of reverting to Warner Bros. Pictures
A Penguin's Tale received a PG-13 rating for both war and standard violence and strong language, as well as mildly frightening scenes. Fredrickson had expected this rating.
Despite Fredrickson expecting the film to get a PG-13 rating, a few other people were confused why the film would need a PG-13 rating, Roger Ebert noted this in his review of the movie saying "Why A Penguin's Memories has a PG-13 rating is something of a mystery, compared to the films that created the rating, Gremlins and Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, this has PG written all over it.", Gene Siskel also agreed in the At The Movies review, saying "The only truly violent scenes in A Penguin's Memories are just the war scene and the fight scenes, that's it. It doesn't have anything ridiculously violent like Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, it's more on the lines of something like Patton or Back to the Future." A few other people assumed it was given that rating due to despite being an animated film that featured penguins in it, it did carry quite a few adult subjects.
Because of competition with the film Fatal Attraction, the film only made $15.6 million at the box office against it's $9.9 million budget. Another reason was due to the marketing, because the movie's trailer put a big emphasis on postwar theme the movie carried, but most of the TV spots advertised the film in a way similar to films like Back to the Future and a few other live action movies with a similar format. As a result, it ended up confusing audiences on what type of film genre it was trying to convey.
A Penguin's Tale initially received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the story and voice acting, while others criticized the tone, and described the animation as "clunky". In a more positive review from Roger Ebert, he stated "While I do admit the animation needs more work to make it feel more complete, the film's concept was handled well in execution and the voice acting was spectacular".
However, in recent years, the movie has obtained a cult following, and reception has become more positive over the years. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 80% based on 34 reviews with an average score of 7.3 out of 10, the site's critical consensus reads "Featuring animation that might be a bit clunky, but carrying plenty of heart. A Penguin's Memories is an anime film that definitely deserves a watch". The film in 2018 also started to become a bit notorious for the fact the character designs from Club Penguin strongly resemble the character designs from this movie, sparking a few internet memes, mostly in the famous "Delta War" scene. Fredrickson was aware of the similarities Club Penguin had with the film, but he himself felt they were more coincidental than anything else, due to the differences between them.
The film has also been broadcast on HBO and Showtime from October 1988 to 1996, which partly boosted it's cult status, on Adult Swim in 2005 and again in 2008, both airings with TV-14-V ratings, and on MGM HD in 2014 and again in 2017. The film has also been shown on Retroplex a few times.
- 1988 Key Video VHS/Laserdisc (Distributed by CBS/Fox Video)
- 1994 MGM/UA Home Video VHS
- 2002 MGM Home Entertainment DVD
- 2010 MGM/Fox DVD (Double Feature with Astro Boy: Battle Among the Stars, Reprint of 2002 DVD)
- 2017 Kino Lorber Blu-ray/DVD (Under license from MGM/Fox)