Story

This documentary, written and directed by Luc Jacquet and narrated by Morgan Freeman, is about the extraordinary ritual of the Emperor penguins. Each year they walk over 100 km to reach their ancient breeding grounds.

The trek begins in March when the Emperor penguins leave their coastal home. They walk across the ‘darkest, driest, windiest and coldest’ continent on earth to reach their breeding grounds. The walk can take up to a week because they don't walk very fast. The penguins all arrive on the same day and begin the task of finding a mate with whom they’ll stay throughout the breeding season. When the penguins find their partner, the breeding ritual begins.

Later, when the mother lays the egg, there is the tricky and dangerous task of transferring it to the father who will ‘incubate’ it throughout the long harsh winter. (Some eggs are lost during this process, cracking in the extreme cold.) By this time the mother is in dire need of nourishment and she returns to sea to find food. All the fathers stay to look after the eggs for four months without food. When the mothers return, their chicks are waiting eagerly for the food they bring. Only now can the fathers return to sea to find food. Unfortunately, many do not survive the journey across the ice because they are starving. Eventually those that do survive return to their family. Then it is time for the adult penguins to leave and begin the breeding cycle once again.

Themes

Distress and death of animals

Violence

  • Females fight over the males (there are fewer males than females).
  • A leopard seal chases penguins in the water and is shown capturing one in its mouth.
  • A large bird circles, then chases the chicks and pecks at them. The movie implies that the bird finally takes a chick but this isn’t shown.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

  • A straggling lone penguin is shown dying.
  • The males are shown huddled, frozen and covered in ice during a blizzard.
  • On the return journey one of the male penguins is shown dying from exhaustion.
  • Chicks who are born too early are unable to survive until the mothers return with food – one chick is shown dead.
  • Chicks often perish in the blizzards – some are shown frozen.
  • In one distressing scene, the mothers find their dead chicks and try to wake them up.
  • Female penguins who lose their chicks often try to steal another’s. The group gathers to protect the mother and chick and chase the other away.

Over 8

Most children over in the age group will not be frightened. Some children, however, could be upset by the animal distress and deaths shown.

Sexual references

None

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None

Nudity and sexual activity

None

Product placement

None

Coarse language 

None

Ideas to discuss with your children

March of the Penguins is a visually stunning and remarkable story that will entertain both young and old. There are a few disturbing scenes that could upset young children. Perhaps the main take-home message in this movie is the inspirational and extraordinary effort taken by the adult penguins to rear their young.