Friday, December 8, 2006

Penguins, Cuter on Film Than in Real Life, Outgross Cats, Pigs

What's up with all these penguin movies?

Sure, penguins appear cute on the screen, real or animated. But zoo personnel don't always find them that cute. Rick Yazzolino, a penguin keeper at the Oregon Zoo in Portland, said they bite hard and use their stumpy flippers to slap around anyone who annoys them.

``I've been bitten hundreds of times,'' he said. ``There's not a day that goes by I don't go home without a wound, a sore or cut on my hands.''

One more thing, he said: They don't sing or tap dance.

So what is it about cinematic penguins that makes them more attractive than most other animals?

George Miller, who directed ``Happy Feet,'' said the birds' anthropomorphic qualities, like the way they walk, account for much of their popularity. Also, he said, ``only in the last decade or so has there been serious documentary footage out of Antarctica. It's tough to get around Antarctica.''

Gil Myers, an area supervisor for penguins at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, where penguins remain one of the major attractions, said they also benefit from a growing public awareness that global warming and overfishing are threatening the habitats of some species, a major theme in ``Happy Feet.''

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