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On the November 20 edition of his CNN Headline News program, Glenn Beck said that Happy Feet, an animated film about a dancing Emperor penguin, is "propaganda" and an "animated version of An Inconvenient Truth." Beck then discussed the film with Bob Thompson, director of the Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University, who told Beck that "[o]f the 50,000 things affecting America's youth in negative ways today, I don't think the penguin movie is probably on that 50,000." Thompson then told Beck: "I don't think this story is going to get you a Peabody [Award]."
As the weblog Think Progress noted, on the November 20 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto also referred to Happy Feet as an "animated Inconvenient Truth" and said that he "half-expected to see an animated version of Al Gore pop up." Cavuto's guest, entertainment critic Holly McClure, said she felt like she "was watching Dirty Dancing, penguin-style. You know, the preaching against the tap dancing and being liberal and stay conformed." Similarly, in a November 17 entry on his Townhall.com weblog, conservative talk-show host Michael Medved referred to the film as "Crappy Feet," and said it was the "darkest, most disturbing feature length animated film ever offered by a major studio."
From the November 20 edition of CNN Headline News' Glenn Beck:
BECK: All right. The director of the film publicly has said that he changed the original screenplay to amplify the environmental themes and that, quote, "You can't tell a story about Antarctica and the penguins without giving that dimension."
Call me crazy, but, yes, you can. And if you're going to include those themes, the least you could do is tell me, a parent. Tell me about it first, OK, so I know I'm walking into propaganda.
But with Happy Feet, no, they just couldn't. They couldn't shoehorn that into the marketing. That'd be too tough. I wonder if it's because they knew that people, you know, wouldn't go see it or not as many. They may not pull in $42 million if people thought they'd be watching an animated version of An Inconvenient Truth.
Maybe I'm in the minority -- and I probably am -- but you know what? I'd like to teach my children how to think for themselves about the issues, including global warming and the environment, instead of having them indoctrinated by some Hollywood director.
THOMPSON: I don't have a problem with hunters, but I don't mind that Bambi decided to have a hunter shoot the mom. Of the 50,000 things affecting America's youth in negative ways today, I don't think the penguin movie is probably on that 50,000.
BECK: Bob, let me tell you --
THOMPSON: I don't think this story is going to get you a Peabody.
From the November 20 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
CAVUTO: Well, those cute little penguins in Happy Feet winning at the box office, earning more than $42 million. Now, in the movie, the penguins are starving, the fish are all gone, and it's clear that humans and big business are to blame. Is Hollywood using kids films to promote a far-left message? Entertainment critic Holly McClure says yes and it's wrong. Holly, so you thought it was over the top?
McCLURE: Well, I did, Neil. I tell you. First of all, I went watching this movie thinking, "OK, great. A lighthearted, fun film. Love these animated pictures, and it's interesting how realistic it looks." And you get in there and you're enjoying all the fun and frivolity, and, yes, it's kind of a takeoff of the penguin documentary, and then along comes the subtle messages. And one by one they come in, and I felt like I was watching Dirty Dancing, penguin-style. You know, the preaching against the tap dancing and being liberal and stay conformed. And then it started to get into the other messages. Yes, we had that plastic ring around one of the penguin's neck. From there it got worse.
CAVUTO: Well, you know, Holly, I saw this with my two little boys. And what I found offensive -- I don't care what your stands are on the environment -- is that they shove this in a kids movie. So you hear the penguins are starving, and they're starving because of mean old man, mean old companies, Arctic fishing, a big taboo. And they're foisting this on my kids who, frankly, were more bored that it was a nearly two-hour movie, and they're kids!
McCLURE: Well, I'm just kind of curious. Were your kids scared or kind of bothered at all by the big walrus? Because I thought there were some pretty intense scenes. I don't call this a toddler -- a little-kid-friendly movie.
CAVUTO: Well, you know, Holly, I think you're right. You raise a good point. But my biggest thing was, you can make a political statement all you want in an adult movie and all. I just think it's a little tacky and big-time objectionable when you start foisting it on kids who don't know any better.
McCLURE: Well, what's even more objectionable is the fact that they present all these things about man being mean, and taking the fish away, and the -- you know, killing the wildlife and fish and penguins. And then furthermore, which, I don't want to ruin anything for anybody, but to see penguins in an aquarium situation. OK, are we supposed to tell our kids then it's not right to go to San Diego Sea World, or it's not right to go to your local zoo, or it's not right to have animals where you can go observe them? Should they feel guilty, then? I think the message is, "Yeah, we subtly put it in there." But where does it stop? It doesn't give you any solutions. So our kids should feel guilty, then, for enjoying to see wildlife, you know, in man's environment?
CAVUTO: But even more telling to me was the fact -- I though it was like an animated Inconvenient Truth. I half-expected to see an animated version of Al Gore pop up. And I must be the only one in the theater having this reaction because, you know, my boys are just bouncing off the wall because it's so damn long. But the other issue is that, you know -- this is animated Inconvenient Truth. That's what it was to me.
McCLURE: And Neil, did your boys enjoy all that dancing? I mean, if it makes tap dancing more popular with guys, OK, it had served a purpose, but --
CAVUTO: I don't know. The tap dancing was cute. Robin Williams had some good zingers in there. But, I mean, that's the --
McCLURE: And one more song -- I thought it was overly done with the songs, too. I agree with you. It's just a preaching message that could have been more fun than so political, and I think it's ruined some things for -- I thought it was too dark for little ones.
CAVUTO: Well, I -- you know, preach to adults, Holly, I'm all -- if you want to preach to adults, fine. Leave the kids out of it. It's not your role, not your place. Stop it.
McCLURE: Yeah. Make it fun for kids.
CAVUTO: Yeah, exactly. But the penguins are cute. Holly, thank you very, very much.
McCLURE: Thank you so much for having me on.