Pingu
Review By: Gringo

Pokey the Penguin lives in the Arctic Circle. He has many adventures. Pingu the Penguin lives in the Arctic Circle. He has many adventures, a television show, a line of nifty food-related goods and has been around since the mid-1980's. If I ever had to choose sides in a battle of the penguins, I'd go with Pingu. Although a battle of the penguins would be a very, very bizarre scene. Lots of flapping of their tiny penguin arms and some general crazy noise, but unless Pokey pulled a gun, I'm guessing there wouldn't be too much real violence. Back to the Pingu story! From what I've learnt (which is very little), not many people in America know who this Pokey-esque - or is Pokey Pingu-esque? Such a quandary! - penguin is. Explaining the phenomenon of this little penguin is the purpose of this review. Although having said that, it will no doubt just turn into a gushing tribute about a clay-mation penguin who gets very excitable very quickly, throws a lot of temper tantrums and speaks by using his orange beak like a trumpet. Not to mention the fact that Pingu does have, quite simply, the most comical face ever.

Television guides (lead the way, Mr. TV!) that I've seen the show listed in helpfully explain it as being "the adventures of Pingu, the clumsy young penguin who feels he's misunderstood". And little did I know, that really is all the show is about. I've seen a few episodes now and one trend is clear; Pingu gets in a lot of trouble, with alarming regularity, but normally ends up the victor in whatever story line he gets involved in. Unlike Pokey, he never resorts to such violent efforts as pulling a gun on a hapless victim who happens to disagree with whatever point he's trying to make. The most that Pingu is likely to do is flap his fins about and squeak some noises out of his trumpet-beak. It's a great program if you've been using your brain, because the lack of real dialogue means the action is all visual. And as Charlie Chaplin taught us so many years ago, visual humour can often triumph over other forms. Then again, Mr. Chaplin had a movie made about him and was played in it by Robert Downey Jnr., so I suppose a talent for visual comedy is something of a mixed blessing.

The episode I saw most recently was simply called 'Sledging'. And what a crazy ten minutes of sledge-related fun it was! Of course, this being a European production, they called it 'sledging' and not 'sledding', as Pingu's American cousin may have spelt it. Either way, both involve sliding down a snow-covered hill on a clump of wood and metal, so the magic fun can continue! Do the Pokey references stop when the show begins? Why, no! Either snowmen with red hats are very common in the world of cartoon fun, or Mr. Nutty has been making guest appearances in bizarre cartoons. For in the background in the first scene is a snowman with a red hat, looking most Mr. Nutty like. Of course, I don't believe there's any sort of copying going on, because the snowmen in Pingu's world don't speak, play baccarat or own their own industrial plants. Anyway! Pingu and his two friends - we never learn their names - have their sledges at the ready and argue about going up a steep hill to play with them. Eventually, they traipse upwards. Pingu's friends set off first, racing to the bottom of the hill. Pingu sets off...and stalls. It seems he's either very, very fat or his sledge has a defect!

When Pingu eventually makes it to the bottom of the hill, his friends mock him for being incredibly large. Pingu protests that he's just big-boned (no, he doesn't) and holds up his sledge, pointing to it as the offending item. There's confusion all round as no one wants to admit they're wrong. So off to the top of the hill all the penguins march again. And exactly the same thing happens. Pingu fails to notch up any speed and instead comes to a shameful stop a fair distance from his friends. There has to be something wrong with the sledge, surely? Maybe, Detective Jackson! Just maybe! After a bit of beak-trumpeting and general confusion, it's revealed that the metal rungs of Pingu's sledge are caked in Arctic Circle mud. Yes, mud in a place devoid of the stuff. Never mind! Suspend rational belief and just accept the fact that somehow Pingu got his sledge muddy, which is making it very slow on descent. Wait a minute. If you're already going along with the story, it's fair bet you've already suspended any belief that anything normal is going to happen. Unless of course penguins really do go sledging and live in igloos...mystery!

So what do you do when you've got a muddy sledge? Why, you clean it, of course! Seemingly from out of nowhere one of Pingu's friends hands him - or her, I'm not really sure of Pingu's gender, to tell you the truth - a cloth with which to wipe the mud off the sledge. Ignoring the fact that there's no way a penguin could possibly hold on to a cloth, let alone use it to frantically wipe a sledge clean, because that would require common sense. And sense is something this show is blissfully unaware of. It doesn't take long for the muck to come off and a nice shine to be restored to the sledge. Then again, the program only lasts five minutes, so it couldn't take long even if Pingu wanted it to. The three penguins make their way back up to the top of the hill, and prepare to descend yet again. Pingu's friends set off again, and then Pingu tries his new, shiny sledge. Zoom! It's so clean that Pingu rockets (yes, rockets!) past his friends, moving up to an insane speed. But there's a problem! Pingu's now going so fast that he can't stop! Oh no! What will become of the strange little penguin? Maybe he will meet his destiny? Maybe!

Joe said the picture above looks like the snowman has an erection. I question Joe's sanity a lot of the time, and no more so than when he suggested that statues made out of snow could possibly get sexually aroused. Do you want to know why there's a big bulge coming out of the side of the snowman? No? I'll tell you anyway. Like I said, when Pingu's zoom-zoom super-sledge comes racing down the hill, he can't stop! He keeps on going! Oh no! Poor Pingu! And what happens? He speeds past his formerly mocking friends. He speeds past his house (an igloo in the middle of the Arctic Circle). He speeds past some re-used scenery. All the time he comes ever closer to his final destination - the snowman! Yes, because Pingu can't stop thanks to his clever polishing skills, he crashes into the snow statue. You'd think that would destroy it and Pingu would come to a halt. But this is no ordinary world. Pingu disappears inside the damn snowman, and starts trying to kick his way out - hence the bulge coming out. Longest explanation ever! Seemingly the snow in the Arctic Circle is both very elastic and impossible to punch through. Especially if you're a confused little penguin called Pingu.

This now leaves Pingu's friends with a problem. A problem of the highest order, nonetheless! How do you get a penguin out of an elastic snowman? Easy! Well, Pingu's friends seem to think it's easy, anyway. They somehow manage to move the snowman inside Pingu's igloo and move it next to the stove. There, following some scientific law, the heat given off by the stove melts the elastic snow, and Pingu is free once more. Only now he's got the snowman's red hat on his head! Pingu, you are the lucky star, you have a red hat as a reward for all your troubles! Win! After this hat nonsense, there follows a highly bizarre scene before the end credits. Pingu and his two friends sit down in the igloo and start dancing, pulling really quite freakish poses. This continues for two to three minutes before the show abruptly ends. At the very least, you can't criticise this program for lack of originality. Other adventures in the Arctic Circle involving Pingu and his motley crew of friends include much the same as the sledge episode; a lot of insane dancing around and strange noises. Who'd have thought life in such a cold climate could be so much fun?

The question on everybody's lips must surely be is Pokey the Penguin a Pingu rip-off? Actually, I doubt anyone's asking that. If by some stroke of magic luck they really are asking whether Pokey isn't 100% original, here's my answer - I don't care. Both penguin stories make me laugh, and that's really all that matters. True, the laughter from the television show is slightly less intentional than that of seeing Pokey pull a gun on some hapless victim who happened to anger him in some way. However, both Arctic Circle-based penguins are incredibly entertaining and worth seeing. That gives me an idea! A crossover comic between Pingu and Pokey. The writers could call it Ping-Pok. It could be the adventures of two penguins in the Arctic Circle. No. Wait. That's an atrocious idea. Ping-Pok? What the hell am I jabbering on about? And what does jabbering mean? So many questions! So little time! I've gone somewhat off track now and need to find a way to close this review. I'll just keep typing and hope that something comes into my head (like a visitor, Richard Roberts!). Let's see...what haven't I said? Pingu's a good show. Said. Pokey's a good comic. I don't know if one is a rip-off of the other, and to be quite honest, I don't really care one way or the other. Anyway, your reward for reading this review? Getting to hear Pingu speak.


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