Marches of the Penguins

March of the Penguins is the name of a Warner Brothers nature documentary recently released in cinemas to glowing reviews. It is also the name of a mock war drama used to promote the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. On top of that, the movie has inspired a television advertisement for French online TV channel, Canal Plus.

March of the Penguins Film

The Original Movie

Luc Jacquet and his team spent a year filming Emperor penguins in the Antarctic in 2003 to 2004. Their work was focused on the Geological Headland Archipelago colony in Adelie, a few hundred meters from the French scientific center of Dumont d’Urville. The film follows Emperor penguins as they trek across the ice to mate, lay eggs, foster their young, and then trek back to the sea.


The film was produced by French production company, Bonne Pioche. For detailed background to the direction and production of the film see Warner Independent Pictures’ March of the Penguins site. Morgan Freeman is the narrator of the script written by Jordan Roberts. Original music is by Alex Wurman. Directors of photography were Laurent Chalet and Jérôme Maison. Editor was Sabine Emiliani.

La Marche de l’Empereur

In a cafeteria a man and woman stand at the counter. He says, “By the way, I saw this brilliant film last night on Canal Plus. The March of the Emperors.” She starts to imagine a scene in which Napoleon marches alone through the mist. “Yes, it all takes place in Antarctica. There are hundreds of Emperors who march across these ice fields for days.” The woman imagines hundreds of Napoleons marching together.

Woman imagines emperors sharing eggs

“Sometimes they slide on their bellies. You know, to go faster. And at one point one of them gets eaten by a seal.” A giant seal snatches one of the Emperors. “It’s horrible”. “But theire are some really tender moments too. Like when they pass their eggs to one another. Because before that, they were all mating… for hours.” The super: “Il y a tant de films qui meritent d’etre vus.” (There are films that deserve to be seen). The tagline: “Demandez plus à la télé” (Ask for more to TV).


“The March of the Emperor” was created by advertising agency BETC Euro RSCG, Paris for French online channel, Canal+ (Canal Plus) and released in November 2005. The creative team included creative director Stéphane Xiberras, art directors Romain Guillon and Eric Astorgue, copywriters Pierre Riess and Luc Rouzier, agency producer David Green. Work with Canal Plus was negotiated by account managers Raphaël de Andréis, Nicolas Gandrillon, Agathe Guerrier, and advertising managers Laurent de Camas, Béatrice Roux, Marion Auvray.

La Marche de l’Empereur was directed by Australian duo, Gary Freedman, Jonathan Kneebone, as The Glue Society Sydney and New York. Filming was done over ten days in Iceland. Working with The Glue Society was director of photography Adam Kimmel. The Glue Society is represented by production company, Radical Media, New York.

The March of the Emperor won awards at Festival de la Publicité de Méribel, 2005 (Grand Crystal for French Creativity, Crystal for Media, and first prize for Public Top Ten. At the Club des Directeurs Artistiques, 2005 the ad won first prize for both Cinema Films and TV Films. The ad also was awarded a merit at The One Show, 2006 for Consumer Television. March of the Emperor won a Gold Lion in the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival in June 2006.

Full Frame March of the Penguins

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is held each year in downtown Durham, North Carolina. Four soldiers, clad in white, stand at what will become their last post in the Antarctic. “Damn those monsters”, says the captain. “They’re on the march”, says one of the others. “But Captain, I thought we were all about peace”, says another. The camera pans to shots of animated penguins marching in a scene reminiscent of the clones in Star Wars.

Penguin with red laser eye in Full Frame Festival commercial

Pulling out a rocket launcher, the captain says, “There’s a new emperor in town… me”. He shoots, taking off the arm of the main penguin. It’s at this point that the penguins show what they can do with red laser eyes. The tagline: “Some stories make better documentaries”.

Click on the image below to play the video.


The Full Frame March of the Emperor stunt was dreamed up at McKinney, Durham, by copywriter Mitch Bennett, art director Wes Whitener and agency producer Regina Brizzolara.

Filming was shot by director Kevin Donovan via Form, with director of photography Trevor Brown, executive producers Tara Handley and Rossi Cannon.

Animatronic penguins were developed and operated by Ron Stefaniuk. Editor was Charly Bender, with Homestead Editorial, New York.

Visual Effects were developed at Suspect, by VFX Supervisor Tim Crean, executive producer Rob Appelblatt, lead Flame Artist Jason Cunningham, Flame artist Tony Robins, Lead 3d artist Steve Burger, 3D artist Erwin Riau, Flame artists (Mattes & Retouch) Chris Coleman and Ricky Weissman.

Sound was designed by Charly Bender and mixed by Tom Jucarone at Sound Lounge.