One day we got a call from someone who said he heard we were creating a new kind of greeting card that was a cross between a video and a poem and he wanted to get involved.
He said straightaway that he was a penguin. Of course that got our attention. We had no idea that penguins could talk let alone be interested in poetry or greeting cards. We were intrigued, of course, and arranged to meet him where he worked during the day at a fresh fish shop near the pier in Santa Monica, California, a couple hours from our home. He was working as a krill grader all day, then at night he was a DJ at a popular dance club called Coool. We were amazed that we hadn’t heard of him, but we have lived in California long enough to know that there is a lot of strange stuff going on that just seems perfectly normal to film people.
The Penguin turned out to be a fascinating character, a mere two feet tall with a bright orange beak. He wore mysterious-looking, amber aviator sunglasses and a red beret, and he talked in a rhythmic Texas accent that reminded us a little of Matthew McConaughey. He said he was a Gentoo penguin, born on Prince Edward Island in the Subantarctic. He told us to call him Penguin, first name, “The.”
We knew penguins weren’t confined to the Antarctic, in fact they even lived in the Central Park Zoo. But the zoo habitat was kept at a freezing 32 degrees F. This was Southern California. When we asked him about that, he told us the fish shop was cool enough in the back where he packed krill, and he slept there at night. He also had his own temperature-controlled booth in the dance club.
He claimed to be a freak of nature for a penguin, never able to feel totally comfortable in the extreme Antarctic temperature. We asked where he learned to speak English. When he was two years old, he was sort of adopted by a group of government researchers that came to the island to study his colony. They made him their unofficial mascot, and he hung around in their hut and learned the language by listening to them and by watching DVD’s. When the researchers left, he went back to the colony for a while, but it was never the same. He had no one to talk to, so he felt lost–a penguin out of water–so he said.
One day a Hollywood film crew arrived on the island to follow the penguin migration. He got hired as a penguin wrangler. When the filming was finished, he talked the production manager into smuggling him back to California in an equipment crate. Unfortunately, it turned out he didn’t hit it off with the manager’s German Sheppard and ended up out on the street. He got hired right away at the fish shop, but his first love was the movies. He tried out for some cartoon work, and for Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s Penguins, but he wasn’t a good enough dancer to make the cut.
We asked him why he wanted to work with us. He said he thought he could bring some penguin attitude. He did have a great sense of humor, plus he had that cool penguin look that you don’t see everywhere. We told him we would think about it and we returned home.
A few weeks later we decided he was right. He was the perfect character to reflect the kind of crazy “semi-beautiful” cards we wanted to create. And that’s how The Penguin became a part of GreetingPIX.
You will hear more about The Penguin as time goes on.