The new Netflix docuseries Penguin Town is loads of fun (and cuteness) while still being informative.
The series is filmed in Simon’s Town, South Africa, where these adorable African penguins roam close by to people, strolling down the sidewalk, passing sunbathers on the beach, and, in one shot, even plodding through some sand castles. It makes me feel like I want to visit this part of the world, so I can spot these cute waddlers while visiting the beach.
The narrator for the series is Patton Oswalt, the actor who played Spencer on The King of Queens and has also done some voicework for movies like Remy in Ratatouille. The soundtrack of the series is also fun and enjoyable, and, I believe, adds a lot to it. You’ll hear snippets of mostly upbeat music that fit the scene from surf music to African music to tension-building instrumentals for adventures involving potential danger. In one funny scene, where a male penguin spots his mate from afar, a snippet of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet is played along with slow motion film of the female penguin shaking water from her head.
The series follows various penguin couples like Mr. and Mrs. Bougainvillea, named for the bush where they have their nest, and Mr. and Mrs. Culvert, named for the same reason. Then, there’s Lord and Lady Courtyard, the aristocrats. With great humor, their love stories are told, and you follow the adventures of these penguin couples starting families and having chicks, while facing some complications from egg-stealing predators presented as “Bad Guys.”
You’ll also see the stories unfold about Junior, a young penguin with a molting issue, who needed help in captivity from vets for an infected seal bite wound until he was healthy enough to be released again. Some of these scenes are cleverly and humorously filmed from Junior’s point of view, as he is carried through the center, looking through a hole in a cardboard box, and is, in his mind, “captured by aliens.” You do have to wonder what wild animals think about these experiences and if they understand humans are trying to help them. These same vets also help nurture some lost or abandoned penguin eggs.
I saw one reviewer thought the series made a mockery of an endangered species by being light-hearted and entertaining. I don’t see it that way. The docuseries makes it clear that the animals are endangered. Seeing endangered birds mate and have families is positive news in light of the issue. Seeing vets successfully rehabilitate an injured bird or oversee an egg to bring forth a healthy chick is also positive news. Penguins are naturally charming and entertaining. Why not make it positive?