Pingu | Encyclopedia MDPI (2023)

Pingu is a Swiss-British stop-motion clay animated children's comedy television series created by Otmar Gutmann and produced from 1990 to 2000 for Swiss television, and from 2003 to 2006 for British television by The Pygos Group (formerly Trickfilmstudio and Pingu Filmstudio). It centres on a family of anthropomorphic penguins who live at the South Pole; the main character is the family's son and title character, Pingu. The series originally ran for four series (each series made up of multiple seasons) from 7 March 1990 to 9 April 2000 on SF DRS and was then renewed for two more series from 1 August 2003 to 3 March 2006 on BBC Two. Pingu won a BAFTA award. Pingu was a worldwide hit, due to its lack of real spoken language: nearly all dialogue is in an invented grammelot "penguin language" referred to as 'Penguinese', consisting of babbling, muttering, and his characteristic sporadic loud honking noise, which can be popularly recognized as "Noot noot!" or other variants, stated to be "Noo, Noo!" by the defunct Pingu website's trivia page, accompanied by turning his beak into a megaphone-like shape. Within the first 4 series, all the characters were performed by Italian voice actor Carlo Bonomi, using a language of noises that he had already developed and used for the earlier Osvaldo Cavandoli's La Linea. In series 5 and 6, the Pingu cast was jointly voiced by David Sant and Marcello Magni. A Japanese reboot of the series, titled Pingu in the City, began airing on NHK-E on 7 October 2017.

1. Storyline

The programme is set in Antarctica and centres around penguin families living and working in igloos. The main character, Pingu, belongs to one such family. He frequently goes on adventures with his little sister, Pinga, and often gets into mischief with his best friend, Robby the Seal.

2. Language

Pingu and his family communicate in a "Penguin Language" known as "Pinguish" or "Penguinese" which mainly consists of "noot" "neet" "nute" and "nit". As such, the introduction song transcribes as "Neet nit nit nute nit neet nit noot (Pingu, Pingu)"[1]

3. Characters

Some of the characters appearing in Pingu are given below.

3.1. Main

  • Pingu is the main character of the series, a typically playful, sometimes naughty, curious little boy penguin. His name comes from the German word for penguin, Pinguin. He is strong-willed and mostly well-behaved but prone to making mischief and throwing occasional tantrums.
  • Pinga is Pingu's younger sister. She resembles an emperor penguin chick, as do other infant/toddler penguins throughout the show. Like all toddlers, she is happy and playful but very sensitive, and is often a target for Pingu's practical jokes.
  • Mother and Father are Pingu and Pinga's parents; their actual names are not revealed. Father is a postman who uses a non-smoking pipe in the early episodes, but quits later. He has a motorised sledge (snowmobile) to deliver the mail, sometimes with help from Pingu. Mother is a housewife who spends most of her time cooking and cleaning. Mother sometimes gets help from Pingu and Pinga, and she always gives them a cuddle when they have learned a lesson.
  • Grandfather is Pingu and Pinga's paternal grandfather, who first appeared in the episode "Music Lessons". He is an expert accordionist, as he demonstrates to Pingu in that episode, and is also a former professional weight lifter.
  • Grandpa is Pingu and Pinga's maternal grandfather who appeared in "Grandpa is Ill" and "Pingu Cannot Lose", in the latter of which he is shown to be good at bowling.
  • Aunts are Mother's sisters and Pingu and Pinga's three maternal aunts. In "Pingu Goes Away", Pingu goes to stay with one of his aunts. In "Pingu the Babysitter", he cares for another aunt's twin chicks whilst she and Mother go out, then in "Pingu Makes a Mistake", he cares for his other aunt's egg that is due to hatch.
  • The Twins are Pingu and Pinga's cousins who appear in "Pingu the Babysitter" where they are cared for by Pingu when their mother (Pingu's aunt) goes out with Mother.

3.2. Recurring

  • Robby is a seal. His name resembles the German word for seal, Robbe. First appearing in the episode "Pingu Goes Fishing", he is friendly and playful, yet cheeky in a lot of ways. He is bluish-grey in the first four seasons, but is light grey in the last two.
  • Pingo is a somewhat foolhardy penguin. He has a long beak that is essentially flat at the bottom but slightly rounded on the top and a head that is wider and taller. He often persuades Pingu to do wild and silly things with him.
  • Pingg is Pingu's other penguin friend. He also has a long beak, but a shorter head than Pingo.
  • Pongi is a penguin who wears glasses and has a short round beak. He first appeared in the episode "Ice Hockey".
  • Pengy is a penguin very similar to Adelie penguins, first appears in "Pingu and the School Excursion". In the episode "School Time", Pingu resembles Pengy
  • Pingj is a green penguin who appears in Pingu at the Wedding Party; he speaks with an accent that seems to be typical of his race. He is Pingu's cousin.
  • Punki is a penguin who first appeared in the episode "Pingu Delivers The Mail". He has a tuft on his head and wears striped trousers. Punki only appears in a handful of episodes.
  • Bajoo is Pingu's other non-penguin friend. HIT Entertainment reveals him as a "strange newcomer" to the Antarctic in the appearance of an abominable snowman. He debuted in 2005, and appeared in the final episode, "Pingu & the Abominable Snowman". He also appeared in the 7–11 music video and "The Pingu Show".
  • Pingi is Pingu's love interest and Pinga's best friend. She has thick, white eyelashes and a somewhat mushed beak. She first appeared in the episode "Pingu's Admirer".

3.3. Minor

  • The Schoolmaster (Mr. Peng-Chips) is Pingu's teacher. He lives in a nearby school and rings the bell when it is time for school to begin or end. He first appeared in the episode "School Time".
  • The Doctor is the neighborhood's doctor. He lives in a nearby igloo clinic and frequently treats Pingu's injuries, as well as aid in the birth of Pinga.
  • Mr. Peng-Hoven is a poor penguin. He lives in a tattered igloo and gladly accepts Pingu's gifts. He first appeared in "Pingu and the Barrel Organ".

4. Production History

The original production from 1988-2000 and 2003-2006 created 156 five-minute episodes and one special 25-minute episode. The episodes were written by Silvio Mazzola and were directed and animated by Otmar Gutmann using clay animation, at Trickfilmstudio in Russikon, Switzerland.[2] In style of voice retroscript was chosen, all voices performed by Italian voice actor Carlo Bonomi without a script, using a language of noises that he had already developed and used for Osvaldo Cavandoli's La Linea. This feature enables people of different linguistic backgrounds to be able to follow the story.

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In 1993, David Hasselhoff released a single titled "Pingu Dance",[3] a rap song (in Switzerland only) based on the Pingu shorts and featuring samples of Penguinese. A portion of this song is used as the theme to Pingu in international airings, and was also heard in the redubbed version of the "Pingu Looks After the Egg (retitled Pingu Helps with Incubating)" episode, replacing the "Woodpeckers from Space" song from the original version. The original theme remains in some international airings, including on BBC's CBeebies.

A special twenty-five-minute episode, "Pingu at the Wedding Party", was also produced in 1997, and introduced a family of green penguins.[4]

In October 2001, HIT Entertainment bought the rights to the series, including the original 104 episodes and the wedding special, for £15.9 million.[5] HIT later revived the show, and produced a further 52 episodes[6] created at Hot Animation Studios in 2003 through 2006. These episodes were animated through stop motion like the original, but used resin casts of the original clay puppets (which had deteriorated by this time). CBeebies airs only the original version of Pingu with the original cartoon title card (series 1 and 2) from 52 episodes, and shows 13 episodes from series 3 with the claymated inspiration intro. JimJam contained all of the 156 episodes and the wedding special, but contained the redubbed versions of series 1–2 and lacks the titles and credits for Pingu at the Wedding Party.

Contrary to some sources, there was never any CGI used in these later episodes. When HIT Entertainment bought the rights, Carlo Bonomi was replaced with new voice actors Marcello Magni and David Sant. Magni and Sant, Italian and Spanish actors based in London, both have a mime and clowning background and were already aware of the clown language of "Grammelot" on which the penguin language was based.[7]

In 2006, after the last episode aired, Pingu finally ended its 20-year run on TV.

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Pingu had aired on Nickelodeon UK for a period of time in the late 1990s.[8]

The very first time Pingu was ever mentioned in the US was on a documentary called Pingu - A Cartoon Character who conquers the world[9] where a detective tries to figure out why Pingu is so popular, at the time Pingu was shown at the Paley Center. then the series began airing in the United States on a morning omnibus program titled Small World, as part of Cartoon Network's Sunday morning lineup. The program featured various animated shorts produced internationally, and ran from 1996 until the show's discontinuation in 2001. The series did not air in the US from 2002 until 2005, when reruns of the series returned to the country on PBS Kids Sprout, but was removed sometime in 2010, and hasn't aired since. Seasons 5 and 6 were only released on DVD in that country.

In 2006, Pingu was featured in a music video for Eskimo Disco's first single, "7–11".

In India, Pingu was aired by Doordarshan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since 2000, it is aired by Hungama TV and Animax.

In Australia, episodes of Pingu originally aired as a segment on the children's programme, The Book Place on the Seven Network from 1991 to 1996 and later aired on ABC Television as a stand-alone programme in (12 February 1998 – 31 October 2016).

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Pingu aired in New Zealand on TV3 from 1997 to 2006, and on Four beginning in 2011.

Pingu was also aired in Malaysia on TV3, as a part of the morning television program.

In Canada, Pingu airs on TVOKids, CBC Kids, Knowledge Network and Treehouse TV. Pingu has been a mainstay of the children's programming blocks on TVOntario since the mid-1990s. It can still be seen on TV in that country since APTN airs "The Pingu Show" as part of its morning children's programming block "APTN Kids", and the show is available in English and French language versions. Some of the controversial episodes, such as "Pingu Quarrels With His Mother" (also known as "Pingu Argues With His Mother") and "Little Accidents" (also known as "Pingu's Lavatory Story"), have aired uncut on APTN Kids. In British Columbia, Pingu is aired during commercial breaks on Knowledge Network.

In the United Kingdom, Pingu was featured in the Children In Need 2009 video by Peter Kay, which contained many other popular characters. This was shown on live television across the United Kingdom, and then sold on both CD and DVD.

A game, released in Japan, made for the Nintendo DS, Pingu no Waku Waku Carnival ("Pingu's Wonderful Carnival") was made by Square Enix and released in November 2008. This game is a series of mini games starring Pingu and his friends, including one in which Pingu's mother and father bake a heart-shaped cake, with the gameplay style resemblant to that of Cooking Mama.[10] Another game for the Nintendo DS is Fun Fun Pingu. Little is known about the storyboard, though.

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Other video games based on the series are Pingu's 'Barrel of Fun! for the PC in 1997 and Pingu and Friends in 1999, (both of which were released exclusively in the UK by BBC Multimedia) Pingu: Sekai de Ichiban Genki na Penguin for the Game Boy in Japan in 1993, and Fun Fun Pingu for the PlayStation also in Japan in 1999.

In August 2017, reruns of the fifth and sixth seasons of Pingu started airing in the Milkshake! programming block of the British television channel 5Star.[11]

4.1. Japan

In Japan, Pingu currently airs as part of NHK's children's program Nyanchu's World, and also on Cartoon Network Japan. Toys in the likeness of Pingu characters also featured in Japanese KFC restaurants as part of their Kids' Meal.

In September 2017, a reboot of the series, only titled Pingu in the City (Japanese: ピングー in ザ・シティ, Hepburn: Pingū in za Shiti) was announced, and began airing on NHK-E in Japan on 7 October 2017. Unlike its previous series, it is computer-animated, and features Pingu and his family moving to a big city. Each episode involves Pingu attempting to help out anyone there with their jobs, although he usually messes it up. The series was produced by Polygon Pictures in the same style of the original stop-motion series through computer animation.[12] It was directed by Naomi Iwata and written by both Kimiko Ueno and Shigenori Tanabe, with music was done by Ken Arai.[13] It features voices by Ryota Iwasaki and Fumiya Tanaka, in a similar style to David Sant and Marcello Magni.

5. DVD and VHS Releases

65. Reception

Pingu received mostly positive reviews, Common Sense Media rated the show a 4 out of 5 stars stating "Parents need to know that this claymation series is funny, endearing, and entertaining. Although the series is appropriate for all ages, the plots might be difficult for the youngest viewers to follow".[14]

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