Cult TV

CULT TV Essentials: Pingu

Pingu is a British-Swiss stop-motion animated children’s comedy television series created by Otmar Gutmann and produced from 1986 to 2000 for Swiss television by Trickfilmstudio and The Pygos Group. 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. All voices performed by Italian voice actor Carlo Bonomi, who created all the sound effects for the series.

The first thing that struck me about “Pingu” was that the program was intelligent and subversively educational. That is to say that it teaches without being obvious. In fact, in some ways it feels very un-PC, which is great because it feels much more genuine. What we deal with here are real emotions and situations that children encounter through play and family life. There is no fear of bringing in sadness, distress, jealousy, selfishness or recklessness into the mix whether in terms of Pingu’s actions or the effects of his actions on others, and the show does not shy away from showing that even if he is a good-natured penguin he is still capable of being a real dick sometimes. In short, it is not syrupy but it is definitely sweet and more satisfying than the sugar coated nonsense that fills most of the television bandwidth.

“Pingu” serves as a remarkable language / communication tool that teaches more about language and expression than any other show I have seen without ever using real “words” in the process. Infants and toddlers can understand the interactions without the speaking, which may in turn make it easier for them to work on their own communication skills. I am constantly impressed by the range of emotion conveyed by the characters, as simple as much of it is.

Artistically, the program is genius. The animation is whimsical and fun and always inventive. And because of the level of intelligence and the lack of condescension it truly rises above mere entertainment. As an adult, I find it refreshing to see a program that does not speak down to me, does not pander to its “intended” audience, and leaves me satisfied after every viewing.

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