Pingu goes fishing.


Medium: Television animation
Distributed by: Trickfilmstudio
First Appeared: 1986
Creators: Otmar Gutman
If this site is enjoyable or useful to you,
Please contribute to its necessary financial support. or PayPal

The days of five-minute TV cartoons, syndicated to local kids' shows where live-action hosts would introduce short cartoons …

continued below

… about Clutch Cargo, Pow Wow the Indian Boy and suchlike, were long over in the U.S. by the 1980s. But elsewhere, such cartoon segments were able to carve out a niche for themselves. Pingu, a young penguin boy, started in Central Europe in 1986, and quickly became an international star.

One of the factors in Pingu's widespread success is ease of translation. Pingu's animated adventures are already suitable for broadcast in any language, because the closest thing it has to dialog is in a non-language called "Penguinese". This was made up right in the recording sessions by voice actor Carlo Bonomi, who did it in a style of speech similar to the one he'd used for La Linea (The Line), a quasi-abstract role he'd played during the previous decade. In Penguinese, he managed to convey the emotional state of his characters and much of the specific meaning of what they said, without resorting to human words.

In addition to Pingu himself, regular characters included his mom and dad; his girlfriend Pingi; other seal kids in the neighborhood, Pingo, Pongi and Punki; and Pingo's best friend, Robbie the Seal. Bonomi supplied all of their voices.

Pingu was created by writer/animator Otmar Gutman, who produced 104 episodes, using clay animation, at Switzerland's Trickfilmstudio. Another episode, "Pingu at the Wedding Party," this one weighing in at 20 minutes, was made in 1997. In 2001, British producer Hit Entertainment bought the UK rights to the series, and produced an additional 52 episodes.

The fact that Bonomi, who is from Italy, didn't speak English, made it difficult to use him in his old roles, so London-based actors Marcello Magni and David Sant, neither of whom is known for other voice roles, replaced him. Both had backgrounds as clowns, as did Bonomi, and were familiar with Grammalot, a "language" used in comedy performed for an international audience. Penguinese was similar to Grammalot.

Pingu's everyday life is that of a young boy growing up in an ordinary neighborhood — except that his happens to be in Antarctica. Thus, the stories present no more cultural barriers than the language, and can be enjoyed in America or Malaysia as well as in Switzerland. Its appeal as universal now as it was in 1986, Pingu is still popular in many parts of the world.


BACK to Don Markstein's Toonopedia™ Home Page
Today in Toons: Every day's an anniversary!


Purchase Comic Strip Reprints Online

Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Trickfilmstudio.