It’s popping up to be a chilly summer with the June 17 release of Mr. Popper’s Penguins, from 20th Century Fox and Davis Entertainment, a live-action adaptation of the Newbery Honor classic. The story, written by Richard Atwater, illustrated by Robert Lawson, and completed by Atwater’s wife, Florence, when her husband became ill, centers on a small-town house painter who dreams of joining a polar expedition, and whose life changes when he inherits 12 penguins. The film puts a modern spin on the story by changing Popper’s profession from a painter to an NYC real-estate tycoon; it is directed by Mark Waters (The Spiderwick Chronicles) and produced by John Davis, with a screenplay by Sean Anders, John Morris, and Jared Stern.
Jim Carrey stars as Tom Popper, who is out of touch with the world below his posh high-rise apartment. His career-driven lifestyle swerves off course when he receives a gift from his long-lost father: a penguin that moves into his freezer. Popper’s attempts to conceal his unusual houseguest snowball into chaos as five more penguins follow, and he’s forced to transform his apartment into an Arctic habitat.
While viewers may line up to see Carrey’s trademark facial contortions or the iconic Angela Lansbury as a tavern owner, others may hit the multiplex to see the cast of real Gentoo penguins, who were filmed in combination with animatronic effects on a refrigerated soundstage. In a May 12 interview with Parade, Carrey described being on-set with the aquatic birds as “magical” and “spontaneous.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins has remained a staple of children’s books since its 1938 publication by Little, Brown, and has sold over a million copies, in various editions. For the big-screen adaptation, the publisher is releasing a paperback edition this month featuring the original text with a tie-in cover and an eight-page color insert with film stills. A 100,000-copy print run is scheduled.