The heart-warming festive tale of Monty the Penguin, the star of the new John Lewis Christmas advert, was partly inspired by Edinburgh Zoo’s famous penguins.
The production team at advertising agency Adam&Eve/DDB extensively studied footage of penguins in their natural habitat. They then spent a day at Edinburgh Zoo in May observing the behaviours of the penguins as they waddled and porpoised through state of the art enclosure Penguins Rock. During their visit they discussed the behaviour and movements of penguins with the keepers and also made short recordings which were used when developing complex CGI technology to create the realistic onscreen penguin characters.
Dawn Nicoll, Senior Keeper of Penguins at Edinburgh Zoo, said:
“We were so excited when we found out our penguins helped to inspire the much anticipated John Lewis Christmas advert and would help bring the story to life. Although Monty and Mabel are Adélie penguins, they have the same behaviours and mannerisms as the Gentoo penguins we have here at the Zoo. When the production crew came to study our penguins for a day, the birds definitely put on a great show! We have a large colony here at Edinburgh Zoo with a few big personalities and famous residents who create a dynamic group. Some of Monty’s behaviours in the advert mirror the behaviours which can be seen in our colony at Penguins Rock. For example, the movements as penguins, porpoise, jump out of water, waddle, make a trumpeting call when throwing back their heads, sleep and lie on their belly, flap their wings and how they eat fish from our hands. The crew were particularly interested in capturing the exact head movements of the penguins which they did a great job in recreating in the advert. Nesting season was in full swing at the time and it is possible that the affectionate behaviours displayed by our penguins inspired some of the more emotive interactions in the advert. Penguins could be seen courting similar to the loving behaviour displayed at the end of the advert when Monty and Mable meet. Male penguins were borrowing pebbles from each other to impress their other half and build their own perfect nests - an interesting and fun movement to watch which was reflected in the advert when Monty helps Sam build a toy brick house.”
Penguins have been residents at Edinburgh Zoo for over 100 years and it is now home to three different species; gentoos, Northern rockhoppers and king penguins. The colony has several famous residents including the world’s highest ranking penguin, Sir Nils Olav, a king penguin who is the mascot of the Norwegian Guard. Their enclosure, Penguins Rock, is the largest outdoor penguin pool in Europe and offers lowered glass perimeters to make visitors feel closer to the birds.
Every day the penguins take part in a voluntary Penguin Parade, powered by Penicuik, through a pathway lined with visitors. The world famous tradition started by accident in 1951 after a keeper left the gate open and penguins began to walk around the Zoo.
Adopt an Edinburgh Zoo penguin or take part in a keeper experience at:
Photos of Edinburgh Zoo’s penguins: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/vbtppth0k78u7gw/AACAgGGRbCZ6dLNGegXDMAY-a?dl=0