Animation Nation: ‘Surf’s Up’

With the holiday season coming, what better way to spark up Christmas cheer than to talk about a beach movie!

I only remember bits and pieces of “Surf’s Up” from when I was kid, specifically a chicken and a killer soundtrack. But I can say that rewatching it years later as a 21-year-old, I ended the movie with more laughter and good life lessons than I remember.

In a mockumentary, 17-year-old penguin Cody Maverick from Antarctica has dreams of being a professional surfer and winning the famed “Big Z Memorial” surfing contest on Pen-Gu Island. His dreams started when he met the late “Big Z,” the most famous penguin surfer, before his death 10 years prior to the start of the film. Cody struggles with his dream due to the lack of support from his family and his penguin clan in Antarctica, only to struggle more amongst the crowds of surfers on Pen-Gu Island. However, Cody finds a mentor in Geek and friendships with Lani and Chicken Joe, who help him train for the contest throughout the rest of the film.

Besides the animation, “Surf’s Up” is also unique since it’s framed as a documentary about the life of Big Z. The team’s efforts to motion-capture camera operator movements just make it more authentic. The whole film looks surprisingly beautiful for a CGI film made in 2007, with the best indicator being the ocean and every scene where the characters surf.

All the characters all stand out from one another in their own ways. Chicken Joe, while dim-witted, is always relaxed and could care less about the competition. Instead, he lets the waves take over and goes with the flow of life. Geek is a clam-loving introvert but wants to open up with the help of Cody. And, he eventually learns to love surfing again for reasons explained in the film.

Of course, the star of this film is Cody Maverick, the penguin from Shiverpool, Antarctica who has ambitious dreams to be the best surfer out there. Surprisingly, I, and I’m sure many others in high school or college, can relate to Cody throughout the film. We had or still do have dreams that we all want to achieve in life. However, not everyone will agree or support your dream, instead putting you down and telling you to focus on other things.

One quote from the film stood out to me: “I don’t understand why everybody have to be so judgmental…Think it’s also partially ‘cause, everyone else is lookin’ at her like, ‘Hey, Cody’s just a bum. Cody’s this. Cody’s that…’ Cody’s me, bro. Let me be me. When is that going to start?”

We all want to do what we love, to be ourselves and no one else. So why is it so hard to do that nowadays?

Another surprise stand-out from this film is the soundtrack, featuring songs like “Stand Tall” by Dirty Heads, “Drive” by Incubus and “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals. The whole soundtrack is a feel-good time, and I highly recommend checking it out on Spotify.

Aside from all this, I believe the biggest lesson to take from this film is that you have to learn to enjoy life. While Cody’s dream is to win the contest, he learns that it is not the only goal in life. Instead, he learns to enjoy the sport he’s so passionate about and how to share that love with others. Life is too short to not enjoy it. Go do what you love this holiday season.

Title: Surf’s Up

Directors:  Chris Buck, Ash Brannon

Starring: Shia LeBouf, Jeff Bridges

Streaming: Hulu

Shamrocks: 5 out of 5


Animation-Nation: ‘Blue Period’

“Before I started painting, I thought painting was a magic that only a selected few could use.”

Art: one of the most beautiful things that we were given on this earth. As it evolved over time, we have come to see art in many different forms and expressions. However, there’s this strange notion behind it. That the only people who create art are chosen, those gifted with talents and nothing more. Like everything else in life, art is something that requires hard work, with talent only taking you so far. That is what Yatora Yaguchi learns in “Blue Period.”

“Blue Period,” based on the manga by Tsubasa Yamaguchi, directed by Koji Masunari and Katsuya Asano, follows Yatora Yaguchi. Yaguchi is an excellent high school student, but deals with the feeling of emptiness in his life. It is not until he sees a painting at his school’s art club that he pursues the visual arts, deciding to try (and get accepted) into the Tokyo University of the Arts (TUA) after he graduates.

Being an art major myself, I can say that this show is one the best depictions of showing the life of an artist, and some of their uprisings as well. At the beginning of the show Yaguchi is a prime example of what most people assume the life of an artist would be like. When seeing a painting, he raves about how he envies someone that was born with such talent. While artists understand that people are trying to compliment them, it is important to acknowledge that talent only took them so far. To create something artists can be proud of, requires hours of practice and dedication, something that Yaguchi finds out quickly when he has a change of heart and decides to pursue art himself.

“Blue Period” also does a great job of depicting the harsh realities of being an artist. One of the biggest challenges Yaguchi faces is telling his parents how he wants to pursue art in college. Now thankfully, my parents were supportive in my pursuits of being an art major; however, there are plenty of people that I have met who struggle with having any kind of support in their path of becoming an artist. We hear the same questions of concern all the time. “How will you make money?” “What kind of work will you find?” “Will anyone buy your art?” Believe me, we are aware of the concerns, but we do it because it’s our passion and that is what this show exemplifies.

When watching “Blue Period” as an artist, I can say with confidence that the show educates the audience, along with the main character, the various artistic techniques. With the author of the manga graduating from art school herself, she made sure to make this story as accurate as possible. Making sure each technique is right, while also showing the struggles many artists face trying to consistently create great pieces of work. The only critique I have of this show is that the pacing is too fast, as they skipped out on a lot of Yaguchi’s development of an artist compared to the manga. I would assume it was so they could fit the first part of the story in 12 episodes.

Art, while not math or science, is still physically and mentally demanding. It is not something that can be rushed or learned quickly. It requires patience, practice, strong will and the motivation to create something beautiful. Artists go through the same struggles as Yaguchi, but we all do it because it’s something we love. And, at the end, being able to see something we created makes all the hard work worth while

Title: Blue Period

Directors: Koji Masunari,, Katsuya Asano

Starring: Johnny Yong Bosch

Streaming: Netflix

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

Contact Gabriel Zarazua at