I am not usually a fan of Nickelodeon cartoons with one major exception, The Penguins of Madagascar. I have loved these characters since the first time I saw them as secondary characters in the Madagascar feature film. The stories are aimed officially at the 3-11 year-old demographic but like all great classic animated shows they are multifaceted thus appealing to adults on a different level that what young children can appreciate. I can think of no better episode that represents the excellence in writing for both audiences than "Operation: Big Blue Marble." On the surface it is another silly, slapstick episode where the Penguins have a great adventure while King Julian sticks his booty into their business causing even more chaos. The adults (and sharp witted youth) are treated to the dangers posed by the hubris of extremism and ignorance. Kowalski uses science for the delicious Penguin treats despite knowingly producing toxic waste and releasing it into the environment. Private has ethical qualms but the delicious taste of 'furrows' quiets his opposition. All four indulge themselves to excess in consuming furrows while the toxic waste causes freakish weather thanks to the localized climate change. King Julian knows that the Penguins have somehow offended the sky spirits and confronts them. Kowalski is shaken to the core of his being when he realizes the climate change was caused by his furrow machine. Skipper is obstinate in his refusal to accept Penguin-caused climate change claiming it is the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the penguin populace." skipper proposes a 50-year then a 100-year study while pumping out furrows at maximum capacity. Kowalski, Rico and Private venture forth to battle the toxic waste space bubble while Skipper remains behind clinging to the belief it is all a hoax while doubts start to gnaw at him. Kowalski exhibits his own blind hubris smugly using more chemicals to solve the problem of the toxic waste. Naturally this backfires and they are saved from certain doom by Skipper. Skipper doesn't believe Kowalski because he thinks this is still some kind of anti-furrow hoax while acknowledging his comrades risked their lives on 2000 pages of hard data then he felt he had to help out. King Julien, Maurice and Mort had come along to help fly the ship and turn out to be the source of salvation with their gaseous emissions. The toxic waste bubble is burst and the Earth is saved. Skipper apologizes to Momma Earth and promises never to harm it again. I am sure Fox News and other right-wing media outlets will attack this episode as being nothing but environmental propaganda being promoted to brainwash our kids with "science" and "facts." I wonder if they will see themselves and their anti-science stance in the climate change denial espoused by Skipper throughout most of this episode. Writers Bill Motz and Bob Roth brilliantly sum up the cultural, political and economic controversy surrounding the issue of global climate change using our beloved characters. They all enjoyed the furrows despite the clear dangers of the toxic waste. Even after it was clear they were causing the local climate change Skipper desperately refused to accept the evidence because he didn't want to give up the delicious furrows. Skipper finally accepts the reality of what they have caused and the situation is resolved before irreversible harm is done to Earth. If only we could have the same kind of rational resolution in our political discourse but much to my chagrin animated cartoon characters are much more rational than human beings. So I give this episode a 10+ rating for working on so many levels to communicate such an important Earth Day message that we should all take to heart.
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