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Happy Feet screening raises money for whale research


Brigid Veale
4 January 2007
A special screening of the hit comedy adventure 'Happy Feet' will be held in Byron Bay on Thursday, January 18, to raise funds for Southern Cross University’s Whale Research Centre.

The screening, at Byron Cinemas, will be attended by Howard and Rosy Whelan, of Whelan Productions, who coordinated much of the photographic work for the film.

The screening will include a question and answer session with Howard and Rosy, and Associate Professor Peter Harrison, the director of Southern Cross University’s Whale Research Centre. Author Di Morrisey, patron of the Centre, will also be attending.

'Happy Feet', which opened around Australia on Boxing Day, is an animated comedy set in Antarctica. It features the voices of Elijah Wood, Robin Williams, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

Howard and Rosy Whelan have had a long-standing involvement in the film’s production. The couple provided early support in identifying potential locations in the Antarctic. Then Howard’s Antarctic photography was used to inspire the early storyboards prior to Whelan Productions organising logistics and leading filming expeditions to Antarctica to capture more images that form the basis for much of the animation.

An exhibition of Howard’s stunning Antarctic photographs is currently on display at Byron Cinemas. The Cinema is also screening exclusively a short film of these images, set to music, at all 'Happy Feet' sessions.

Rosy said she was keen to do something in the region because there was such a strong local connection.

“The reason we picked the Southern Cross University Whale Research Centre is because there is such a real connection between the whales that pass Byron Bay and Antarctica,” Rosy said.

“We have done a lot of guiding in the Antarctic and Howard provided a lot of the photographs of Antarctica which we can recognise in the film.

“'Happy Feet' certainly has some very powerful environmental messages.”

Southern Cross University’s Whale Research Centre conducts a range of research projects aimed at the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins. It is involved in activities throughout the Southern Hemisphere and has a particular focus on the humpback population which migrates each year from the Antarctic along the east coast of Australia.

The Centre is a strong opponent of commercial and scientific whaling and is currently investigating non-lethal methods of ageing whales. It also conducts annual surveys of the humpback whale population as they pass Cape Byron.

Associate Professor Peter Harrison said it was wonderful to get the support of Whelan Productions and Byron Cinemas.

“There has been a steady growth in the humpback whale population, but there is still a long way to go before it reaches pre-whaling numbers,” Professor Harrison said.

"That population is estimated to have been up to 20,000-30,000 prior to whaling and fell to around 200-500 when whaling ceased in the 1960s. The latest estimates put the population at close to 8000, and growing at about 11 per cent each year.

“With the renewed push for commercial and scientific whaling it is more important than ever that we can continue vital research into the genetic make-up of the humpback population.”

The screening of 'Happy Feet' will be held at 6.30pm on Thursday, January 18, at Byron Cinemas, 108 Jonson Street, Byron Bay. The cost is $12.50 adults and $10 concession. Tickets are on sale now at Byron Cinemas.

Photo: Emperor penguins at Auster Rookery near Australia's Mawson Station in East
Antarctica. Photo by Howard Whelan.