Surf's Up

Surf's Up is a American Academy Award-nominated computer-animated mockumentary film produced by Sony Pictures Animation and distributed by Columbia Pictures. It is Sony Pictures Animation's second film, the first being Open Season on September 29, 2006. It is directed by Ash Brannon (the co-director of Toy Story 2) and Chris Buck (the director of Tarzan). Pre-production for Surf's Up began in 2002. It is a parody of surfing documentaries, such as The Endless Summer and Riding Giants, with parts of the plot parodying North Shore. Real-life surfers Kelly Slater and Rob Machado have vignettes as their penguin surfer counterparts.

A documentary crew follows the events of Cody Maverick (voiced by Shia LaBeouf) a small rockhopper penguin residing in Shiverpool, Antarctica (a pun on Liverpool, England). After a childhood visit from surf legend Zeke "Big Z" Topanga, Cody aspires to emulate the renowned legend by becoming a famous and respected surfer.

Eventually, talent scout Mikey Abromowitz (voiced by Mario Cantone) arrives in Shiverpool scouting for surfers to compete in the Big Z Memorial Surf Contest. Cody joins the group of surfers, once he's proven himself to Mikey, and quickly befriends Chicken Joe (voiced by Jon Heder), an easy-going surfer from Wisconsin. Other prominent surfers are part of the scouting tour as well, Renato Mendes (Brazil), Rory Nubbins (Australia), and Tatsuhi Kobayashi (Japan). Soon after arriving at Pen Gu Island, Cody crosses paths with the local lifeguard named Lani Aliikai (voiced by Zooey Deschanel) as she rescues the penguin child, Arnold, from "drowning." Shortly thereafter, Cody has an altercation with the egotistical Tank "The Shredder" Evans (voiced by Diedrich Bader), a large muscular penguin and nine time winner of the Big Z Competition, when he witnesses Tank hurling stones at Big Z's memorial shrine. The disturbance catches the attention of promoter Reggie Belefonte, all too eager to allow Cody to challenge Tank to a surf-off on the spot. Unfortunately Cody's inexperience with the challenges the competition has to offer leads to a terrible wipeout; unable to come up for a proper breath of air, he is pulled under and injured when he steps on a fire urchin. Lani takes the injured and unconscious Cody to the jungle home of a hermit called the Geek (voiced by Jeff Bridges) in order to get help for his injuries and to recuperate. The Geek studies the injury, removes the urchin spine, and uses an old trick taught to him to heal the poisonous sting, urinating on it.

By morning Cody is woken by the Geek, who is eager to remove the young surfer from his premises. On the escort back, Cody realizes that he has lost his Big Z necklace. Geek is less than impressed, though shows curious reactions to Cody's tale of Big Z and how Cody received said necklace. He shows Cody the route back to the beach, and leaves the young penguin be. A short time having passed, Geek has found Cody's necklace in his hut and quickly returns to the path fork, finding Cody still sitting on the log, and returns the Big Z necklace. As if in an effort to make up with the surfer-to-be, Geek notices the log's type, Koa (of which all the best surfboards are made), and decides for Cody that they're making him a surfboard. Cody, bemused and surprised, reluctantly agrees and the two attempt to haul the log back to Geek's hut.

A little slip up on Cody's part and soon the log is rolling in the opposite direction, with Geek soon with it. The log ends up flying off a cliff, Geek, however, stays hanging on for dear life on the cliff itself. After a quick rescue from Cody, the young surfer notices what the cliff looks over: a beautiful and pristine beach. Unable to contain his curiosity, Cody treks down the steep cliff, inadvertently taking Geek with him. On the beach now, Cody explores a toppled tree and soon realizes it houses several old surfboards, those of Big Z's. Geek is seen investigating a dilapidated shack littered with messages of grief from Big Z's fans, and from his reaction, Cody realizes that the Geek is Big Z.

Almost instantly, Cody's excitement that his lifetime hero still lives is unleashed in a torrent of questions and theories as to what happened, much to the chagrin of Z, who quickly takes to hiding within his old home. Cody is now convinced that this is his chance, with his hero by his side to train him, he can win the Memorial Surf Off no question. Eventually Cody lures Z from the hut, having pulled Z's old boards from their resting spot and attempting to surf with them out in the crystal blue ocean. Cody takes a few more wipeouts as he attempts to get Z in the water, but slowly manages to work tips from Big Z; Z, however, is still not impressed, and with one last (and Z predicted) wave, Cody is pulled ashore ("Don't touch my stuff, man.") and told that he won't be doing any surfing until he has made a board of his own.

Eager Cody and mellow Z finally get to work on the Koa board, halving the log from earlier, and getting a pattern drawn. The two are quickly at odds with one another, Cody becoming frustrated with his mentor's overbearing attitude towards the board ("No, no I don't want your help!"). Z backs off, and allows Cody to pry his way through the wood, creating a "work in progress" gouged plank that quickly snaps once actually in the water. Cody becomes irritated and leaves the beach, leaving Z and the documentary crew behind (Z offering them barbecue cooked over the broken wood). He's soon reunited with Lani, on her way to Geek's hut with a satchel full of clams. It is revealed that Lani knew of Geek's true persona, she was his niece, and in her very own excitement, she takes Cody to a special spot on the island, the Lava Tubes. After a thrilling race through the tubes and a "winning" landing in glow worm droppings, a shower, and a talk, Lani convinces Cody to return to Z. Cody complies, realizing his folly, and returns to Z's beach, beginning work on a new surfboard under the bright moonlight.

By morning, he has finished the board, Z is surprised and pleased, Cody has successfully created a proper board this time. Z, being the playful sort, puts Cody through a few more land-based tests first, before he allows Cody in the water, all intended to make Cody realize that surfing should be about having fun, and not contests and winning. Once the young surfer has proven that to Big Z, they're off to the water! A true feat, Z's first attempt at surfing in over 10 years proves that he's still the soul surfer he always was. Lani soon arrives on the beach and joins the duo as they surf the rest of the day away.

Now evening, Cody, Lani, and Zeke are resting beside a fire, cooking a few shrimp, Z is entertaining them with his personal ukulele song, while Cody waxes his new board. Cody soon asks Big Z to come and watch him surf in the Big Z Memorial Surf competition. Z is highly reluctant, becoming irritated with the questioning, but ashamedly reveals the truth behind his disappearance. Ten years ago, winning had become everything to Z, he was facing Tank Evans in a Reggie Belafonte backed contest, and realizes soon enough that he couldn't beat the then up-and-coming Tank. Not wanting to end up a loser and wash-up to his fans and friends, Z decided the only right choice was to disappear.

On that last big wave, Z lets go of his board, allowing it to careen into the Boneyards, himself slipping off into the wave and out of sight, permanently. Cody is in disbelief, his hero had given up. Tossing his necklace into the dark waves, Cody storms off, intending to win the contest alone. Cody continues through the forest and is caught in a trap set by the natives of Pen Gu island. Chicken Joe appears, having been looking for Cody ever since his disappearance, and since had befriended and apparently traveling with the Pen Gu-ins, retrieves Cody just as the horn blows for the start of the Surf Off.

The first waves remove most of the surfers from the contest, leaving Tank, Cody and Chicken Joe to continue on. Things become heated and Tank makes it clear his intentions to take out Chicken Joe, leaving Cody with an opportunity to win, an opportunity he does not take. Instead he clashes with Tank, sending them both to "The Boneyard", a section normally roped off and considered the most dangerous section due to the rough nature of the waves and the lacerating and towering rock formations. Tank is knocked out cold after colliding with some of the rocks, Lani rescues Tank and brings him to shore while Cody hangs on to dear life on any surface he can grab. Big Z appears and with the help of a particularly large and crashing wave, rescues Cody from the dangers of the Boneyard. Once together on Zee's old board they exhaustedly paddle safely to shore. Finally ashore, Z is quickly revealed to the curious and questioning onlookers. After standing up to Reggie in his attempt to auction off the "deceased" Cody's board, Z invites everyone to his old beach spot to surf. Cody finishes talking with the documentary crew at this point and joins his friends in the water. Having learned that friendship and fun is the heart behind surfing, Cody finally catches a tube with Big Z. The film ends with Z, Cody, Lani, and many others surfing the waves as the sun sets.

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