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"Let's sing a little songThree! Two! One! Penguins!"
With eight little words
'Bout a rocket ship
And flightless birds
Zidgel! Midgel! Fidgel! Kevin!
—3-2-1 Penguins! Theme Song
Produced by Big Idea Productions (the guys who made Veggie Tales), 3-2-1 Penguins! stars twin siblings Michelle Frances Conrad (who is older by five minutes) and Jason T. Conrad. Both have been shipped off to stay with their very British "grandmum" for the summer, while their parents go...someplace else.
In the Pilot Episode, Jason mopes around because he would much rather be at Space Camp, and as evening falls on their first day at the cottage, he is bored out of his skull after their television blows a fuse. Michelle, on the other hand, has found a set of porcelain penguins and is rather enjoying herself when Jason happens upon the hidden attic. Upon investigation, the twins find a bunch of old toys and games, as well as a large telescope. When Michelle hogs the telescope, Jason stuffs her penguins into a toy spaceship and accidentally drops them both. Rather than breaking, the ship bounces around before springing to life. The now living and sentient penguins "galeezil" Jason into the toy ship and whisk off into space to deal with a distress call.
In Episode 2, it's Michelle's turn to take a ride with the penguins, and from then on, one or both of the twins would join the penguins as they traveled through the stars, helping various Amusing (and less-than-amusing) Aliens with whatever the universe decided to throw at them. Astonishingly, the solution to each location's problem usually hinges on something Grandmum tried to teach the kids earlier.
Since the show is targeted at a slightly older demographic than that of Veggie Tales, there's a distinct lack of musical numbers in each episode (but not Big Idea's trademark humor). However, at the end of most episodes, the Penguins attend Amateur Night at the Comet Lounge where they sing a song related to the episode's moral lesson.
The series was initially a set of six direct-to-video episodes, released between 1999 and 2003, but after a four-year hiatus, the show was picked up by NBC's Qubo block and has since gained two additional seasons.
321 Penguins provides examples of:
- All Animals Are Domesticated: In one episode, Jason finds a mouse and names him Preston. Preston still acts like a mouse, but doesn't seem to mind being handled at all. Later on, Michelle even dresses him up in a bridal gown.
- All CGI Cartoon
- Barefoot Cartoon Animals: Some of the characters.
- Brick Joke: President No-I'm-the-President's cameo in Episode Two and Three.
- Carnival Of Fear: Uncle Blob's Amazing Carvival. Well, the carnival is actually fun; it's what happens to most of the customers that's freaky.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Self-explanatory.
- The Faceless: Grandmum, initially.
- The Federation: Who the Penguins work for
- Five-Man Band
- Freudian Excuse: Cavitus is mean because of how he was treated at The Academy.
- Fun with Acronyms: "B, I, N, G. Beneficial Imprinting Neuromatic Gizmo." "BING!"
- Half-Identical Twins: Jason and Michelle
- It Runs on Nonsensoleum: A lot of stuff.
- The Cutting-In-Line bug moved Planet Wait-Your-Turn in front of the other planets in its solar system.
- Lying causes the moon of Planet Tell-A-Lie to move closer
- Land Down Under: Space Base Bullamanka, along with the Frilled Lizard and Bandicoot Kings
- Meganekko: Michelle, though she hates to wear her glasses.
- Maybe High Tech Maybe Mundane: It's never really specified if the kids' adventures are just daydreams or are actually happening. Both are hinted at.
- Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: The show runs on Rule of Funny, 'nuf said.
- Genius Ditz: Kevin. He had low scores at the Academy and was apparently was placed on the ship by mistake. However, he can understand the R2-D2-ish language of the Lighbulbs.
- Odd Name Out: Zidgel, Midgel, Fidgel, "keh-VEEN".
- Negative Space Wedgie: The Doom Funnels of Space Colony Double-Wide
- Running Gag: Increasingly bizarre forms of landing gear.
- "Either that or you're daydreaming."
- The Galeezil's exaggerated kick-back
- "*gasp!*" "*Gasp!*" "*Gasp!*"
- Shaped Like Itself: In the first episode Jason asks how he's supposed to fit in their space ship when he's so much taller than they are. Zidgel answers: "Hey, when I was your size, I was twice your size!" Cue Jason's Aside Glance.
- Space Is an Ocean: Taken to the extreme in "Runaway Pride at Lightstation Kilowatt"
- It's got Planetary Riptides, the Asteroid Reef, and the Vrrmeze Waves.
- Starfish Aliens: Some of the aliens encountered include sentient vacuum cleaners and pumpkin-headed children.
- Theme Naming: The Penguins, except for Kevin.
- Uncanny Family Resemblance: Fidgel looks a lot like the twins' grandpa.
- Youthful Freckles: Michelle