'March of the Penguins' Is the Real Deal

Kids watching coming attractions for "The March of the Penguins (search)" had a question: Those hundreds of emperor penguins waddling across the ice were computer-generated, right?

Absolutely not, says Luc Jacquet (search), who should know -- having suffered through some of the most inhospitable climate on Earth to make his movie.

With a crew of three, the French director spent 13 months in Antarctica -- braving 120 mph winds and 58 degrees below zero temperatures -- to shoot the documentary, which opens this weekend.

Luckily, the penguins cooperated, Jacquet tells The Post:

"The penguins are incredibly easy to film. They are not afraid of people and sometimes they actually come up to the camera."

The exception was when the female penguin transfers her newly laid egg to the father for safekeeping during the most brutal part of the Antarctic winter. This lets the female return to the sea to get the fish she shares with the newly hatched egg in the spring.

"If the egg drops or is exposed to the air for more than a few seconds, it's all over," Jacquet says. "So they're very nervous, and the penguins often had their backs to us."

The film's single most arresting image -- some 1,100 penguins marching single file across the frozen waste -- was a lucky catch: The filmmakers were having lunch when someone saw them, and everyone quickly picked up their cameras.

"I've spent three years in Antarctica over the last decade and I've never seen anything like that," says Jacquet. "I wouldn't have dared write that into a script!"