It's a cartoon flick about penguins, one of whom can't sing because of the six-pack carrier ring stuck around his neck.
But Happy Feet doesn't have ITW Hi-Cone executives singing its praise.
The Itasca, Ill.-based company calls the movie misleading and irresponsible, because today's six-pack rings are photodegradable. In fact, that's been a federal law since 1989.
That means that plastic rings exposed to sunlight, wind and rain will break apart. Therefore, according to the company, the risk for wildlife endangerment is nearly nonexistent today.
``What's happening [in the movie] can't happen in reality, with photodegradability and other features,'' said Steve Henn, ITW Hi-Cone's vice president and general manager, in a Dec. 6 telephone interview.
``Since the late 1980s, we've been trying to correct misperceptions about ring carriers by working with scientific and environmental organizations to communicate how advances in plastics technology have made them completely photodegradable.
``It's a shame the producers of Happy Feet didn't do their homework on this subject. They could have visited the Children's Museum in Chicago or other exhibits around the country to learn that plastic rings disintegrate almost completely from exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays,'' Henn said.
In the movie, Lovelace the Guru, voiced by actor Robin Williams, shows up with a six-pack ring around his neck. As Lovelace grows, the ring puts pressure on his vocal cords. Other penguins try to pull it off, but with no success.
Ultimately, the six-pack ring isn't just an accessory - it's put in the spotlight, with Lovelace referring to it as a sacred talisman.
Hi-Cone's carriers are made using photodegradable low density polyethylene, which becomes brittle and breaks down into small pieces in sunlight, according to ITW. When exposed to direct sunlight, the rings break down in three to four weeks in summer, and three to four months in winter, the firm said.
ITW Hi-Cone sponsors education programs encouraging proper disposal of ring carriers in schools and workplaces.
The company put out a news release Dec. 4 giving its side of the story and is in contact with Warner Bros., the studio that produced ``Happy Feet,'' in hopes something can be done in time for the movie's release on DVD, which is set for this spring.
A Warner Bros. spokeswoman said the depiction is based on the real-life experience of one of the filmmakers. Warner Bros. wanted to send the message that consumers should cut the rings before disposal. The rings may photodegrade eventually, she said, but until then, they pose a threat.
A plastics trade group spokesman criticized the movie's message.
``That's a real surprise because it's a gratuitous hit on the plastics industry,'' said Rob Krebs, director of public affairs with the American Plastics Council in Arlington, Va. ``For the last 15 years, those rings have been photodegradable. It's trying to give the plastics industry a black eye.''
ITW Hi-Cone is a subsidiary of Illinois Tool Works Inc.,based in Glenview, Ill.
In another plastics-related move at ITW, although unrelated to the ``Happy Feet'' controversy, the company announced Dec. 5 that it has acquired a maker of decorative laminate sheets in Europe from International Paper Co. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Polyrey, which is based in Paris, has estimated annual sales of $160 million and employs about 750 in Belgium, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. Polyrey's laminated sheet, boards and other engineered components are used for kitchen counter tops and furniture.
The company will continue to operate under the Polyrey name, but will be managed by ITW's Wilsonart International unit in Temple, Texas.
Wilsonart makes decorative surfaces under such names as Gibralter Sold Surface, Earthstone Solid Surface and Wilsonart Laminate.