Erik, son of the penguins Mumble and Gloria, is unable to dance like the other penguins. Erik and his two best friends, Bodicea and Atticus, follow Ramon to Adélie-Land and find that Adélie-Land has been ruled by a God-like “penguin” named Sven. Sven is actually a puffin in Adélie-Land who survived the loss of his native fishing grounds due to his “miraculous” ability to fly. Erik instantly becomes enamored with Sven, who takes a liking to him. Sven and Lovelace tell the others that they were saved by humans. The two eventually flee (under Sven’s mistaken assumption that the humans were going to eat them) and end up on Antarctica, where Sven performs his first miracle by revealing moss to the local penguins. Sven uses his power of “Sven Think” to help Ramon find a mate. Ramon instantly falls in love with Carmen, another Adélie penguin who is uninterested. Mumble follows the chicks’ footprints to Adélie-Land and orders them to return to Emperor-Land, but they refuse. Sven sends Erik back to Emperor-Land with Mumble.
Meanwhile, a couple of krill are in the midst of a swarm. Will is an adventurous and existentialist krill determined to discover what lies beyond the swarm. His friend, Bill, reluctantly follows him to ensure his safety. Once separated from the swarm, Will and Bill realize that krill are at the bottom of the food chain, created to be eaten. Inspired, Will ventures out to evolve and “move up the food chain” by eating a real creature instead of being eaten.
Mumble tells Erik that he is unique to the world and that he will someday find his calling, but Erik is oblivious. While trying to cross a perilous ice bridge, the penguins encounter Elephant Seal Bryan the Beach Master and his two young sons, who refuse to let the penguins pass. Suddenly the ice gives away and Bryan is trapped in a deep crevice below the ice. Mumble sets out to free Bryan by luring a leopard seal to chase him down. Seeking acceptance from Erik, Mumble is devastated to learn Erik attributed the feat of courage to Sven Think. Bryan returns to the southern elephant seal beach.