Madagascar Runs Wild in Theaters

Star Wars: Episode III–Revenge of the Sith gets some competition today as DreamWorks unleashes its latest CG-animated flick into theaters. The most kid-friendly of the two, Madagascar should pack in the family audiences as Sith gets repeat business from fans and draws stragglers who shied away from the crowds last weekend.

Directed by Eric Darnell (Antz) and first-timer Tom McGrath, Madagascar is a fish-out-of-water story has a set of pampered New York City zoo animals shipped off to Africa. Ben Stiller provides the voice of Alex the lion, who learns that the juicy steaks he’s accustomed to come from animals like his pals. Chris Rock plays his best friend, a zebra who is bored with captivity and yearns to run free in the far-off land of Connecticut. Jada Pinkett Smith provides the voice of a pregnant hippo and David Schwimmer plays a cowardly giraffe. Cedric the Entertainer (Barbershop) Andy Richter (Quintuplets), rocker Gwen Stefani (The Aviator) and Sacha Baron Cohen (HBO’s Da Ali G. Show) fill out the voice cast.

Despite the A-list talent in the starring roles, Cohen is getting the best reviews for his turn as King Julian the 13th, a ring-tailed lemur that just may be the scene stealer that Antonio Banderas’ Puss In Boots was in Shrek 2.

With Madagascar, DreamWorks sought to bring a more snappy, cartoonish quality to the CG work. The animators even had a contest to see who could go the furthest over the top without losing character and detracting from the story. The character designs also more evocative of stylized 2D toons such as Disney’s Hercules.

Madagascar animators were interviewed for today’s installment of NPR’s Morning Edition. That radio program can be accessed online at www.NPR.org. And, of course, you can read about the making of the film in the May issue of Animation Magazine, available by subscription and at Barnes & Noble locations.