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Penguins of Madagascar: a different kind of spy thriller

Updated on November 13, 2014

The epic spy-adventure

If there is one thing Dreamworks' animation department is good at, it's getting the most out of their ideas. So, after Madagascar 1, 2 and 3 and a Penguins of Madagascar television series, we now have the Penguins of Madagascar movie. And it's all about four slightly offbeat penguins and their mission to save the world.

If you have to believe the people behind the movie, then it's going to be an epic spy thriller. One thing it is, maybe after only March of the Penguins: the most epic penguin movie ever.

Can four crazy penguins carry an epic spy movie?
Can four crazy penguins carry an epic spy movie?

From supporting characters to big stars

It all started off so innocently. In the first Madagascar movie, released in 2005, the penguins only had a small role. Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo were the stars, animals fed up with living in a zoo and desperate to escape, so they could travel to their roots in Africa. In the zoo, there were also four penguins, acting like they are some specialised unit of an army. There's Skipper, leader of the team, Kowalski, the smart number two, Rico, a loose cannon, and Private, the youngest member of the team.

The penguins do their part in aiding the escape and leave with the other animals to Africa. Over there, they show their faces every now and then for a comedy bit, but mostly they are left to their own. Still, the penguins turned out to be popular with the many fans of the movie, returning for a TV-special and more hijinks in Madagascar 2 and 3. Their highlight came when Dreamworks started production on a penguins television series, of which about 60 episodes have been produced. In each of these episodes we see the penguins take on a mission, which almost goes wrong but always ends well (or at least well enough!). Dreamworks started imagining what a movie with the penguins would be like, and moved it into production.

A safe choice for Dreamworks

Dreamworks Animation is one of the biggest animation studios in the world. They release two new movies every year and have had some big hits.The Shrek-movies for instance, but also How To Train Your Dragon, The Croods and Monsters Vs. Aliens. Still, Dreamworks has recently had quite a few movies that didn't quite reach expectations. Take Mr. Peabody and Sherman, a wonderful movie, but audiences didn't connect to it, leaving the studio with a big writeoff. The same thing happened with snails racing movie Turbo. This is a big problem for a studio like Dreamworks. Where studios like Walt Disney Animation and Pixar have a huge parent company to cushion the blow when a movie fails, things are a lot more difficult for an independent company. So it's not so weird that Dreamworks plays it safe every now and then, and since the three Shrek sequels, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Madagascar 2 and 3 were all big hits, you can understand their thinking behind the release of Penguins of Madagascar. So, bring on your James Bond meets penguins movie!

I smell something is wrong!
I smell something is wrong!

The world needs saving again

In Penguins of Madagascar, the world is in danger. A megalomaniac Octopus named Dr. Octavius Brine (Dave for friends) has spent his entire life in zoos. He is fed up of how he has been treated there, and he is especially fed up with a certain group of penguins who happened to spend their time in the same zoos. Now he has his own criminal organisation, intent on taking over the world, and it's up to our penguin heroes to stop him.

They don't have to do this on their own, as there is another organisation, made up of animals who are trying to do good, and who are trying to stop the evil genius. They consist of a wolf, a snow owl and a bear, and even though they are top class at what they do, they wouldn't mind a bit of extra help from the penguins. That things don't work out right away is something we probably don't have to explain...

The final trailer for Penguins of Madagascar

Making Penguins of Madagascar

Penguins of Madagascar is directed by Simon J. Smith, who was co-director on Jerry Seinfeld's Bee Movie. The screenplay is written by the writers of MegaMind, Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons. What Dreamworks is very good at doing, is assembling a top notch voice cast for their movies. One of the big names for Penguins of Madagascar is John Malkovich, who joined the movie because he thought it would be fun to voice an octopus once in his life. Unexpectedly, he is the voice of the evil genius. Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch is the voice of Classified, hero wolf extraordinaire. Another special addition to the cast is that of Werner Herzog, the German movie director who also wanted to join the movie because he thought it would be fun to voice a kids movie.

For the roles of the penguins, however, no big names were cast. Since the first Madagascar movie these voices have been done by the same people, all working for Dreamworks Animation! Tom McGrath is co-director of the Madagascar movies, as well as MegaMind. Making the first Madagascar, he really wanted to have veteran actor Robert Stack (The Untouchables) as the voice of Skipper. Stack died before they could offer him the role, however. The thing was that McGrath had done the voice of Skipper for the first animation tests for the movie, and everybody liked what he did so much that they asked him to do the voice in the real movie as well. His colleagues Chris Miller (director of Puss N Boots) is the voice of Kowalski, with animation editor Christopher Knight as the voice of Private.

King Julian, Madagascar co star and soon to be hero of his own television series.
King Julian, Madagascar co star and soon to be hero of his own television series.

More Madagascar

After Penguins of Madagascar, the fans have more to look out for. First of all, there is King Julien, a new Netflix exclusive series about one of the other supporting characters from Madagascar, the king of the lemurs, King Julien. Following the success of both this and the Penguins movie, a fourth Madagascar movie is still a possibility. Given that the last one made over 700 million dollars worldwide, it would be crazy to rule out this possibility.

Which Dreamworks sequel/spinoff is your favorite?

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