On August 13th 2008, DreamWorks Animation treated journalists to breakfast at their campus in Glendale, California, followed by a short screening of several new scenes from their new movie Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, which will be released on November 7th. Guiding us through the story and clips were DreamWorks Animation’s chief eExecutive Officer, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and the movie’s directors, Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell.
In this sequel to their popular feature, Madagascar, Alex, the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), King Julian (Sacha Baron Cohen) and Maurice (Cedric the Entertainer) are attempting to make their way back to New York, to their home at Central Park Zoo. Finding a crashed plane, they repair it, well – sort of, but it doesn’t fly far enough to return them to Manhattan, instead it crashes again, this time in Africa, where the zoo-raised animals discover their roots.
“We’re very excited to have our entire cast and creative team back, because I think one of the critically important parts of this is that you are seeing today the second chapter in what is one story, and to have that story told by its original authors I think is the essence of it.”
Jeffrey told us that we needed to go [to Africa] to see it ourselves. I mean, some of us figured, you know, trees and grass, it probably looks a lot like Simi Valley, right? But when we got there, we realized that nothing looks like it. To be able to experience this landscape and this place together as a creative team was just absolutely invaluable.”
“When you get to Africa, you realize just how big the place is. I mean, there is grass and trees and plants that look like familiar places, but when you get there, it opens up and it feels like you can actually see the curve of the Earth. And at that point, we realized, ‘Wow, we really need to get the scope to sell Africa in this movie.’ You’ll see in this film a huge step up from Madagacar, the way it looks, the way it feels, it has much more scope. We didn’t have the chance to go to Madagascar at the time of the first movie, so we made up a lot of it, but you can see a lot of [Africa] in the cinematography.”
KATZENBERG on the sudden and unexpected death of one of the movie’s stars, Bernie Mac
“It’s really been very hard on all of us, we loved Bernie and he made an amazing contribution to this movie. There is a heart and a soulfulness that he brought to the role of Zuba, who is Alex’s dad. One of the centerpieces of this is about returning home for all of the zoosters, but there’s this amazing heartfelt connection specifically between Alex and his dad, and it is not possible to share with you how great a contribution there has been from Bernie. I think when you put that into the context of somebody who was as young and vital as Bernie was, it’s all the harder to come to terms with it. It has been a very hard week for us, as every day we are still making the movie, every day we are animating and living with his creative contribution.”
“Even before the movie became as popular as it was, we wanted to do another movie with the characters. We were on our way to Europe and on that plane, we just started hashing out a story – what if our characters went to Africa, their homeland where they supposedly belong? This was a wonderful way to continue the ‘fish out of water’ story – four New Yorkers on the plains of Africa.”
“There is one more chapter. In the very beginning I think we always hoped [the audience] would want to see them make their way back to New York, so whether there’s one more stop along the way, whatever the next journey is, we’ll tackle when and if there is a chance to do it. Having been in the business as long as we’ve been, I don’t think there has ever been a presumption about these things, but we’re excited about this movie.”