For 10 years, Eric Darnell has had penguins on the brain ever since he codirected the first Madagascar with Tom McGrath. ''We had both been working on separate penguin movies that had been canned, so we added them into our movie and they caught everyone's imagination,'' he says. Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private proved so popular with audiences that they snagged their own long-running series on Nickelodeon and now a feature film of their own.
In the new spy-thriller spin-off, the flightless waterfowl leave the circus where Madagascar 3 ended to join the North Wind, an undercover animal-rescue group led by a Bond-like wolf named Agent Classified (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). They soon run into an old nemesis, an octopus named Dave (John Malkovich) who ''holds a great resentment to the penguins because he would be upstaged by [them] at the zoo,'' Darnell says. While recording his lines early in the production, Malkovich got so into character that he would wave his arms around like tentacles without even realizing it. Fortunately, the filmmakers videotaped the star's over-the-top antics to inspire Dave's cephalopodian movements. ''Once you have that performance, it is much easier to take that to the animator,'' says codirector Simon J. Smith. Hmmm...perhaps Octopus of Madagascar will be next.
Mmmm, krill flavor!