‘Madagascar’ director Darnell returns to complete his trilogy


Staff Writer

After a four-year wait, the third installment in DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar” series will screen this summer in Japan. Opening Aug. 1, “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted” is directed by Eric Darnell, who also made the first two films.

“In the first and the second films we really didn’t complete the story,” Darnell tells The Japan Times during a promotional visit to Tokyo. “Fortunately, people loved ‘Madagascar 2’ and we were able to make the third film in what is really a trilogy and tell the whole story.”

“Madagascar 3” begins in Africa, where Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller) and his friends are waiting for their penguin cohorts to return from a gambling holiday in Monte Carlo, Monaco, where they went at the end of part two. Eventually, Alex and the other animals decide to venture into the human world to find them. The previous films were mostly set in the animal kingdom.

“We knew that people really loved the animals interacting with humans, so we thought getting them into the human world would be a great idea for the third film,” says Darnell.

The “Madagascar” series is known for its unique and original characters. This time, Alex meets new characters both human and zoological as he travels around Europe. These new characters give more heart to the movie and build up the story.

“You want to be true to characters that you know and love, and you want a great story, and you want to tell that well,” says Darnell of the challenges of extending the series to a third chapter. “My job, what I put most of my focus and attention on, was the characters and the story.”

While the original English version of the film will be shown with Japanese subtitles at some theaters here, most screenings will be the Japanese dub, featuring the voice talents of Hiroshi Tamaki and Shingo Yanagisawa.

Darnell met with some of the Japanese voice actors, and he says, “They are so funny and so energized, and I know they are doing incredible work. Even though I don’t understand Japanese, I know they are taking that movie to the next place, the next step forward and closer to the Japanese mind-set — and hopefully that will help the Japanese audience connect with the film.”

This is the first “Madagascar” film to be shot in 3-D, of which it makes excellent use; after all, the technology is well suited to computer-animated movies, as Darnell notes. He describes 3-D animation as being “unlimited by gravity and unlimited by reality, because we really do what animation does best and exaggerate and move into the world of fantasy.

“When we realized that we were going to make the third film in 3-D, first I was really worried, because it is hard enough to make these movies in 2-D. But we went back and looked at the first two movies and realized we were already making 3-D movies: Everything was in front or behind, there was always depth, so that actually made it easy.”

“Madagascar 3” has opened in several countries now and has become the box-office No. 1 in many of them — including the United States, where it beat “Prometheus” and took $60 million on its opening weekend. So it’s natural to wonder whether Darnell intends to helm a fourth film in the franchise (which also includes TV series “The Penguins of Madagascar” and several short films).

“Well, we’ll see,” he says. “Two things have to happen. One is that the world has to want ‘Madagascar 4,’ because if they don’t want it, it doesn’t matter what we do.

“And the other thing is even if the world wants ‘Madagascar 4,’ we have to make sure that we have an idea that is incredible, that is great, that is unexpected. If the audience wants it and we have a great idea, we will see — maybe.”

“Madagascar 3” opens Aug. 1.

‘Madagascar’ giveaway

The Japan Times has 3 “Madagascar 3” travel sets to give away, each including a passport cover and suitcase belt.

To apply, send a postcard stating your name, address, telephone number, age, a comment on The Japan Times’ film section and the title of the film to: Gakugei-bu, The Japan Times, 4-5-4 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8071. Or enter online at jtimes.jp/film.

The deadline is Aug. 13. For more information, call (03) 3452-3599.