Compiled by: Jack Foley
Jeffrey Katzenberg (producer) interview
Q. I gather Madagascar marks your acting debut?
A: Yes. I am the extremely inarticulate penguin, Rico,
who never says a word but does do some grunting. And I prepared
sushi at the end, and say ‘hai!’ directed by Mr McGrath.
Probably the hardest directing assignment of his entire career.......
McGrath: 38 takes.
Katzenberg: And I was a telephone operator, it
was a very inauspicious debut I have to say. I’m giving
up my acting career already.
Q. How did you come to cast Sacha Baron Cohen, who remains
best known to UK audiences as Ali G?
Katzenberg: I was introduced to him by my son, a number
of years ago, very early on, he was on to the Ali G Show. When
the filmmakers were looking to do something special with this
lemur character the idea of Sacha came up. So we brought him into
McGrath: Julien, the ring-tailed lemur character,
had three lines in the script originally. He just raised his hand
in that meeting on the plane and said a few words.
Sacha came in and was playing around with accents, a little Indian,
a little French, and then he based this character on this odd
uncle of his. At least that’s what he told us.
So these three lines turned into about 20 minutes of dialogue
that he invented. We were just laughing so much we changed the
roles, figuring this guy has to be king of these lemurs.
He was so much fun, and so inventive. He wanted to sing Move
It, I want to sing that song by Grand Puba, a million words
per beat, but he had a lot of fun doing it, and he brought a lot
Q. Did the animators observe real animals when researching
A: This is a much more stylised movie. Kendal Cronkhite,
the production designer, came up with the elements that were so
original and so unique. The style of the design of the characters
is frankly what inspired the style of the animation itself.
It’s very much an homage to the Tex Avery, 1940s style,
but taken and made very state of the art through CG animation.
It also came from that very stylised look and feel to the design
of the characters that led to that squash and stretch and very
cartoony approach to computer animation.
Technically, that is one of the great innovations of this film
and was not even possible 18 months ago.
Q. So how do you view the state of DreamWorks animation?
Are you approaching where Disney were a few years back, say with
A: I think we’re still very much in our younger
years. By the time Lion King had happened Disney had begun a full
on renaissance of animation at that point with an incredible run
of films like Roger Rabbit, Mermaid, Aladdin. For us we’re
still finding our way a bit.
Shrek was a defining moment for us a couple of years ago. The
movies you’re seeing today are following the tradition of
those in terms of sensibility.
Q. Do you think films are making faster progress with
A: I think it’s an artistic thing, I don’t
think it’s a technical thing. I think our artists are really
maturing, many of them are into their second or even their third
movies for us now. They really are very strong in their craft,
in forming their vision of what they want to do with these movies.
I think you’ll see, hopefully in the next two or three years,
a very rich diversity of styles, stories and designs. They’re
all very different from one another and that’s what’s
exciting about it.
Q. Did you feel any pressure to make Madagascar better
following the negative critical response to Shark Tale?
A: On each and every one of these movies we try to make
the best film that we can every time out. That’s why these
jobs are so difficult on the one hand, and amazingly rewarding
on the other, that someone ultimately has made that decision and
We love the movie, we’re all proud of it, though I don’t
think Shrek is the criteria that we should measure everything
on from here on in. That was a pretty exceptional movie, but I’m
every bit as proud of Madagascar as I am of Shrek. It’s
done well so far, better than Shark
Tom McGrath - director (interview)
Q. Can you tell us about your role as Skipper? I guess
casting yourself meant you were cheap at the cost?
A: That’s true, I’m very inexpensive. It
was fun for me, the penguins had a small role that kept on growing.
We just felt they worked well with the story; they had a sub plot
that mirrored what the New Yorkers were going through. Especially
Marty, with his ‘grass is greener’ kind of mentality.
It was fun, we had a lot of fun with it.
Q. How did you work with the actors to get the precise
look of the characters?
McGrath: What we do when they’re behind the mike
as we’re getting their voices is videotape it too. So there
are certain expressions that all the actors make, and some of
the nuance, and the animators can reference these.
They put them into the characters because there are great expressions
even when the actors are listening, that the animators jump on.
So even though the character designs don’t necessarily look
like our actors, their actions and some of their expressions are
based on what they gave us.
Q. Can you give us some examples?
McGrath: There are things from Jada, when she’s
looking at Alex and gives him a stare which are priceless. Perfect
for Gloria and her strong attitude.
Katzenberg: And if any of you ask an inappropriate
question you will be getting that look. Or Ben on the beach going
‘no, no, no, no, no’. That’s the sort of stuff
that the animators would seize on. It’s endless. Most everything
you see on the screen is kind of like that.
Q. What extras can we expect on the DVD?
McGrath: We do have a lot of great stuff for the DVD.
The way that animation works, it’s not like live action
where you have a lot of takes on a scene, out-takes or things
like that. But there is some good stuff that didn’t make
Katzenberg: We do have 20 hours of Sacha Baron
McGrath: Yeah, there’s a couple of things
that we might put on the DVD.
Katzenberg: He did 15 minutes on what would happen
to the island of Madagascar if the New York Giants pooped there.
Watch the trailer:
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Medium l Real™
High l Windows™
Medium l Windows™
David Schwimmer interview
l Special feature
Ben Stiller interview
Chris Rock interview
Jada Pinkett Smith interview