Computer Graphics World

November/December 2014

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26 cgw n o v e m b e r . d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 4 L A Y O U T n a comedy, perhaps more than any other type of story, timing is critical. And no characters express that timing better than the penguins who provided outrageous comedic relief moments in DreamWorks' three Madagascar films. This year, the four penguins – Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Pri- vate – star in their own animat- ed feature titled, appropriately, Penguins of Madagascar. "I tried to break the joke-per- scene record at DreamWorks," says Simon J Smith, who directed the film with long- time Madagascar Director Eric Darnell. "If you're going to pay money to see a Penguins movie, you're going to come out with a big smile on your face. But it's a comedy with tiny portholes of emotion. The emotion is a huge bonus for us. The challenge was how do you get comic relief characters to carry the 'A' story. We needed to find the things they care about and have the audience care about." The answer was simple – they care about each other. "We showed the band coming together and how they operate together, and then what happens if the band gets broken up," Smith says. "We show a side of the penguins you haven't seen before. The won- derful theme – you can say this in many ways – is don't judge a book by its cover; don't let oth- ers' perceptions define you." The film's conceit is that the penguins, who think of them- selves as secret agents, are thrust into a 1960s Bond type of movie. When a covert operation sends them into Fort Knox, an octopus hiding in a vending ma- chine captures them and con- fines them on his submarine. In Venice, our heroes escape for a moment. But octopi henchmen chase them through the canals, and things look dire until…a superspy, Agent Classified (his name is…you know...), sends his three undercover, high-tech North Wind agents swooping in to rescue them. Can the penguins tame their ruffled feathers and join forces with the North Wind to save the world from the octopus? And, who is better suited to run the operation? The irrepressible penguin MacGyvers or the cold, calculating North Wind techies? John Malkovich plays the villainous octopus; Benedict Cumberbatch plays Agent Classified, a wolf. "I flew to the South of France where this unbelievable thes- pian John Malkovich lives, and pitched the story on an iPad," Smith says. "He said, 'I'd like to do it. I'd like to be an octopus.' And he made me an octopus. When we were recording him, he wrapped his arms around his head and around himself. He was absolutely brilliant. We used a lot of that footage as ref- erence. Benedict was the same. Equally committed." The style was set for Pen- guins through the previous three Madagascar films. Although the penguins had their own movie, it still needed to fit within the Madagascar world: snappy animation with squash and stretch, clean retro character designs with straights against curves, cartoony effects, and caricatured environments with wiggly lines, loss in detail as the image moves back in space, and transitional color where light and shadow meet. "The style takes a while to get used to, but a lot of us knew it really well," says Visual Effects Supervisor Philippe Gluckman. "I've been working on the Mada- gascar films since the beginning, and the crew in India had done the TV shorts. So, in a way, our biggest challenge was working cross-site. It was the first time we took a film from start to fin- ish in the India studio. Of course, the concept, storyboarding, art, and previs were done in the US, I Plotting a Caper THE CREW AT PDI/DREAMWORKS TOOK ADVANTAGE OF NEW TECHNIQUES IN LAYOUT TO HELP DESIGN SEQUENCES FOR THE ANIMATED FEATURE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR BY BARBARA ROBERTSON IMAGES ©2014 DREAMWORKS ANIMATION LLC

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