Thursday, October 06, 2005


Madagascar Penguins in A Christmas Caper

For my money, the best thing about Dreamwork SKG's animated feature Madagascar (which opened in theaters in the Spring of 2005) were the penguins. If you saw the film, I think you'd know why. They literally stole the show every single time they were on screen: They had the best lines and -- for me at least -- provided the film's funniest moments. Do you remember them popping out of a hole, after thinking they had burrowed halfway across the globe (using plastic spoons!), only to realize they ended up in the Marty the Zebra's pen, at the same zoo? Skipper the Penguin: "Hey, Quadruped. Sprechen Sie Englisch?" Marty: "I sprechen." Skipper: "What continent is this?" Marty: "Manhattan." Skipper: "Hoover Dam! We're still in New York! Dive! Dive! Dive!" And, as he slowly descends back down the hole, Skipper -- making circular motions with his hands in front of his face -- says, in a hypnotic tone, "You didn't see anything!" (My six-year-old son does the BEST imitation of this scene -- and it cracks me up every time!) How about when the penguins are caught in Grand Central Station? ("We've been ratted out boys. Just smile and wave, boys; smile and wave.") Or when they finally arrive in Antarctica and see the barren, wind-swept, iced-over land that it is? ("Well, this sucks!) Hilarious.
Tomorrow, A Christmas Caper, a short animated film featuring the Madagascar penguins will open along with Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The short is directed by Gary Trousdale (who helmed the only animated feature ever to be nominated for Best Picture -- Beauty & the Beast and, what I believe to be one of Disney's finest animated films -- The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
A Christmas film? Now? Well, I was in Home Depot today (better than three weeks before Halloween) and the store's Christmas display was up and running. Let's face it. The holiday starts earlier every year. Anyway, I'm excited to see my favorite characters from Madagascar in their own short. Hell, I'm excited that an animated short is actually opening in a theater. Perhaps with the recent increase in animation production in Hollywood, the animated short film will return to its rightful place -- in theaters, before a feature. (Hey, if this happens, maybe the Motion Picture Academy won't have to look to foreign animated shorts -- as it has for years now -- to find worthy nominees come Oscar time.) Nick Park, the director of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, won two of his three Oscars for shorts featuring these characters (The Wrong Trousers in 1993, and A Close Shave in 1995). Do you remember seeing them in a theater when they came out? How about his first Oscar winner, Creature Comforts? No? Hmmm? Maybe my penguin friends will lead the way back! But remember, "You didn't see anything!"

I saw Wallace and Gromit this evening. Penguins were my favorite part of the night. I did not see the original Madagascar film, but they were certainly funny. It is a very cute little film. Enough adult humor to keep the big folks interested but great kid stuff too.
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