Penguins of Madagascar

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For the Nickelodeon TV series, see The Penguins of Madagascar.
Penguins of Madagascar
Penguins of Madagascar poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Eric Darnell
Simon J. Smith
Produced by Mark Swift
Lara Breay[1]
Tripp Hudson[2]
Screenplay by Michael Colton[3]
John Aboud[3]
Brandon Sawyer[3]
Story by Alan J. Schoolcraft
Brent Simons
Michael Colton
John Aboud
Based on Characters created 
by Tom McGrath
and Eric Darnell
Starring Tom McGrath
Chris Miller
Conrad Vernon
Christopher Knights
Benedict Cumberbatch
John Malkovich
Music by Lorne Balfe[4][5]
Edited by Nick Kenway
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • November 14, 2014 (2014-11-14) (China)
  • November 26, 2014 (2014-11-26) (United States)
Running time 92 minutes[7]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $132 million[8]
Box office $180.9 million[9]

Penguins of Madagascar is a 2014 American 3D computer-animated action comedy film,[10] produced by DreamWorks Animation and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It is a spin-off of the Madagascar film series, and takes place right after the events of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted,[11] following the penguins Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private in their own spy thriller.[10] Apart from the main characters, it is unrelated to the TV series of the same name (which is set in its own continuity).[12]

The film is directed by Simon J. Smith and Eric Darnell,[13] and written by Michael Colton & John Aboud[1] and Brandon Sawyer.[3] It stars the voices of Tom McGrath, Chris Miller, Conrad Vernon, Christopher Knights, featuring the voices of Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, and Ken Jeong. The film was released on November 26, 2014.[1]


In Antarctica, three young penguins, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), and Rico (Conrad Vernon), rescue an egg from hungry leopard seals and set themselves adrift on an iceberg. From the egg hatches Private (Christopher Knights) and the four become a team. A decade later, directly after the events of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, the Penguins depart from the circus and celebrate Private's birthday by breaking into Fort Knox so that Private can buy Cheesy Dibbles, a discontinued product, from their break room vending machine. However, Private begins to feel unimportant to the team. While Skipper is the leader and strategist, Kowalski is the brains, and Rico the arsenal specialist, Private is continually referred to as just being a cute face and doesn't have any remarkable skills.

The Penguins are suddenly kidnapped in the vending machine and flown to a submarine base in Venice. There, the Penguins meet Dave (John Malkovich), a villainous octopus who disguises himself under the human alias of Dr. Octavius Brine. Dave used to be adored in the Central Park Zoo, until the penguins arrived and unknowingly stole his shine. The octopus was then shipped to other zoos but his fame was stolen each time by a penguin shine. Embittered, Dave now wants revenge on the penguins. Rico swallows Dave's snow globe collection along with a canister of green goo, and the Penguins escape. Dave's squid henchmen chased the Penguins through the canals and streets of Venice. While being cornered in an alley, the Penguins are saved by the "North Wind", an elite undercover inter-species task force. The group comprises their leader, a wolf named Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch), a demolitionist harp seal named Short Fuse (Ken Jeong), a muscular polar bear named Corporal (Peter Stormare), and an intelligent snowy owl named Eva (Annet Mahendru), whom with Kowalski becomes smitten.

The Penguins are flown in to one of the North Wind's secret bases where the agency reveals their purpose is to help animals who can't help themselves and that they've been tracking Dave for a long time, trying to bring him to justice. Dave hacks into the North Wind's communications and reveals to the group he has a lot more of his serum than just the canister the Penguins stole. Dubbing it the Medusa Serum, he aims to use it on all the penguins that stole his fame around the world. Though the Penguins want to work alongside the North Wind, they don't believe the Penguins of being capable allies and tranquilize them, shipping the four on a plane to their "most remote base" (which happens to be back on Madagascar). The Penguins wake up mid-flight and vow to save their species without the North Wind's help.

Ejecting from the plane and landing in a desert, the penguins make their way to Shanghai (that they mistake for Dublin) where they learn penguins are already being kidnapped from zoos everywhere. Using Dave's snow globe collection Rico swallowed earlier, the Penguins discover he's going to hit Shanghai next and strategize a plan to stop Dave's scheme. During the plan's execution, Private once again feels unimportant when he is made the diversion. The Penguins' plan works and they capture Dave before the North Wind can. However, Dave manages to escape and succeeds in kidnapping the zoo's penguins, including Private. The Penguins attempt to chase Dave's submarine with the North Wind's high-tech aircraft, but fail when they accidentally activate the self-destruct, the North Wind tailing close behind. The two teams track Private with a previously implanted homing device to a remote island. Meanwhile, Dave demonstrates for Private that the Medusa Serum, when blasted in a ray, will turn its target into a disfigured monster physically and mentally. He plans to use it on all of the penguins he's captured so the public will be repelled by their appearance instead of adored.

On the island, Classified and Skipper argue over the best way to stop Dave, but Skipper finally relents when he realizes Classified's leadership is what's best for Private's escape, despite Kowalski and Rico's objections. The Penguins cause a diversion for Dave's guards while the North Wind sneaks in and corners Dave, only to be ambushed. The Penguins are also captured upon realizing Classified's plan failed. With the rest of the Penguins captured, Dave demonstrates his Medusa Serum ray by using it on Private. It appears to disintegrate him at first, but, unbeknownst to the characters, Private managed to escape his bonds at the last minute with a paperclip he had swallowed previously. While Dave sets a course for New York City and corrals his penguins into a large group, Private rescues the North Wind. However, while Private wants to rescue the others, the North Wind plans to flee and return to their base for more equipment before facing Dave again. Despite their attempted persuasion to join them, Private chooses to do as Skipper would and heads back to free the penguins.

Dave's submarine arrives in New York City and he blasts the penguins, including Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico, with his mutation ray. After doing so, he releases them to the people who are terrified with their monstrous appearance and behavior. Private, seeing he is too late, finds Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico, and snaps them out of their disfigured mental state. They deduce that by reversing the ray, they can reverse its effects. However, while Dave had the Medusa Serum, the Penguins would need something incredibly cute. Private opts to use himself as the ray's source of power, accepting whatever effects doing so would have on him. Unfortunately, the remote for the ray runs out of batteries and Dave, discovering their plan, has sent his henchmen after them. Rico heads out to find batteries while Skipper and Kowalski defend against the squids, finding themselves outnumbered. The North Wind returns and destroys Dave's submarine before being caught by a pest control unit called in to take care of the monstrous penguins. Rico returns with batteries and a new bag of Organic Cheesy Dibbles. Skipper just manages to replace the batteries in the remote before Dave knocks it away. Just before being caught by pest control, Skipper sends a single Dibble flying towards the remote and hits the activation button. Having attached Dave's snow globes to the ray to refract the beam, Private's cuteness is harnessed and reverts every penguin back to their original appearance.

However, as the side effects of being used in the ray, Private has been tinted pink and grown antlers. Despite his strange new look, the Penguins show their gratitude and newfound respect for Private. Dave has also been made cute by the ray and stuck in a snow globe where he is admired by a little girl (Angie Wu). Finally seeing one another as equals, Classified promises to grant the Penguins anything they want. In addition to Kowalski getting a kiss from Eva, the Penguins are given their own jetpacks. The four Penguins then fly off above the clouds looking for their next adventure.

In a mid-credits scene, the Penguins return to the circus and plug Mort (Andy Richter) into the ray and use him to revert Private back to normal. Mort doesn't appear to show any side effects from the ray until he manages to swallow King Julien (Danny Jacobs) whole.


John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch talking at the Penguins of Madagascar panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International


A direct-to-video film featuring the penguins had been in the works since 2005, when the first Madagascar film was released, with a release date planned for 2009.[18] In March 2011, it was announced that the penguin characters would be given their own feature film, similar to the 2011 Puss in Boots movie,[19] to be directed by Simon J. Smith, the co-director of Bee Movie, produced by Lara Breay, and written by Alan J. Schoolcraft and Brent Simons, the writers of DreamWorks' Megamind.[20]

In July 2012, at Comic-Con, it was announced that the film, titled The Penguins of Madagascar, would be released in 2015.[21] Robert Schooley, one of the producers of The Penguins series, said that the film would be unrelated to the TV series of the same name, but added that that could always change.[22] In September 2012, 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation announced a release date of March 27, 2015, and a new pair of writers, Michael Colton and John Aboud.[23] In August 2013, it was reported that Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich joined the cast.[1] Malkovich, who had been offered the role of Dr. Octavius Brine three and a half years before the film's release, thought that it would be funny to use his voice for an octopus.[12]


On May 20, 2014, the film's release date was moved up to November 26, 2014, from its' initial March 27, 2015 bow, switching places with DreamWorks Animation's other film, Home.[24] Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation's CEO, reasoned that the film, coming from one of DWA's most successful franchises, would have an easier task to stand out around the Thanksgiving holiday season, while Home will try to take advantage of a less competitive spring release window, and repeat successful spring launches of some of DWA's original films, including The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon.[25] The film was released two weeks earlier in China, on November 14, 2014.[26]

The film was released in RealD 3D and Digital 3D formats.[6] It was digitally remastered into the IMAX format, and released in select theaters across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.[27]

A four-issue comic book series based on the film was published by Titan Comics. Written by Alex Matthews and drawn by Lucas Fereyra.[28]


Box office[edit]

As of December 17, 2014, Penguins of Madagascar has grossed $59,684,051 in North America, and $116,000,000 in other countries, for a worldwide total of $175,684,051.[9]

North America

Penguins of Madagascar was released on November 26, 2014 in North America and Canada across 3,654 theatres. The film earned $6.25 million on its opening day and $3.95 million the next day on Thanksgiving Day.[29] It earned $10.5 million on Black Friday.[30][31] It went on to earn $28.5 million in its opening weekend ($36 million including its revenue from Wednesday and Thursday) debuting at No. 2 at the box office behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 ($57.9 million) for which 3D% accounted for 24% of its opening weekend gross.[32]

Other territories

The film was released in China on November 14,[26] two weeks ahead of its North American debut, and earned $11.3 million from 3,500 screens, debuting at number two at the Chinese box office behind Interstellar ($42 million).[33] In its opening weekend the film earned $8.23 million from 2,608 screens from 43 markets.[34]

Critical response[edit]

Penguins of Madagascar received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film currently holds a 73% rating, based on 88 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's consensus is "Penguins of Madagascar is fast and brightly colored enough to entertain small children, but too frantically silly to offer real filmgoing fun for the whole family."[35] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 53 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[36]

Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a negative review, saying "While there are plenty of madcap antics to fill a feature, all that manic energy ultimately proves to be more exhausting than exhilarating."[37] Elizabeth Weitzman of the New York Daily News gave the film three out of five stars, saying "Granted, it's no classic, but a sassy script and good-natured voice work from Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich should keep kids and grownups entertained over the holidays."[38] Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club gave the film a B, saying "Frenetic and frequently funny, Penguins Of Madagascar represents the DreamWorks Animation franchise style -- which boils down to self-aware, but naïve, talking animals who learn kid-friendly life lessons -- at its most palatable."[39] Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times gave the film a positive review, saying "The lack of originality is offset by sheer silliness, including Classified and Skipper's Abbott and Costello-style argument over whether there's a long I in "diversion." The word fits the movie."[40] Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Once again the Madagascar team have come up with a winner -- a nice way to kick off the Thanksgiving and holiday filmgoing experience for the whole family."[41] Lou Lumenick of the New York Post gave the film one out of four stars, saying "Penguins of Madagascar is a lazy, noisy ADHD-addled collection of animated clichés guaranteed to give anyone older than 5 a headache, even if you don’t see it in optional 3-D."[42] Jeff Labrecque of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C-, saying "Penguins of Madagascar aims primarily for the kiddies, racing from one frenetic action sequence to another like some haywire Walter Lantz cartoon."[43]

Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a negative review, saying "The story, like everything else, tries to do too much. It's an origins story, a mission impossible, a coming-of-age saga, a revenge story."[44] Simon Abrams of The Village Voice gave the film a negative review, saying "Plays like a sampler of Dreamworks Animation's worst creative impulses: sugar-rush pacing, pandering meta-gags, and a slick, flavorless animation style."[45] Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post gave the film three and a half stars out of four, saying "The screenplay by John Aboud, Michael Colton and Brandon Sawyer has a fizzy, pop-culture pizazz, tempered by a distinctly vaudeville sensibility. It’s smart, but not brainy; dumb, but never inane."[46] Patrick Dunn of The Detroit News gave the film a C, saying "While Madagascar's young faithful will likely get the most out of this flick, even they are likely to find they prefer these penguins in smaller doses."[47] Chris Cabin of Slant Magazine gave the film two and a half stars out of five, saying "The humor recalls the snappy, rampant guffaws of Looney Tunes, '90s-era Nickelodeon cartoons, and sitcoms like Get Smart, most potently felt when Skipper mistakes Shanghai for Dublin and starts a new mission to get his team to where they already are. And Penguins of Madagascar similarly feels like a spin-off that takes the long way to do exactly what its Madagascar predecessors already did, creating an entertaining, fleeting romp that gets by on being only so much better than average."[48] Tom Russo of The Boston Globe gave the film two out of four stars, saying "Beyond some imagery, we don't get much that's bigger or better than on TV. Nothing narratively richer, certainly."[49]

Barbara VanDenburgh of The Arizona Republic gave the film three out of five stars, saying "All the glossy, kinetic animation and inventive action sequences get lost in the gag machine. The film throws jokes out like a tennis-ball machine on the fritz: gross humor, slapstick pratfalls, bizarre non sequiturs."[50] Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer gave the film two and a half stars out of five, saying "If Penn-wings of Madagascar has a certain machine-made feel about it (and it does), that doesn't mean attention hasn't been paid to the animation."[51] Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press gave the film two and a half stars out of four, saying "Penguins of Madagascar is a passible, inoffensive addition to DreamWorks Animation's canon, even if there's a faint whiff of a North Wind spin-off sullying the contained story."[52] Geoff Berkshire of Variety gave the film a mixed review, saying "The graceful camerawork, precise editing and high-quality animation still can’t disguise the lack of imagination that went into the overall conception and the repetitive sameness that creeps into every bind the penguins find themselves in."[53] Scott Tobias of The Dissolve gave the film two out of five stars, saying "What Penguins Of Madagascar needs is a roomful of ruthless editors to take jokes out of the script, particularly the ones aimed at pleasing the grown-ups in the audience."[54] Peter Howell of the Toronto Star gave the film two out of four stars, saying "It may be a case of damning with faint praise to say that Penguins of Madagascar never really gets a chance to bore, since it never slows down."[55] Walter V. Addiego of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film three out of four stars, saying "Directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith keep up a headlong pace -- if one joke or sight gag misfires, there'll be another one soon."[56]


Penguins of Madagascar: Music from the Motion Picture
Film score by Lorne Balfe
Released November 25, 2014 (2014-11-25)
Recorded 2014
Genre Film score
Length 52:46
Label Relativity Music Group
Producer Hans Zimmer
DreamWorks Animation chronology
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Penguins of Madagascar

Lorne Balfe composed the original score for the film.[57] The soundtrack was released on November 25, 2014, by Relativity Music Group.[57] Relativity will also release Penguins of Madagascar: Black & White Christmas Album, which will feature five holiday songs.[57]

No. Title Length
1. "The Penguins of Madagascar"   4:10
2. "Antarctica"   3:31
3. "Demersus"   2:53
4. "Sclateri"   3:25
5. "Adeliae"   3:31
6. "Forsteri"   2:52
7. "Patagonicus"   3:03
8. "Magellanicus"   1:24
9. "Private’s Theme"   2:34
10. "Robustus"   3:36
11. "Eudyptula Minor"   1:35
12. "Chrysolophus"   2:51
13. "Chrysocome"   1:59
14. "Antipodes"   1:20
15. "Schlegeli"   2:46
16. "Mendiculus"   3:14
17. "Papua"   1:56
18. "Humboldti"   2:52
19. "He Is Dave" (featuring Antony Genn) 3:14

Video game[edit]

A video game based on the film, titled Penguins of Madagascar, and published by Little Orbit, was released on November 25, 2014 for Nintendo 3DS, Wii and Wii U.[58]


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External links[edit]