Eric Darnell

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Eric Darnell
Born1961 (age 59–60)
Prairie Village, Kansas, U.S.
OccupationAnimator, film director, writer
Notable worksAntz,
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted,
Penguins of Madagascar
Years active1989–present
SpouseLaura Darnell

Eric Darnell (1961)[1] is an American animator, director, writer, songwriter and occasional voice actor best known for co-directing Antz with Tim Johnson, as well as co-directing and co-writing Madagascar, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted with Tom McGrath, as well as the spin off Penguins of Madagascar (2014) with Simon J. Smith.

Life and career[edit]

Darnell was born in Prairie Village, Kansas.[2] He attended Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas, where he was a writer for the school newspaper the Harbinger. He studied broadcast journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder.[2] After graduating in 1983, he spent four years working on experimental films in his basement, which helped him get accepted into the Experimental Animation program study at the California Institute of the Arts.[2] Meanwhile, he directed the music video for the 1989 R.E.M. song "Get Up".[2]

After graduating in 1991, Darnell joined Pacific Data Images,[2] where he worked as a character animator on the 1991 Hanna-Barbera Halloween special The Last Halloween. He also animated and directed the short film Gas Planet, which won the Ottawa International Animation Festival Special Jury Prize.[2] In 1995, he left PDI to join DreamWorks Animation, where he helped with research and development for The Prince of Egypt.[2] Shortly after DreamWorks merged with PDI the following year, he was assigned to direct his first feature film, Antz, co-directing alongside fellow PDI-turned-DreamWorks employee Tim Johnson.[2] The film, released in 1998, marked the studio's first computer-animated feature film, and the second computer-animated feature film after Pixar's Toy Story.[2] He then worked as a storyboard artist on the 2001 film Shrek, for which he also wrote the song "Welcome to Duloc."[3]

Darnell and Tom McGrath directed Madagascar in 2005 and its sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa in 2008. He was co-writer for the Christmas TV special, Merry Madagascar. Darnell also co-directed Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted with McGrath and Conrad Vernon, which was released on June 8, 2012. He co-directed, with Simon J. Smith, a Madagascar spin-off, titled Penguins of Madagascar and released on November 26, 2014.[4]

In 2015, Darnell co-founded with Maureen Fan, a former vice president of games at Zynga, a Redwood City, California-based virtual reality studio Baobab Studios to create animated virtual reality short films.[5] Darnell serves as Baobab's chief creative officer, while Fan serves as its CEO. For the studio, Darnell wrote and directed short VR films, Invasion! (2016) and its follow-up Asteroids! (2017), featuring two comedic aliens, Mac and Cheeze.[6][7][8] Plans for a feature-length film based on the characters were announced in 2016 by Baobab and Roth Kirschenbaum Films.[9] Darnell also wrote and directed an animated VR short film, Crow: The Legend, inspired by the Lenape myth. Released in 2018, it features the voices of John Legend, Constance Wu, Oprah Winfrey, Diego Luna and Liza Koshy.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Darnell lives in Campbell, California with his wife, Laura, and their son, Rex, and daughter, Leah.[2][11]



  1. ^ "Darnell, Eric, 1961–". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Berls, Scott (Spring 1999). "Little-creature feature". University of Colorado Boulder. Archived from the original on May 18, 2003. Retrieved November 24, 2013.
  3. ^ "Shrek". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Sneider, Jeff (August 5, 2013). "Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich Join 'Penguins of Madagascar' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (December 3, 2015). "'Madagascar' Director Eric Darnell's Virtual Reality Studio Raises $6M". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Giardina, Carolyn (April 15, 2016). "Tribeca: 'Madagascar' Director Unveils Virtual Reality Short 'Invasion!'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  7. ^ a b Wolfe, Jennifer (December 1, 2016). "Baobab's 'ASTEROIDS!' to Debut at Sundance 2017". Animation World Network. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  8. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (December 22, 2016). "Elizabeth Banks to Voice an Alien in Virtual Reality Short 'Asteroids!'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  9. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (September 26, 2016). "Director Eric Darnell's Virtual Reality Short 'Invasion' to Become Theatrical Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Russian, Ale. "John Legend Ventures in VR with Oprah Winfrey and More in Crow: The Legend – Watch Here!", People, November 29, 2018; and Takahashi, Dean. "Baobab's Crow: The Legend debuts as a free short film on Oculus and YouTube", VentureBeat, November 15, 2018, accessed November 19, 2018
  11. ^ Peterson, Judy (May 28, 2012). "Take a trip to 'Madagascar,' and support YSI". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved November 23, 2013.

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