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Madagascar (2005 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
Produced byMireille Soria
Edited byH. Lee Peterson
Music byHans Zimmer
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures
Release date
  • May 27, 2005 (2005-05-27)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$75 million[1]
Box office$542 million[1]

Madagascar is a 2005 American animated survival comedy film produced by DreamWorks Animation and PDI/DreamWorks, and distributed by DreamWorks Pictures.[2][1] The film was directed by Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath (in McGrath's feature directorial debut) and written by Darnell, McGrath, Mark Burton, and Billy Frolick. The film stars the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, and Andy Richter. It centers around a group of animals from the Central Park Zoo who find themselves stranded on the island of Madagascar and must adjust to living in the wild.

DreamWorks and PDI began developing an animated film titled Rockumentary, featuring a Beatles-esque penguin rock band, and was set to be directed by Darnell, after he finished his work on Antz (1998). The idea was scrapped in 2001, but Darnell decided to revive the penguins, albeit with a commando unit instead rather than a rock band after production on Madagascar started. The film features several songs from various artists, with musical score being composed by Hans Zimmer. It also has the cover of "I Like to Move It" by Cohen, which has since become a recurring theme song throughout the franchise.

Released on May 27, 2005, Madagascar received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the visuals and charm but criticized the story and humor. Despite this, it was a success at the box office, grossing $542 million on a production budget of $75 million, becoming the sixth highest-grossing film of 2005. The success of Madagascar launched a multimedia franchise, which includes two sequels as well as the spin-off film Penguins of Madagascar (2014); several short films, television series and specials; and a number of video games, theme park attractions and live stage shows, starting with Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012).



In New York City, lion Alex lives in the Central Park Zoo as a star attraction known as the "King of New York", and spends time with his friends — reticulated giraffe Melman, hippopotamus Gloria and his best friend, plains zebra Marty, who has grown weary of his daily routine and desires to experience the wild. On Marty's tenth birthday, Alex, Melman and Gloria attempt to cheer him up, but a still-unsatisfied Marty learns that the zoo's penguins — Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private — are trying to escape to Antarctica, and promptly follows them out. Marty heads towards Grand Central Terminal, as he plans to catch a train to nearby Connecticut. Alex, Melman and Gloria pursue Marty in an attempt to convince him to return, only to end up, along with the penguins and chimpanzee duo Mason and Phil, at Grand Central, where the police officers, firemen and animal control officers subdue them. Under pressure from anti-captivity activists, the zoo is forced to ship the escaped animals by sea to a nature reserve in Kenya. During the trip, the penguins escape their crate and commandeer the ship in the hopes of heading to Antarctica, causing the crates containing Alex and his friends to fall overboard.

Upon being washed ashore on Madagascar, the animals come across its lemur community. The predatory fossa attack the lemurs, only to be scared off by the fearsome appearance of Alex, who selfishly blames Marty for the group's predicament and makes several attempts to get them back to civilization. Marty finds life on Madagascar to be exactly what he was looking for and Gloria and Melman soon join him. Alex, coming to realize how selfish and entitled he has been and after some encouragement from Marty, eventually comes around and makes amends, but without the raw steaks he was provided at the zoo, his hunger sets in and prey drive begins to show. The lemurs' leader, ring-tailed lemur King Julien XIII, leads his subjects into befriending the castaways in hopes that Alex's presence will keep the fossa at bay, despite protest about Alex's predatory nature from his adviser, aye-aye Maurice. After briefly losing his sanity and attacking Marty, Alex realizes what he has done and, fearing he may be a danger to his friends, flees to the predator side of the island, where the fossa live. Seeing what Alex has become and how dangerous the wild can be, Marty regrets his decision to leave the zoo.

Having found Antarctica to be inhospitable, the penguins land the ship at Madagascar. Seeing the chance to return Alex to New York, Marty crosses over to the predator side and attempts to convince Alex to return, but he refuses out of fear that he will attack Marty again. The fossa attack Marty and though Gloria, Melman and the penguins come to the rescue, they are outnumbered. Alex overcomes his predatory instincts, rescues his friends and scares the fossa away from the lemur territory permanently. The lemurs regain their respect for Alex and the penguins satisfy his hunger by feeding him sushi, which he finds better than steak. As the lemurs throw a farewell celebration for the foursome, the penguins decide not to tell them that the ship has run out of fuel, leaving them stranded on the island for the time being.

Voice cast

David Schwimmer at the film's British premiere in London
  • Ben Stiller as Alex, a lion. Tom McGrath explained that "Ben Stiller was the first actor we asked to perform, and we knew we wanted his character, Alex, to be a big performing lion with a vulnerable side."[3]
  • Chris Rock as Marty, a plains zebra and Alex's best friend. McGrath explained the character: "Marty is a guy who thinks there might be more to life than what's in the zoo. We wanted his character to be energetic, so we listened to Chris Rock."[3]
  • David Schwimmer as Melman, a hypochondriac, earnest, and awkward reticulated giraffe and one of Alex's friends who has germ phobias.[3] When they were looking for a voice actor for Melman, they listened to Schwimmer's voice on Friends and, according to McGrath, thought that it "sounded really neat".[3] During development, Melman was originally meant to be an okapi but was changed to a giraffe, much to the dismay of the audience.[4]
  • Jada Pinkett Smith as Gloria, a strong, confident and sweet hippopotamus who is one of Alex's friends.[3] McGrath said that they found all these traits in Pinkett Smith's voice when they listened to her.[3]
  • Sacha Baron Cohen as King Julien XIII, a ring-tailed lemur and the leader of Madagascar's lemur community. King Julien was initially only meant to be a "two-line" character until auditioning Baron Cohen improvised eight minutes of dialogue in an Indian accent.[5]
  • Cedric the Entertainer as Maurice, an aye-aye and King Julien's royal advisor and assistant (to whom Julien never listens).
  • Andy Richter as Mort, a Goodman's mouse lemur who is King Julien's biggest fan and Maurice's best friend.
  • Tom McGrath as Skipper, a penguin who leads a commando unit consisting of himself and three other penguins. McGrath, who was also co-wrote and co-directed the film initially only lent his voice to the temporary tracks.[6][7] Growing up with films starring tough actors like John Wayne, Charlton Heston, and Robert Stack, it was the latter of whom McGrath wanted for the voice of Skipper.[8] Stack was approached about voicing the character, but died two weeks before production on the animation began.[8][9][10] After that, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg decided to keep the temporary voice, with McGrath explaining: "People were used to me doing that voice. We knew it worked when we screened it."[8] Many of the character's traits were based on Stack's work.[10] McGrath especially emphasized The Untouchables, a 1959 television crime drama series starring Stack.[10]
  • Chris Miller as Kowalski, a penguin and Skipper's right hand man and intelligence officer of the team.[6]
    • Miller also voices Timo, a tenrec who is only seen attending Julien's meeting.
  • Jeffrey Katzenberg as Rico, a silent penguin who is the loose-cannon explosives expert and weapons supplier of Skipper's team who only communicates through grunts and squeals.[6] Mireille Soria, the film's producer, commented on Katzenberg's uncredited role: "The irony for us is that he's the one who doesn't talk. There's something very Dadaistic about that, isn't there?"[6]
    • Katzenberg also voices Abner, a blue-eyed lemur who is only seen at the paradise scene.
  • Christopher Knights as Private, an English-accented penguin who is the mild-mannered eager rookie of Skipper's team.[6] Knights was also an assistant editor on the film.[6]
  • Conrad Vernon as Mason, a chimpanzee (Phil, the other chimpanzee, is unvoiced, communicating to Mason via Sign Language. Despite this, Phil is the one who can read whereas Mason cannot.)
  • Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath as the fossa.
    • Darnell also voices Hector and Horst, two lemurs.
  • David P. Smith as Pancho, a crowned lemur.
  • Cody Cameron as Willie, a red lemur who is only seen attending Julien's meeting.
  • Elisa Gabrielli as Nana, an elderly Yiddish-accented New Yorker. Gabrielli provided some background voices until the directors and producer asked her and her fellow actors if they wanted to try their voices for the role. Upon seeing a black and white sketch of Nana, Gabrielli knew that she wanted to voice her. She modeled Nana's voice after her Russian and Hungarian grandmothers and her stepfather, though she didn't think that her voice would be kept in the finished film at first.[11]
  • Bob Saget as an unspecified off-screen zoo animal.
  • David Cowgill as a police horse.
  • Stephen Apostolina as a police officer.



According to co-director Tom McGrath, the idea for Madagascar began as a one-sentence prompt, and it took two years of development for the idea to be refined to the point where the four main characters were finalized.[12] In 1998, DreamWorks and PDI had started development on an animated film titled Rockumentary, which featured a Beatles-esque penguin rock band, and was to be directed by Eric Darnell, after he finished his work on Antz. The idea was scrapped in 2001, but after production on Madagascar started, Darnell decided to revive the penguins as a commando unit rather than a rock band.[12]

In the original script, Gloria was pregnant due to the zoo's breeding program and the baby was born on the island. Melman, who had a crush on Gloria, would help raise the child like it was his own. The idea was cut from the final version because test audiences thought the pregnancy plotline was too mature for a family film and felt uncomfortable with the pairing of Melman and Gloria. However, the idea of Melman having a crush on Gloria was reused for the sequels. Melman was originally planned to be an okapi but was changed to a giraffe because that was a more familiar animal.[citation needed]

Originally, Julien was intended to be a minor character with only two lines. However, when Sacha Baron Cohen auditioned for the role, he improvised not only an Indian accent, but eight minutes of dialogue for his recording. The filmmakers found Cohen's performance so funny that they rewrote the script and made Julien a much more prominent character in the story as "King of the Lemurs". Dana Carvey was originally offered a role but he turned it down as he was busy raising kids at the time.[13]

Home media


Madagascar was released on VHS and DVD on November 15, 2005.[14][15] The DVD included a short animated film The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper, and a music video "I Like to Move It", featuring characters from the film dancing to the song.[16][17] A Blu-ray version of the film was released on September 23, 2008 by Paramount Home Entertainment.

The Madagascar - Movie Storybook was written by Billy Frolick and illustrated by Michael Koelsch, and was published by Scholastic in 2005.[18][19] Koelsch also illustrated the Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa - Movie Storybook in 2008.[20]



Box office


The film was a commercial success. On its opening weekend, the film grossed $47,224,594 with a $11,431 average from 4,131 theaters making it the number 3 movie of that weekend behind Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and The Longest Yard.[21] However, the film managed to claim the top position in the U.S. box office the following week with a gross of $28,110,235.[22] In the United States, the film eventually grossed $193,595,521, and in foreign areas grossed $362,964,045 with a summative worldwide gross of $542,063,846.[1]

Critical reception


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 55% approval rating based on 193 reviews, with an average rating of 6.1/10. The consensus reads: "Though its story is problematic in spots and its humor is hit-or-miss for the adult crowd, Madagascar boasts impressive visuals and enough spunky charm to keep children entertained."[23] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 57 out of 100, based on 36 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[24] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[25]

Paul Arendt of BBC gave the film 4/5 stars, writing: "It's also a pleasure to see a cartoon so determinedly devoid of sentiment, a stance confirmed by the hilarious demise of an angelic little duckling. Highly recommended for kids and adults."[26] Jeff Strickler of the Star Tribune gave the film 3/4 stars, describing it as a "good-natured kid flick" and writing: "This computer-animated comedy makes enough kowtows to adult humor that parents won't be bored, but it is clearly aimed at the peewee set."[27] Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post described the film as "wildly fun" and wrote: "along with such recent classics as Shrek, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, Madagascar will surely go on to take a deserved place on millions of families' video shelves as a reliable Saturday night staple."[28] Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times described the film as "a good-humored, pleasant confection that has all kinds of relaxed fun bringing computer-animated savvy to the old-fashioned world of Looney Tunes cartoons."[29] Paul Clinton of CNN wrote that the film was "a delight", and added: "Co-writers and -directors McGrath and Eric Darnell, along with their entire team, have done a terrific job with their sweet and whimsical story."[30]

Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5/4 stars, writing that it "is funny, especially at the beginning, and good-looking in a retro cartoon way", but added: "in a world where the stakes have been raised by Finding Nemo, Shrek and The Incredibles, it's a throwback to a more conventional kind of animated entertainment."[31] Philippa Hawker of The Sydney Morning Herald also gave the film 2.5/4 stars, writing: "Madagascar, despite some break-out moments of silliness, seems defined by a formula that can't fail to please, at a basic level, but never feels imaginatively inspired."[32] Rick Groen of The Globe and Mail gave the film 2/4 stars, describing the film's script as "a wafer-thin yarn that might have done Sylvester and Tweety proud, but goes missing-in-action when stretched over 80-plus minutes."[33] A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote that the film "arouses no sense of wonder, except insofar as you wonder, as you watch it, how so much talent, technical skill and money could add up to so little."[34]



The film has won three awards and several nominations.[35]

Award Category Recipient Result
AFI's 10 Top 10 Animated Film Madagascar Nominated
Annie Award[35] Best Animated Feature Mireille Soria Nominated
Animated Effects Matt Baer Nominated
Rick Glumac Nominated
Martin Usiak Nominated
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Craig Kellman Nominated
Music in an Animated Feature Production Hans Zimmer Nominated
Production Design in an Animated Feature Production Yoriko Ito Nominated
Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production Tom McGrath Nominated
Catherine Yuh Rader Nominated
Golden Eagle Award[36] Best Foreign Language Film Madagascar Nominated
Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Animated Movie Madagascar Won

In 2008, the American Film Institute nominated the film for its Top 10 Animation Films list.[37]


Madagascar: Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMay 24, 2005
GenreSoundtrack, disco, new-age
ProducerHans Zimmer
Hans Zimmer chronology
The Little Polar Bear 2: The Mysterious Island
Madagascar: Motion Picture Soundtrack
Batman Begins

Madagascar is the soundtrack to the 2005 DreamWorks film of the same name. It was released by Geffen Records and UMG Soundtracks on May 24, 2005. Of particular critical note was the cover of "I Like to Move It" by Sacha Baron Cohen, which has since become a recurring theme song throughout the Madagascar franchise.

The score was composed by frequent DreamWorks collaborator Hans Zimmer, with additional music by James Dooley, Heitor Pereira, James S. Levine, and Ryeland Allison. Zimmer also adapted John Barry's instrumental from "Born Free" into the score track of the same name; the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's cover of the song was used in the opening title sequence. Originally, Harry Gregson-Williams, who previously worked with DreamWorks on Antz, Chicken Run, the first two Shrek films, and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was supposed to compose the film's score. Louis Armstrong's song "What a Wonderful World" is used in the film.

Madagascar: Motion Picture Soundtrack[38]
1."Best Friends"Hans Zimmer, Heitor Pereira, James S. Levine & Ryeland Allison2:24
2."I Like to Move It"Sacha Baron Cohen3:51
3."Hawaii Five-O"The Ventures1:49
4."Boogie Wonderland"Earth, Wind & Fire with the Emotions4:49
5."Whacked Out Conspiracy"James Dooley2:16
6."Chariots of Fire"Vangelis3:29
7."Stayin' Alive"Bee Gees4:44
8."Zoosters Breakout"Hans Zimmer1:39
9."Born Free"John Barry & Don Black1:24
10."The Foosa Attack"Heitor Pereira0:37
11."Beacon of Liberty"Hans Zimmer & James S. Levine2:09
12."What a Wonderful World"Louis Armstrong2:16
13."Callin' Out (Madagascar Version)"Lyrics Born3:14
Total length:31:27

Sequels, spin-offs, and television series


A sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, was released in 2008, followed by Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted in 2012.

A spin-off series entitled The Penguins of Madagascar premiered on Nickelodeon in 2008. The spin-off was made into the film Penguins of Madagascar in 2014.

Another spin-off series entitled All Hail King Julien premiered on Netflix in 2014.

A prequel series entitled Madagascar: A Little Wild premiered on Hulu and Peacock in 2020.

Madagascar has also spawned a number of short films, video games, and other media, as well as theme park attractions and live stage shows.


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