Penguins of Madagascar

For the Nickelodeon TV series, see The Penguins of Madagascar.
Penguins of Madagascar

Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Alan J. Schoolcraft
  • Brent Simons
  • Michael Colton
  • John Aboud
Based on Characters created
by Tom McGrath
and Eric Darnell
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 $373 million[9]

Penguins of Madagascar is a 2014 American 3D computer-animated action comedy adventure 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 adventure.[10] Apart from the main characters, it is unrelated to the similarly named TV series.[12]

The film was 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, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, and Ken Jeong. The film was released on November 26, 2014.[1] It is the only film in the Madagascar franchise that was distributed by 20th Century Fox and was the final film produced by Pacific Data Images before its closure on January 22, 2015.[14] Despite earning $373 million on a $132 million budget, the film forced a write-down for the studio.[15]


In Antarctica, three young penguin brothers – Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico – defy the laws of nature to save an egg the other penguins believe to be doomed. After saving it from a pack of leopard seals and accidentally setting themselves adrift on an iceberg, the egg hatches into Private.

Ten years later (after the events of the previous film), the penguins decide to leave the circus to celebrate Private's birthday by breaking into Fort Knox in order to treat him to a discontinued snack called "Cheezy Dibbles" in the vending machine of their break room. Despite this, Private begins to feel out of place with the team, as he is described as being the "secretary/mascot". Suddenly, they are abducted by the machine and sent to Venice, Italy by Dr. Octavius Brine, a renowned geneticist who removes his human disguise and reveals he is actually an octopus named Dave, who has grown resentful of penguins after he had been shunned from every zoo in the world because of cute penguins.

Rico swallows Dave's collection of snowglobes along with a canister of a green substance called the Medusa Serum before the four escape and are chased through the canals and streets of Venice by Dave's henchmen. When cornered, they are rescued by a group of animals from an Arctic elite undercover interspecies task force agency called "The North Wind" consisting of their leader, a gray wolf whose name is Classified, (Skipper mistakenly refers to him as "Classified" throughout the entire film) a harp seal demolitionist named Short Fuse, a polar bear named Corporal, and an intelligent snowy owl named Eva with whom Kowalski is instantly smitten. Their mission is to help animals who can't help themselves.

At their hideout, their communication systems are hacked by Dave, who reveals that he has an enormous supply of the Medusa Serum and that he intends to capture the penguins out of every zoo he was kicked out of. Not wanting the penguins' help, Classified darts the group and sends the group to their most remote base (which happens to be on Madagascar) but the penguins awaken mid-flight and crash land in the Sahara Desert before making their way to Shanghai, which they mistake for Dublin, Ireland. Discovering Dave's next target in Shanghai using Dave's snowglobe collection, the penguins ship themselves to their current location and make their way to the zoo. Disguising himself as a mermaid-tailed penguin (a tourist attraction) to distract Dave from his real target, Private himself is captured along with the Shanghai penguins after the North Wind arrives to put a stop to Dave's plan. The penguins take the North Wind's high-tech plane to give chase, but accidentally self-destruct the machine. They manage to track Private to an island though, using a device planted on him when Classified darted them before planting them in a flight to Madagascar. Meanwhile, on the island, Dave demonstrates his way to genetically mutate the penguins into hideous monsters as an effort to make humans disgusted by them as revenge.

Skipper and Classified argue on the best means to rescue the captives and stop Dave, settling on Classified's plan of a frontal assault and Skipper agrees to act as a diversion. The North Wind manages to corner Dave in his lair only to be captured by Dave's henchmen as well as the other penguins. Dave demonstrates his mutation ray at full power on Private, apparently disintegrating him with the beam, but unbeknownst to them he escapes at the last minute by using a paper clip he swallowed earlier. Private rescues the North Wind members, who want to regroup due to lack of equipment, but Private, not wanting to leave anyone behind goes to stop Dave. As Dave's submarine docks at New York with the promise of returning the penguins he found to the zoo, he turns the ray on the rest of the penguins, mutating them all into hideous monsters. The city erupts into chaos as the brainwashed, mutated penguins run amok on the terrified human crowd. Getting the senses back into Skipper, Kowalski and Rico, cute Private decides to connect himself into the ray to return them to normal. They turn all the penguins back to normal in one huge blast.

Private is left mutated from the machine while the rest of the penguins are restored to normal. Despite his strange new look, the Penguins show their gratitude and new-found respect for Private. Dave (who was caught in the blast) has been turned into a pipsqueak version of himself and is trapped in a snow globe where he is admired by a little girl. 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 jet packs and they 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 into the ray and use him to revert Private back to normal. Mort does not appear to show any side effects from the ray until he manages to swallow King Julien whole, much to King Julien's delight.


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 initially planned for 2009.[20] The studio announced in March 2011 that the penguin characters would be given their own feature film 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.[21][22]

At the July 2012 Comic-Con, DreamWorks Animation announced that the film, titled The Penguins of Madagascar, would be released in 2015.[23] 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.[24] In early September 2012, 20th Century Fox, the studio's new distributor, and DreamWorks Animation announced a release date of March 27, 2015, and a new pair of writers, Michael Colton and John Aboud.[25] Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich joined the cast in August 2013.[1] Malkovich, who had been offered the role of Dr. Octavius Brine three and a half years before the film's release, told an audience at the July 2014 Comic-Con that he thought that it "was a funny idea" 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, date, switching places with DreamWorks Animation's other film Home.[26] 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 was to 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.[27] The film was released two weeks earlier in China, on November 14, 2014.[28]

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.[29] A four-issue comic book series based on the film was published by Titan Comics. Written by Alex Matthews and drawn by Lucas Fereyra.[30]

Home media

Penguins of Madagascar was released on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on March 17, 2015.[31] It topped the home video sales chart in its first week.[32]


Box office

As of May 2015, Penguins of Madagascar had grossed $83.4 million in North America and $290.2 million in foreign countries for a worldwide total of $373.6 million.[9] The film's production budget was $132 million, which, according to the DreamWorks Animation's president Ann Dally, excluded "incentive-based compensation."[8] By the end of 2014, the studio had to take a $57.1 million write-down, primarily related to the performance of Penguins of Madagascar and another DreamWorks Animation's film Mr. Peabody & Sherman.[15][33]

Penguins of Madagascar was released on November 26, 2014 in North America and Canada across 3,764 theatres. It earned $6.25 million on its opening day and $3.95 million the next day on Thanksgiving Day.[34] It earned $10.5 million on Black Friday.[35][36] The film underperformed during its opening weekend earning $25.4 million and debuting at #2 at the box office behind The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 for which 3D accounted for 24% of its opening weekend gross.[37] The opening-weekend audience was evenly split among those under and over the age of 25, with 58% and female accounted 51%. In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave Penguins of Madagascar an average grade of A- on an A+ to F scale.[38]

The film was released in China on November 14,[28] 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).[39] In its opening weekend, the film earned $36.5 million from 47 markets.[40] Overall, the top openings were in Russia ($8.2 million), Korea ($6 million), Italy ($4.63 million), Germany ($4.2 million) and Australia ($3.68 million).[41][42] The film's opening in Germany was the second-highest for an animated film in 2014, behind How to Train Your Dragon 2.[41]

Critical response

As of July 2015, the film reflected a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 103 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's consensus was "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."[43] On Metacritic, the film achieved a score of 53 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[44]

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."[45] 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."[46] 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."[47] 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."[48]

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."[49] 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."[50] 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."[51]

Awards and nominations

List of awards and nominations
Award/Film Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
42nd Annie Awards[52] Outstanding Achievement for Animated Effects in an Animated Production Mitul Patel, Nicolas Delbecq, Santosh Khedkar and Yash Argawal Nominated
Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation in an Animated Feature Production Ravi Kamble Nominated
Outstanding Achievement for Character Design in an Animated Feature Production Craig Kellman, Joe Moshier, Stevie Lewis and Todd Kurosawa Nominated
51st Cinema Audio Society Awards[53] Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Motion Picture - Animated Tighe Sheldon, Paul N.J. Ottosson, Dennis Sands and Randy K. Singer Nominated
28th Kids' Choice Awards[54] Favorite Animated Movie Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith Nominated
11th St. Louis Film Critics Association Awards[55] Best Animated Film Nominated


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,[56] making it his first solo debut in a DreamWorks Animation film. Balfe wrote the additional music for the previous two Madagascar films and helped Madagascar composer Hans Zimmer with the score for Megamind. The soundtrack was released on November 25, 2014, by Relativity Music Group.[56] Relativity also released an EP, Penguins of Madagascar: Black & White Christmas Album, which featured five holiday songs.[56]

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

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.[57]


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