The lands of Madagascar
Stories & Ideas

Wed 07 May 2014

The lands of Madagascar

Animation Art Craft Film
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It's a mad, mad world when the animals escape from the zoo

Get ready for this fish out of water tale with our video of the DreamWorks crew explaining all the amazing worlds they animated for the film. Kendal Cronkhite (Production Designer), Tom McGrath & Eric Darnell (Directors) discuss the different worlds explored throughout the Madagascar films and how exploring real locations helped designers caricature the Madagascar world more realistically.


We definitely had a lot of different locations in all the Madagascar movies.  Each place had a different feel that also helped serve what we were trying to tell narratively. 

Since our character designs were very graphic, the world needed to be graphic. 

So we had this thing called the wack factor, where there were no parallel lines allowed.  Things had to be slightly askew and even the blades of grass are designed to work into that universe. 

We wanted our New Yorkers to be fish out of water as soon as they hit that beach of Madagascar.  As far as colour goes, we did a very monochromatic muted palette for New York and then the full colour spectrum in Madagascar.  We got really good at designing these landscaped jungle gardens where it was just layer after layer after layer of plant and you didn’t really see sky and then we got to Africa and it was a horizon line and nothing else.  When it came time to do Madagascar: Escape to Africa, we had to actually take the animals to Africa, it had a new whole set of challenges.  Jeffrey Katzenberg was adamant. He says, “You have to experience Africa,” and when we got there, we realised quickly that the sky was going to be half of our set because Africa is just this enormous landscape.  We cherry-picked the most beautiful aspects of Africa and brought them all together. 

For the third film we knew we wanted to complete this trilogy by getting them back to New York.  But of course, we had some adventures along the way.  The first place we knew we wanted to go to was Monte Carlo, because it’s so iconic and it has this 60’s Bond feel to it.  We knew our guys were going on a Bond-like caper.  We went to Monte Carlo and photographed every square inch of that place. 

Travelling through Europe, we wanted to get the flavour of Europe and the best way to caricature anything is to study what it’s like in real life.  Know what you’re caricaturing, know what you’re exaggerating, rather than just make it up because there’s a fundamental reality and a truth underneath this caricature of the world. 

So it was challenging but also gave us a chance to be in a more realistic environment on the streets of Monte Carlo and then an incredibly theatrical environment with the New Circus. 

We actually for the circus thought; “Oh, wouldn’t it be great to like, do something much more graphic and only something only animation can do?” 

We do a lot of dreams or hallucinations in Madagascar and this is kind of the ultimate version.