Directors on Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
October 17, 2012
IN the third instalment of the Madagascar franchise, Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman (David Schwimmer) are determined to make their way back to the Central Park Zoo in New York City.
Leaving Africa behind, they’ve taken a detour and surfaced, quite literally, in Europe — on a hunt for the penguins and chimps who have managed to break the bank of a Monte Carlo casino.
Here the film’s three directors talk about what audiences can expect from Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.
Q: Madagascar 3 is the first chapter to be filmed in 3D, why did you decide to do this now?
Eric Darnell: We realised, stylistically, we were already making 3D movies. Because of the films’ comedic tone, we were often doing things that put stuff out in front of the camera. Once we recognised that our cinematography and our comedy really lent themselves beautifully to the 3D world, we really didn’t have to change much of what we were doing. But taking our animals into a circus automatically gives us these wonderful opportunities — we’re moving not just across the surface of the earth, we’re moving up in the air, flipping, rolling and flying — to work in 3D, of course.
Tom McGrath: 3D just gives you so many more tools to work with. It’s immersive. You can underscore an emotional scene as much as you can the action.
Three directors working on one film is definitely not a traditional route. How did it work?
Darnell: With us, the sum is greater than the parts. Because we’re all enmeshed in this franchise and the tone of the film, it actually helps (having three directors working as a team) because I can go to New York and be recording Ben Stiller, Tom can be working with the production designers and the lighting department and Conrad can be directing animators’ work. Then we can all come back together and know that we’ve all been pushing the story and the film in the same direction because we are creatively joined at the hip.
McGrath: There’s a great rule of improv groups, which is ‘never change the subject in improv, you always say yes, and’. When one of us gets an idea for something, it’s great to collaborate and contribute and build on these ideas. That’s the group dynamic. At the end of the day we do have a combined vision for the film.
You've got some new characters in this film, including the steely-eyed, animalistic baddie, Capitaine Chantel DuBois, voiced by Frances McDormand. Can you tell us a bit about her?
McGrath: DuBois is the strongest villain our characters have come up against. In the first two films, the villains didn’t drive the action of the story, so to add that pressure on the characters and to have that conflict makes the story so much better.
Vernon: She has innate animal-tracking abilities: She has a really keen sense of smell, she’s very limber. She’s able to walk and sniff like a dog, she can jump like a gazelle. She definitely has talents that are very animalistic. Needless to say, she’s really good at being an animal tracker. She wants a real challenge.
Once she realises there’s a lion on the loose, this is the moment she has been waiting for. She wants to prove to herself that she’s more than just someone who hunts small game – that she can hunt a lion and play with the big boys so to speak. She truly enjoys being on the hunt and is going to stay at it until she gets him.
And how was McDormand playing the role?
Vernon: Frances is brilliant at coming up with characterisations from what she sees on the page. For every line that’s read, 50 ideas spring into her head about what this character is all about – how she talks, walks and thinks. She definitely got into the frame of mind.
You could see it on her face when she was acting. There were always the underpinnings of a hunter on the trail whenever she said anything. She never let that leave her head.
One of the talked about scenes in the film is the circus scene, set to Katy Perry's Firework – how did you go about putting that together?
Vernon: As research, we went to see Cirque du Soleil’s Iris, which was amazing. We took pieces of our circus that we really like and asked ourselves, how do we update this? How do we do something circuses have never done, while using animation in a unique way? That was tough, because Cirque du Soleil can do so much. You know, I saw a girl laying down on her chest, running around her own head – stuff that’s a cartoon, basically. We had to say, ‘okay, we need to one-up them.’
Darnell: The wonderful thing about the circus is you’re not grounded. You’ve got a whole three-dimensional space to move in. In the computer, you don’t have to bring in a crane or a dolly or a helicopter. You can just move that camera wherever you need to in order to get the shot you need, so the circus became this wonderful canvas to create this eye-popping 3D. It fits in with that whole conceit.
What is it do you think that is so appealing about the Madagascar films?
Vernon: They’ve (the Zoosters) have always been adept at getting out of sticky situations to great comic effect, but never more so than in this film, where their lives are in danger and they’re forced to hide with the circus.
What takes it to a whole different level is how they make the best of their situation, not only making new friends and discovering new talents but, ultimately, using their circumstances to get them home.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is in cinemas from Friday October 19, certificate PG.