Madagascar appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I’ve come to essentially expect perfect transfers of CG animated films, and that’s what I got with the stunning visuals for Madagascar.
An “A+” grade implies I couldn’t find any problems, and that was the case here. Sharpness looked amazing. At all times, it boasted concise, detailed images without a hint of softness. I also noticed no jagged edges, shimmering, or edge enhancement. Try to find any source flaws and you’ll fail, for the transfer always looked clean and fresh.
With its jungle settings and other natural landscapes, Madagascar boasted a wide palette of colors. From start to finish, the DVD replicated them with terrific vivacity and liveliness. The tones were consistently vibrant and dynamic; they leapt off the screen at times. Blacks were tight and dense, while shadows looked smooth and clean. This was a truly excellent transfer.
Although the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Madagascar didn’t live up to those levels, it worked just fine. No issues related to quality occurred. Speech was always natural and concise, with good intelligibility and no edginess or brittleness. Effects were detailed and accurate. They presented nice range and heft when appropriate. Music seemed bouncy and lively as well, and the score also showed good warmth.
The soundfield was good but unexceptional. Much of the time it concentrated on general ambience, though some scenes kicked into higher gear. Scenes on the boat or during a storm were involving, and a few other action-oriented bits also came to life well. These weren’t frequent elements, though, so expect a track that stayed moderately subdued much of the time. Nonetheless, it was active enough to merit a “B+”, and the soundscape seemed more than suitable for this flick.
Heading to the extras, we open with an audio commentary from directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. They discuss basics such as visual design, casting and working with the actors, animation specifics and challenges, and story development and changes. Darnell and McGrath cover a variety of rudimentary topics with decent exposition and that’s about it. We end up with some decent information but nothing terribly memorable. Though intermittently useful, the commentary just seems too dull to succeed.
For a mini-commentary we go to Penguin Chat. This eight-minute and 42-second clip includes in-character comments from Skipper, Kowalski and Private. Though the penguins provide some of the movie’s most amusing moments, this isn’t a terribly entertaining piece. It has some mildly funny comments but never quite lives up to its potential.
Animation goof-ups appear in the 90-second Mad Mishaps. This showcases a number of rendering problems. We’ve seen similar features on other DVDs. These are freaky and moderately interesting.
We get a look at the actors during the seven-minute and 46-second Meet the Wild Cast. It presents comments from Darnell, McGrath, producer Mireille Soria, head of character animation Rex Grignon, character TD co-supervisor Rob Vogt, production designer Kendal Cronkhite, and actors Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Chris Miller, Cedric the Entertainer and Andy Richter. They chat about the characters and we also get a few notes about animation and performances. Don’t expect much of that material, though, as this program mostly acts as a promotional recap to entice folks to see the movie. It’s not very interesting.
The DVD’s most substantial featurette, Behind the Crates goes for 23 minutes and 14 seconds. It offers the usual mix of behind the scenes bits, movie clips and interviews. We get remarks from McGrath, Darnell, Stiller, Rock, Smith, Soria, Schwimmer, Richter, Cedric, Cronkhite, Vogt, Grignon, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, lead character design Craig Kellman, art director Shannon Jeffries, character TD co-supervisor Milana Huang, model maker Facundo Rabaudi, animator Nick Craven, visual FX supervisor Philippe Gluckman, coproducer Teresa Cheng, head of FX Scott Singer, and actor Conrad Vernon.
We get a story/character recap and then find notes about the movie’s look and design, the animation style, creating the art and bringing the roles to life, recording the vocal performances, and effects animation. The show acts as a minor glimpse of the various issues. It remains relentlessly promotional, as it gives us quick tidbits but nothing that adds up to much depth. At least it renders the “Wild Cast” featurette superfluous, as it covers the same information here.
More information pops up in the four-minute and 58-second The Tech of Madagascar. We hear from Darnell, Gluckman, Grignon, Singer, McGrath, head of global FX Nick Foster, director of research and development Jim Mainard, and chief technology officer Ed Leonard. As expected, they delve into the issues involved in creating the CG animation. Some of this appears elsewhere, and the show’s too short for much real information, but it acts as a good overview.
Next comes the seven-minute and 49-second Enchanted Island. It includes comments from Katzenberg, Darnell, Rabaudi, Stiller, Soria, and Conservation International president Dr. Russell A. Mittermeier. This features a few notes about the real Madagascar, but then it quickly degenerates into another promotional piece to tout the movie. It repeats movie-related information found elsewhere, so we don’t get much fresh material.
In the Cast and Filmmaker Biographies area, we find listings for actors Stiller, Rock, Schwimmer, Smith, Cedric, Richter, and Sacha Baron Cohen, directors Darnell and McGrath, producer Soria, co-producer Cheng, writers Mark Burton and Billy Frolick, composer Hans Zimmer, editor H. Lee Peterson, production designer Cronkhite, visual effects supervisor Gluckman, head of character animation Grignon, head of layout Ewan Johnson, and art director Jeffries. These mostly act as annotated filmographies. They give us minor details about the participants.
More text appears via some Production Notes. These provide some story and technical basics. We’ve already heard most of the same information elsewhere, but a few new elements emerge here.
In the Galleries, we break down into a few geographical spots. “New York” gives us a look at “Paintings” (33 frames), “Zoo Animals” (28), “Grand Central Props” (8), “City Props” (12), “Zoo Props” (26), and “Subway Props” (9). “The Ship” offers “Paintings” (13) and “Ship Props” (21). Finally, “Madagascar” includes “Paintings” (49), “Lemur Life” (19), “Plane Props” (18), “Fruit and Foliage” (26), “Marty’s Pad” (28), and “Zoosters Jungle” (27). These are quite interesting. The paintings show lavish concept art, while the others afford detailed examinations of many small elements.
One big attraction on this DVD will be a new cartoon. Called The Penguins in A Christmas Caper, it fills 12 minutes and 10 seconds. In it, the Private tries to help spread some Christmas cheer. When he goes missing, the others search for him. It’s an amusing piece.
Under the “DreamWorks Kids” banner we find a few additional components. A music video for “I Like to Move It, Move It” runs two minutes and 49 seconds. It runs the tune from the flick over dancing footage of the characters. Yeah, it’s as boring as it sounds.
“Games & Activities” includes six pieces. Equal Madagascar Trivia asks a number of questions based on your age level. That’s what the “bEqual” bit means: it tries to equalize question difficulty so kids can compete with adults. I only tried the adult questions and found them to be easy. For the record, they don’t directly address the movie. Be warned: this is a teaser to entice you to get a longer version of the game.
I suppose Learn to Draw should be self-explanatory. It leads kids step-by-step through the methods to draw Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman. Fossa Whack requires you to pelt those predators with coconuts. How well it works will depend on your DVD remote’s responsiveness; if it’s slow, you’re out of luck.
Matching Lemurs has you “help each lemur find their dream dance partner”. As long as you can see and press a couple buttons, this won’t be much of a challenge. Marty’s Birthday Wish is nothing more than a lame guessing game. Madagascar Symphony offers a similarly boring memory contest.
Crack the Code requires you to find some penguin-prints around the ship. When you get one, you’ll get a letter. Find all four and enter the code for a “prize”. This is a penguin-related game that ain’t worth the trouble, I’m afraid.
The DVD opens with some ads. We get previews for Over the Hedge, Wallace and Gromit In the Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and Curious George. The DVD’s Previews area also includes trailers for Shrek 2, Shark Tale, and Kicking and Screaming; the ones that start the disc don’t reappear here.
No one will mistake Madagascar for a great animated movie, but that shouldn’t negate its pleasures. The film manages just enough fun and entertainment to work. The DVD presents truly excellent visuals as well as very good audio. Some decent extras appear, but this is a case where more doesn’t equal better; the disc has a long list of supplements but most are forgettable. Despite that issue, this is still a fun flick that I recommend to animation fans.