On Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, DreamWorks Animation held its annual preview of material from its upcoming cartoon output, which this year means we watched fresh scenes from both Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and mythological adventure Rise Of The Guardians.
As you might expect from a Madagascar entry, there’s plenty of the usual hijinks, with lion Alex (Ben Stiller), zebra Marty (Chris Rock), hippo Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith, who showed up to help introduce the footage) and giraffe Melman (David Schwimmer) showing up in Monte Carlo on the trail of the ever-troublesome penguins. After (literally) crashing a casino event, they find themselves, along with the chimps and King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) on the run from driven animal control officer Captaine Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand).
We got to see a frenetic chase through the streets of the city (some of which you can see in the trailer, below), chock full of crazed moments and physics-defying stunts (DuBois, in particular, is ridiculously tough for a human).
Eventually, they give her the slip and in another scene, our heroes board a circus train that is home to various performing animals. Russian tiger Vitaly (Bryan Cranston) is very much against the new arrivals, while jaguar Gia (Jessica Chastain) and wacky Italian sea lion Sefano (Martin Short) are more welcoming.
Also shown was a much less finished sequence showing the results of Alex and co trying to reinvent the stodgy circus (that has been bought by the penguins and chimps with their casino gambling winnings, which sadly also represent penguin Private’s college fund) and putting on an elaborate, Cirque Du Soleil influenced new show. While the 3D wasn’t yet in place, we predict it’ll look pretty spiffy.
But even more anticipated was Rise Of The Guardians, which has, as director Peter Ramsey put it, been “flying under the radar for three years.” While a couple of posters and some concept art have given a glimpse of the characters, this was the first proper look at footage. And it did not underwhelm.
Based on William Joyce’s novel series, Guardians charts a new mythology for icons such as Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and Jack Frost. Revolving around disaffected fantasy figure Jack, the plot finds him unwillingly joining his peers when the dark bogeyman Pitch threatens to spread fear and stop the world’s children believing in the bringers of joy and wonder.
The characters include North (Alec Baldwin), the Father Christmas figure who does deliver toys and lives among elves, but actually uses yetis to make his toys (and provide strong arm security) and Bunnymund (Hugh Jackman, sporting his actual Aussie accent for once) who is friends with North but considers Easter superior.
There's also fairy leader Tooth (Isla Fisher) who takes lost teeth and stores them safely for kids, replacing them with money and Sandy, who doesn’t speak, but gets his wise and sometimes funny message across with sand imagery. Jack (Chris Pine) reluctantly tags along when Pitch (Jude Law, cackling and cunning as a British villain) plots against them all.
Guardians has employed Joyce’s style and features a script from Rabbit Hole writer David Lindsay-Abaire, who is also something of a comic book fanatic. It shows, because the scenes we saw (including Jack’s introduction and his first meeting with the team) had a definite sense of blending superhero tropes with fantasy in a slightly Neil Gaimanesque fashion. There’s a palpable sense of magic, especially when you watch Sandy drift through cities spreading dreams with his golden sand.
The trailer, which we got to view in 3D, will be arriving in cinemas within a few weeks and should be online around the same time.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted will be out on October 19 here (and June 8 in the States), with Rise Of The Guardians following on November 30 (November 21 across the pond).
For more from the directors and producers of both movies, flick your peepers across our blog about the event.