While waiting in line for the DreamWorks panel, it became evident that it was not going to be a full house, which was a big of a disappointment because we were all anticipating BIG news from the company on the final day of New York Comic Con. And though BIG news never came, there was still lots of exciting stuff that moderator Susan Wioszcyna, Home director Tim Johnson, and Penguins of Madagascar co-directors Simon Smith and Eric Darnell shared with the enthusiastic crowd.
After screening this previously released trailer, Tim Johnson (who is an avid sci-fi reader) talked about the concept of making a spoof on the alien invasion on Earth story using The True Meaning of Smekday book as a jumping off point (later he also mentioned that he first came across the book when he Googled “Good read aloud books” to read to his kids). Then they screened the short film Almost Home, which illustrates the reason why the Boov’s (the alien species that invades earth in Home), are in search of a new home.
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) voices Oh, a misfit Boov whom tries eagerly to fit in with his fellow Boov’s on their newly acquired home on Earth when he meets Tip (played by Rihanna) and realizes that he has found a friend in the human race.
At the panel, Mr. Johnson described the Boov as being ultra sophisticated aliens who have a higher understanding of physics and the sciences so that when they arrive on Earth, they simply turn off gravity using bubbles (super high tech bubbles of course), and as the humans begin to float towards space, they peacefully concede to the invasion. The Boov’s then move all humans to a preserve in Australia. Through unclear circumstances, Tip is separated from her mother and is trying to reunite with her when she meets Oh and hilarity ensues.
Overall, the film seems like it will be a lovely fun fest. Nothing too logical, nor too methodical. While the animation that was screened looked beautiful and well done, the voice over acting provided by both Rihanna and Jim Parsons was a little underwhelming, though Parsons did have the upper hand if only because he seemed to be drawing a lot of influence from his character on The Big Bang Theory.
They also screened a good 5-6 minutes of the climax of the film, which showcased much of the animation and the character design that the animators worked very hard on. This clip consisted of Oh, now having become a Boov fugitive, and Tip evading the Boov’s in Paris, which is their Center Command on Earth.
While the chase scene was thrilling in nature, the one note that did not excite me, was that Rihanna would be doing quite a bit of the music for the film. Mr. Johnson did mention that she was working very closely with the musical composer as they were trying to make both her pop sound and his musical score weave together in a much more seamless fashion so as to not be jarring when the pop gets turned on. We shall see how that turns out.
On Penguins of Madagascar
While all of the material (minus the chase scene) from Home that was screened at the panel is available online, Penguins of Madagascar screened material that had not been released.
The first clip that co-directors Eric Darnell and Simon Smith shared with the crowd (which is still not available online), showed the penguins going on a mission to infiltrate the US gold reserve for the Private’s birthday…only to buy Cheezy Dibbles from a vending machine. While Private is attempting to buy Cheesy Dibbles, he becomes trapped inside the vending machine, and as the rest attempt to save him, they are all captured…………..
Dr. Octavious Brine aka Dave the octopus. A little backstory on Dave — I mean Dr. Octavious Brine: He used to be the pride of the Central Park Zoo until the Penguins came and took over the show. He was then cast aside, and transferred from zoo to zoo as cuter animals captured the attention and love of children everywhere. So he hatched a plan to become a bio-engineering genius and planned his revenge on the penguins. In order to stop Dr. Octavious in his evil plan, the penguins enlist the help of the Northwind and their main wolf Classified (Benedict Cumberbatch).
In addition to these clips, Mr. Smith and Mr. Darnell were kind enough to share with us the first 6 minutes of the film. Once again:
We begin with a voice over (Werner Herzog) describing the setting and the march of the penguins and their gentile and lovable nature. Enter our 3, yes 3 heroes, as children…toddlers…child penguins. Where all other penguins accept the march and the ways of nature, these three question everything. Particularly when they see an egg rolling down the hill and decide to save it only to come face to face with sea leopard. And so they erupt in typical Penguin shenanigans in order to save the egg which hatches when they land on a small drifting iceberg, casting them out to sea. And of course, the hatchling is Private.
While I personally have not been a consistent follower of the Madagascar franchise, I have to say, this film seems really fun and kind of original. Sure, there are some of the old gags, but the voice cast, which includes John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Werner Herzog, did a fantastic job of keeping the material fresh and funny. I may actually check this one out myself.