For director Eric Darnell, working with such a star-studded and talented cast was reason enough for making the film. He explains, We just give these guys a chance to do what they do best—to just become these characters and let stuff come out. We just get incredible, hilarious—and sometimes touching—stuff. You know, its the best seat in town. Theres no place youd rather be than on the other side of the glass during a recording session. Its better than any theater or playhouse.
For Marty the zebra, as embodied by Chris Rock, this time around its about connecting with his roots. Crash landing on the mainland of Africa may, at first glance, look like a big problem. But for someone whos never actually met any other of his own kind, having lived the majority of his life in the Central Park Zoo, it turns out to be a dream come true.
Chris Rock says, There are people in this world who always think that theres something bigger and better than what they got. Not that Marty doesnt appreciate his friends and all that, but he has it in his head that running with his kind is the ultimate. I mean, it stands to reason—hes a rockin guy, so why wouldnt the party be even better if he was surrounded by a lot of other cool dudes who share his interests?
On the surface, that logic holds true. The old adage of the more, the merrier. But really, everybody looking, acting, sounding exactly like you?
Rock adds, Its like, if your best friend starts acting like you—dressing like you do, talking like you. At first, its probably an ego booster, right, imitation and flattery, whatever. But then, it would start to get irritating and pretty soon youd probably start considering the use of a firearm. Now take that and multiply it by hundreds—all of em acting exactly like Marty. No wonder the guy has a breakdown. How are you you when everyone else is you as well?
Gloria the hippo has no issues with her individuality and self-worth. Shes well aware of who she is—shes self-confident, sassy and sweet.
Jada Pinkett Smith was enthusiastic to return the character she originated in Madagascar: That film was the first movie of mine my kids could actually watch. Also, I think its always important for women to see various images of themselves and understand that its all about what you project from the inside out. Gloria has so much confidence and really just loves who she is. I would hope both films send a message to young girls that its about how you perceive yourself thats really important. In this movie, I get to have fun, and also maybe send a little message.
Having been to Africa with her husband and family, Pinkett Smith is awestruck by the country: Africa is a very hard place to describe. Its almost more of a feeling that it gives you versus any observation of it. I mean, its magnificently beautiful—I actually went on a safari. My husband says it better than I ever can when he says, God visits every place else in the worldbut actually lives in Africa. And thats the only way I can really explain it—its very spiritual, and you just feel very rooted.
As a lot of Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa deals with roots and identity, it is probably expected that moviegoers will get to see a glimpse of the characters as baby animals. And who better to play a baby Gloria than Pinkett Smiths own daughter, Willow Smith?
Filmmakers were impressed with Willows self-assurance and sass, something she shares with her mother. Like her mother, the recording sessions also proved to be a playground for fun. Willow Smith reasons, Because the lineslike if we mess up, its really, really fun, because I laugh, and then they laughand then its really fun.
The New York castaways arent the only animals who leave the island of Madagascar and inadvertently land on the African savanna—the party-loving leader of the lemurs, King Julien, also comes along for the ride. And since no king can function without an attendant, the royal right-hand man—the kings own cousin, Maurice—accompanies his majesty. Voiced again with the easygoing baritone of Cedric The Entertainer, the character proves a wonderful counterpoint to the sometimes frantic Julien.