THE ART OF PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR

PrintE-mail Written by Peter Turner

BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR / AUTHOR: BARBARA ROBERTSON / PUBLISHER: TITAN BOOKS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

The Art of Penguins of Madagascar is another generous helping of concept art, character design, and backstories, illustrations and inspirations from publisher Titan Books. With an abundance of storyboards, digital imagery and behind the scenes peeks from Dreamworks’ spin-off from the Madagascar trilogy, this is a must have for fans of the mischievous black and white spy birds.

Penguins of Madagascar is a CG adventure-comedy that brings four minor characters from the Madagascar films to the forefront of their very own spin-off feature film. Waddling and flapping their way into mishaps and adventure, these penguins are spies on a mission, forced to team up with a rival group of covert operatives to take down a sinister villain. Brought to life by the studio behind the Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda franchises, Penguins of Madagascar sees Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private teaming up with the North Wind to stop Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world.

With a brief foreword from voice actor and Madagascar director Tom McGrath, The Art of Penguins of Madagascar fails to come close to capturing the excitement that anyone might be feeling at having a Penguins spin-off movie on the way to cinemas. McGrath introduces the book by explaining how when he was directing the first Madagascar film, the Penguin characters were nearly excised early on but eventually made their way into the final cut. From there, the rest is history as the Penguins have appeared in all three Madagascar films, only for a total of under 9 minutes across the entire trilogy, but have become arguably more beloved than the starry-voiced central quartet.

Author Barbara Robertson has certainly done her research, interviewing key creative collaborators behind the film and interweaving their knowledge of the process of making the Penguins movie into her prose. Covering the characters, from the Penguins to their rivals the North Wind and their antagonist Dr. Octavius, the book is filled with sketches, early designs and revealing information about their geneses. This being a jet-setting global spy adventure, the locations are also covered in great depth from Venice to New York and various other settings. Key sequences such as a chase through the Venice canals are also broken down in more detail, revealing a greater sense of the madcap spirit of the film, as well as the hard work that goes in to creating these animations.

With these ‘Art of...’ books, the importance of the illustrations cannot be underestimated. The Art of Penguins of Madagascar is full to the brim with pictures but there is nothing truly awe-inspiring here. Clearly aimed at children, the penguins are an uninspiring bunch in terms of design and many of the real world locations are well-designed but lack the interest of a fully imaginative and invented CG world.

If the movie is a silly spin-off, then this book knows it’s also a cash-in. The film might be fun and the book is filled with interesting snatches of detail, but as a book about the art of Penguins of Madagascar, the images inside just aren’t that interesting. Animation buffs may be amused but most kids and adults alike will probably just want to stick with watching the film.
 

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