Animal rescuers go undercover in circus

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 July, 2012, 12:00am


One-hit wonders, Reel 2 Real, struck gold in Europe with the single I Like to Move It in 1993. But they probably didn't foresee the song's resurgence in popularity in 2005 thanks to four zoo animals.

The Madagascar franchise popularised - even etched into animation history - the hook, and created a phenomenon after the Zoosters began to boogie to the reggae-dance beat. Now Alex and company are back for Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - and, yes, they still like to 'move it, move it'.

Madagascar 3 picks up where its predecessor ended. Operation Penguin Extraction was meant to be simple: swoop into Monte Carlo Casino and hijack the penguins, so Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith), could go back to New York's Central Park Zoo.

But the Zoosters don't bargain on crazed French animal control officer, Chantel Dubois (Frances McDormand) who is determined to hang Alex's head on her trophy wall.

'[This] is the moment she has been waiting for,' says co-director Conrad Vernon. 'She wants to prove to herself that she's more than just someone who hunts small game - that she can hunt a lion.'

Soon the gang is on the run in Europe and, after narrowly escaping Dubois' clutches, they try to hide out by joining a circus troupe that may be heading to New York.

All they have to do is make a favourable impression on an American promoter at an upcoming show. But the big problem is the troupe has lost its lustre: it's up to Alex and the gang to reinvent their act, and get home.

The filmmakers took inspiration for the circus part of the plot from Cirque du Soleil's Iris - a 'fairground attraction' show which uses acts, such as the trampoline, trapeze and hand balancing.

Most Wanted makes use of film techniques such as dissolves, slow-motion and fades to heighten the excitement of the action. Animation also gave the directors freedom to move freely as they filmed - without any of the restrictions of live-action movies.

'[With a] computer, you don't have to bring in a crane or a dolly [a camera trolley] or a helicopter,' says Eric Darnell, co-director and co-writer. 'You can just move that camera wherever you need to, in order to get the shot, so the circus became this wonderful canvas to create this eye-popping 3D.'

Madagascar 3 is the first in the franchise to be filmed three-dimensionally - and it perfectly suits the tone of the film, Darnell says: 'We realised, stylistically, we were already making 3D movies,' he says. 'Once we recognised that, our cinematography and comedy really lent themselves beautifully to the 3D world. We didn't have to change much of what we were doing.'

Opens on Thursday