Madagascar (2005)
Dreamworks Home Entertainment
Cast: Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Andy Richter
Extras: Audio Commentary, Behind-The-Scenes Featurettes, Still Galleries, Interactive Games & Activities, Previews

Simple, yet totally adorable and original animated film from the studio that brought us the beloved "Shrek", "Madagascar" introduces us to the likes of Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller) who is the star attraction at New York's Central Park Zoo. Living with his best pal Marty the Zebra (Chris Rock), who is content with his surroundings but is rather obsessed with the idea of life beyond the perimeter of the zoo. Alex and Marty's other pals include; Melman the hilariously hypochondriac Giraffe (David Schwimmer) and the adorable, often mother-like Gloria the Hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith). One evening after the zoo is closed; Marty allows curiosity to get the best of him, deciding to venture away from his comfort zone of his friends and not to mention regular meals, to seek out the natural setting of Connecticut via New York's subway system! When Alex realizes that Marty has left the zoo, he frantically gathers Melman and Gloria to help track down the investigative Zebra. With the trio heading through the streets of New York on their quest to reach Grand Central Station, they soon meet up with Marty, just in time for the authorities to catch up with them, deciding to send all of these urbanized animals off to a more appropriate locale. Joining the group on their journey, is none other than the crazy group of misfit penguins from the same zoo, who utilize hilarious tactics to seize control of the container ship, sending them all on an adventure they won't soon forget.

Dreamworks Home Entertainment works their magic once more by providing a truly solid transfer of the digital delight "Madagascar". Rich and vibrant colors with the perfect amount of saturation, mixed with exquisitely deep blacks, meld to produce magnificent details while maintaining good contrast throughout the presentation. Honestly, there is not much to say about the transfer of "Madagascar", it is simply top-notch reference quality material. An impeccable exhibition that is void of any visible dust, dirt particles or compression whatsoever, a real pleasure for the eyes.

For sound options, "Madagascar" gives you a choice between Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 mixes (with French 5.1 or Spanish 2.0 tracks also available on the DVD). Staying true to the visual presentation, the 5.1 soundtrack is also an absolute enjoyment. Exhibiting a good balanced sound stage, with natural vocal reproduction helps in capturing the terrific performances from the cast, bringing these individual digital characters to life.

Dreamworks has produced a terrific amount of fun and interesting value added materials that are included with this release of "Madagascar" on DVD. First up is a feature length audio commentary featuring both directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell. A neat section for the youngsters in your family titled "Dreamworks Kids" that presents an assortment of games and activities, with separate DVD-Rom content and the music of "I Like to Move It, Move It".

The dedicated "Special Features" section includes a good assortment of featurettes including; "Mad Mishaps", that showcases various production and technical animation flubs from the feature presentation. "Meet the Wild Cast" introduces us to the main characters and the voices behind them, offering some hilarious input from Ben Stiller and Chris Rock. "Behind the Crates" is a short behind-the-scenes featurette that also takes us into the studio, highlighting the techniques involved in matching the vocal talent contributions to the animated visual content.

"The Tech of Madagascar" is geared towards individuals wishing to go behind-the-scenes to seek out the technical magic that brings "Madagascar" to life. This featurette introduces us to just a fraction of the vast army of animators, who created the fantastic visuals and digital characters for the film, which proves to be just as entertaining as it is informative.

There is also a short segment titled "Penguin Chat" featuring the mischievous group of penguins from the film. A full text section that is separated into "Cast", "Filmmakers" and "Production Notes" provides you with even more information on the production. The "Galleries" section is also split into three categories; "New York", "The Ship" and "Madagascar" and offers viewers a chance to explore still photos of various production designs and props.

One of the best special features included is "Enchanted Island", which takes you to the real island of Madagascar, delving just slightly into everything from the early beginnings of the island to the exotic climate and various species that inhabit this truly special mini-continent that provided the backdrop for this animated spectacle.

"Crack the Code" is a cool special feature that will have viewers searching for various "clues", in the form of letters spread throughout the menus section. Once you have gathered the various letters, you head over to the "Crack the Code" section and arrange the letters to spell out the answer to a trivia question. The reward for the correct answer is a neat little interactive penguin game. Although a bit tedious, if you wish to discover what this entire DVD has to offer, it's worth the time. This feature is sure to be appreciated by more than just the younger members of the family.

Last, but especially not least, "Madagascar" features the hilariously entertaining animated short "The Penguins in a Christmas Caper" that is a must to view if you want to continue the laughs brought on by the feature presentation, need I say more?

With CGI animated films becoming more and more commonplace and looking back at how mind blowing it was to see "Toy Story" for the first time, when it was released some ten years ago! This style of animation continues to evolve every day from the vast amount of technical enhancements constantly being developed. From minute detailing of facial movement and hair textures visible on the main animal characters, to the use of over 11,000 individually animated Lemurs that fill one complete scene, all with separate movement and characteristics, you really can't help but admire the countless hours involved in bringing a production like this together. With some CGI animation presentations appearing a little dry in overall presentation, "Madagascar" delivers, not just with the stunning imagery, but also with the great chemistry felt between all of the vocal talent involved. Dreamworks has certainly raised the bar once more with their fantastic presentation of "Madagascar".