Madagascar is a successful 2005 computer-animated comedy produced by DreamWorks Animation. The movie is about four friends- Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the giraffe - who live in New York's Central Park Zoo. Since they have lived their whole life in the zoo, they are unaware of what the wilderness is like or the fact that Alex is their natural predator (he believes the natural role of lions is to perform song-and-dance numbers). After they are shipped off to a wildlife reserve for escaping, they become shipwrecked on the coast of Madagascar. There they meet a society of lemurs and Alex's true nature starts to emerge.In late 2008 a sequel titled Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa came out. The sequel takes place shortly after the first movie. The penguins fix a crashed airplane and the zoo animals (plus King Julien and Maurice) try to fly back to New York but run out of fuel (or perhaps more accurately, run out of plane) and crash. They land in a wildlife reserve and discover not only that there are others like them, but the lion pride in charge is Alex's family.A third film titled Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted came out June 8, 2012. The animals are still trying to find a way back to New York, and end up journeying to Europe, where they find help in a traveling circus. While dodging a fanatical animal control officer, they help make the circus a spectacular success as a means to an end of getting to America.The Madagascar series has received mixed to positive reception when it comes to critics and fans alike.note The first film earned a 55% on Rotten Tomatoes. The second one earned a 64%. The third one earned a 79%. With each film, the critical reviews became considerably better (although the second one is a bit of a Contested Sequel within the fanbase), ending with the third one as the best reviewed of the series. It should be noted that Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted narrowly beat out Pixar'sBrave on the Tomato-Meter in 2012 with a solid 79%.There is a new film in the works that will be focusing on the adventures of the penguins themselves.There have also been two Christmas Specials: the short film A Christmas Caper (set before the first movie) and the TV special Merry Madagascar (set between the first and second movies). A Valentine's Day TV special, Madly Madagascar, has been announced as well. Like with many animation properties, a series of tie-in games exists.The series is notable for featuring the voices of comedians Chris Rock and Ben Stiller, as well as Friends alumnus David Schwimmer. On March 29, 2009 a Spinoff called The Penguins of Madagascar premiered on Nickelodeon. It takes place in Central Park Zoo and most notably features the penguins, lemurs, and chimps. The main cast do not make appearances in the series though Alex has a cameo in one of the specials as Skipper's spirit guide
The Madagascar films provide examples of the following tropes:
In Europe's Most Wanted, the circus animals realise Alex had been lying to them about "Trapeze Americano", whereupon Stefano even says "you're name's not really Alex!". Which is technically true according to Escape 2 Africa.
Actually Stefano is saying "Alice", as part of his Italian accent gag. So yes, Alex is not really Alice.
MusicalForeshadowing: The first time Gia appears at the door of the boxcar (when Alex says they're circus), a musical snippet of their love theme, "Love Always Comes As a Surprise", plays, and just before this when Alex is trying to convince Vitaly to let them on, a snatch of his theme song "Light the Hoop on Fire" which is heard in its entirety during his Backstory scene, plays.
Carnivore Confusion: Invoked in the first film, where Alex's nature as a lion comes out the longer he goes without food, eventually causing him to turn on Marty, Gloria and Melman. In the sequels the issue is never brought up again, as Alex finds out he can get by on seafood.
Cool Old Lady: The little old woman from the first movie, who beats up a lion while everyone else is running in terror. She returns in the second, and actually contrives to become even more dangerous. She is present in the penguins' special, too, but lacking Alex she has no fighting scene.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Marty (the zebra), Gloria (the hippo) and Skipper (the penguin) all manage to get crap past the radar over the course of the movies.
The HELP message having the "p" fall down to spell out HELL.
When 'landing' the plane in the second movie, Skipper has this exchange with Rico:
Skipper: Rico, you've had your fun. Pull up. Gear down. Gently. You just want to kiss the ground. Just a peck, a smooch, like you'd kiss your sister. (Rico slams the landing wheel into the ground so hard that it snaps off) Skipper:(irritated) I said kiss it!
During the Meadow Run scene, when Marty realizes that Alex is livid, he says "oh" followed by a drawn out "sh" sound, which turns into "sugar". This appears to merely be something of a Last-Second Word Swap, unless you notice that he says "Sugar Honey Ice Tea."
Meaningful Echo: Alex says to Marty, "I'm thinking of a song. It's a wonderful song. I think you're familiar with it." Then after singing, the first verse of New York, New York, Alex says, "C'mon, you know the words. Two little words." Later, Marty says and does the same thing after he tells Alex, who is on the fossa side of the island so that he can protect Marty and the others from himself, that he's not leaving without him.
It becomes a Tranqed Mid Sentence, and he hams it up with an imitation Russian accent, but it's still pretty meaningful when Alex echoes Vitaly's Badass Boast: "We go back and we show them how wrong we were...and if we go down in flames...so be it!" (The first part also echoes Alex's intended rebuke for the penguins in Monte Carlo, "show them how wrong they were (for leaving us)".)
Meaningful Name: According to the November 2008 issue of National Geographic Kids, "Moto Moto" in an African language (they didn't say which one, possibly Swahili) does mean "hot hot".
Vitaly's name is one letter away from "vital" and he is The Heart of the circus. "As Vitaly goes, so does the circus."
Mundane Made Awesome: Good God, the Penguins are so full of this it's ridiculous. Wait, that was the whole point, wasn't it?
Mushroom Samba: Alex has two of them when he is shot in the hand by a tranquilizer dart.
Nice Hat: King Julien consistently makes himself bigger and more garish crowns with leaves, small animals, carved wood, flamingo feathers... anything. What he does with the old ones is unknown. In the first movie he has two different crowns and in the second he changes between three different crowns.
Melman and Gloria have a substantial amount of lines and screen time in the third film, but the story mostly focuses on Alex and the circus folk, with the Penguins, Julien, and the police having their own subplots.
Talking to crowd: What does that do? Excellent question. First, my sacrifice goes in the volcano. Then, the friendly gods eat up my sacrifice. As water god: Mmm, very nice. Thank you for the sacrifice. As Julien: Here, have another sacrifice. As water god: No, I've had enough for today. As Julien: Listen, I'm going to be very insulted if you don't take another. As water god: I don't want another sacrifice, okay? As Julien: But look at you! You look skinny! As water god: No! I've had enough! Is that clear?
Gia's shooting down of Alex's somewhat delusional belief the circus animals saw him as an intimidating leader partakes of this too.
The sequel takes it Up to Eleven with references and gags the target audience couldn't possibly get, including Shout Outs to The Twilight Zone, West Side Story, and there's even a slightly troubling joke about Mort trying to get scissors and hand cream through airport security...
Prequel: A Christmas Caper takes place before the first movie.
Again to Planet of the Apes in the second movie, Skipper says he's so happy at the monkey he could kiss him. Monkey: All right, but you're just so darned ugly." and casually smooches him, to Skipper's surprise.
Strange Minds Think Alike: In A Christmas Caper, after Private runs off, Skipper tells his men to think about the Penguin Credo. Kowalski thinks that he is referring to "Never bathe in hot oil and bisquick." Later, when the penguins find Private again, Skipper tells him to remember the Penguin Credo, and he replies "What does swimming in bisquick have to do with anything?"
In the third movie, both DuBois and Vitaly comment on Alex's "glossy mane".
Ascended Extra: The little old lady from the first movie plays an important role in the second.
Black Comedy: In the first film, Marty, Melman, and Gloria try to save a duckling after witnessing a mouse get attacked by a snake and carried off by a hawk. When they take the duckling to a nearby lake, a crocodile swoops up and swallows him whole.
Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: "The fossa. They're always annoying us by trespassing, interrupting our parties, and ripping our limbs off."
Carnivore Confusion: Alex's arc in the first movie is an interesting take on this - Alex grew up in the zoo and has eaten steak his entire life, so he never learned to hunt and never realized Marty was "made of steak", so to speak. When he hasn't eaten for a couple days, his instincts kick in and he has a hard time coming to terms with his predatory nature. He eventually deals with it by having the penguins make him sushi - apparently fish aren't sentient. (In the second film this is ignored.)
Cassandra Truth: Maurice is constantly dismissed when trying to explain that Alex's odd behavior around Marty is because of his carnivorous nature.
Meat-O-Vision: An interesting twist, in that the character in question (a lion) is looking this way at a zebra, which in the wild would have been among its prey.
Mouth Cam: The sequence where Alex is trying to be friendly with Mort, with a Mouth Cam shot used to show just how threatening he is unintentionally being.
Mushroom Samba: Alex has two of them after being shot in the hand by a tranquilizer dart. Both have "The Candyman" playing in the background, but the second samba is sped up.
Noisy Nature: Played with: The main characters are animals in a New York City zoo. Fair enough - but in the background are generic jungle noises. The cast go to bed... and Alex yells that someone left the ambiance on. When that happens, a generic New York City background noise replaces it, complete with sirens. Alex the lion then yawns and relaxes and goes to sleep. Surprisingly, this is Truth in Television, since many zoos do have random jungle white noise played throughout the park to make the guests (and animals) feel more immersed.
Shown Their Work: There's a scene in the first film where Melman sits in a hole in the ground and waits to die, with his will written in the sand. The commentary notes that someone went and researched it, so what was written in the sand was a legally binding will in the State of New York. Also, Phil's sign language is genuine.
The mountain range Alex exiles himself to is based on the Tsigny De Bamaraha national park, which is covered in razor sharp rocks.
Spit Take: In the scene where Alex finally comes to the "Fun Side" of the island, Marty offers him a coconut full of seawater.
Marty: Oh, you don't swallow it, it's just temporary until the plumbing's done.
What the Hell, Hero?: Alex gets really mad at Marty for causing them to get caught by the authorities and get shipped. On the island, he still doesn't let it go until he loosens up.
Marty gives Alex one after the latter bit him on the butt.
Escape 2 Africa
Adult Fear: The opening. All of it. While his father Zuba is distracted for a minute, cub!Alex wanders off and is kidnapped by poachers. When Zuba realizes what's happened, he chases after the poachers' truck, desperately trying to save his son. Alex's crate is knocked off the truck and into the river, where it ends up floating to New York. Zuba, however, doesn't notice, and continues to chase the truck. Until a grown Alex winds up back in Africa and reunited with them, Zuba and his wife believed their son was dead. Imagine how guilty Zuba must have felt for all those years, thinking that it was his fault his child was dead because he failed to protect him.
The Alleged Plane: So much so, that one of the visual signs of its malfunctioning is that one of the engines isn't on fire. In Madagascar 2, the plane also has at least three skeletons still on board from its last flight - one in second class, one in first class, and one in the cockpit. A fourth skeleton was left behind in Madagascar hanging from a parachute trapped in a tree.
Compressed Vice: Melman's crush on Gloria flat out didn't exist in the first movie. It was, however, shown in a flashback in the second movie as having existed for years.
Gossip Evolution: The monkeys' relaying of Alex's message changed "Get out of here, as fast as we can" to "We must blow up the dam" and "There must be another way than killing me" to "Kill me. It's the only way." And "pass it on" was "basset hound".
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Melman sees Gloria on her date with Moto Moto, he says something like, "You don't know how lucky you are. You've found the perfect woman, so you better treat her like a princess." Then he goes on to describe in depth what he would do if he were in Moto Moto's shoes.
This becomes his reason for a planned Heroic Sacrifice when Melman offers himself up for Julien's crazy plan to sacrifice to the Rain Gods.
There's also the fact that Melman thinks he's dying.
A Minor Kidroduction: As a tribute, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" starts off with Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman as kids.
Pec Flex: Moto Moto does this a few times in Escape 2 Africa.
Planet of Steves: Every zebra in the sequel acts and nearly looks the same as Marty. Alex is only able to tell Marty apart from the others because of the teeth marks on his butt from the previous film.
Pop-Star Composer: will.i.am co-wrote and performed the songs and music of Escape 2 Africa.
Savage Piercings: Spoofed in the second film. When the other giraffes make Melman their Witch Doctor, they present him with the requisite nose bone. "Don't worry, it's a clip-on."
Skipper:(addressing the Monkeys) Stop Lollygagging, and let's get to work. We'll divide into three groups. Group Alpha, you're in charge of sheet metal fabrication. Group Bronson, you'll handle assembly. Group George Peppard, you'll handle craft services. Any questions?''
Trailers Always Spoil: In the teaser to Escape 2 Africa, Melman admits that he loves Gloria. At first, this seems to be a gag based on the fact that their plane is falling out of the sky, but it turns out that it's the driving point of Melman's plotline in the movie.
Wedding Day: About at the end of the sequel, we're lead to believe that Melman and Gloria are getting hitched. Then it pans down to reveal that its really Skipper marrying Lola, a bobble-head doll, which was an even weirder coupling.
Wiper Start: The penguins' first attempt at Rico hotwiring the safari jeep results in this.
Worthless Yellow Rocks: The gold and diamonds the animals dig up at the watering hole in Escape 2 Africa while desperately looking for water. The penguins, who are from New York and are well aware what gold is worth to humans, take it all for themselves (the loot comes back in the third film, although the trope is no longer in play).
You No Take Candle: Alex, while trying to explain his plane crash to the animals in Africa.
Chekhov's Skill: Alex's ability to cut things with his claw (like the glass, or DuBois's harness loop) comes in handy later when he needs to teach Vitaly how to safely resume his act.
Everything the characters come up with for their circus act in the third film.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Alex's parents do not appear and are not even mentioned in the third film. In Zuba's case this may be due to Actor Existence Failure on the part of Bernie Mac and not wishing to recast out of respect, but it's odd they aren't even mentioned in dialogue.
Clown Car: As the monkeys make a deal with the ringmaster to buy the circus, you can see a large number of clowns piling into a Clown Car, with the Ringmaster getting in as well.
Creepy Children Singing: Parodied in the third film. The lemurs discover Sonya the bear's trailer, and when it shows the sharp weapons, you hear what appears to be this trope. But then it turns out it was just Mort singing.
Dark Reprise: "Alex, the lion!" of the first film in Europe's Most Wanted, complete with subdued colors, night sky, and the characters being less lively. Also noticeable in comparison to Alex's memory of it at the start of the movie, when viewing the mud model of New York.
Defictionalization: In-universe, Trapeze Americano. Something completely made up out of wholecloth, with each of the Zoosters trying to outdo the others to impress the circus animals, ends up coming completely true in a Grand Finale ending for Alex to take out the Big Bad. And it is awesome.
The Determinator: Capitaine DuBois. Between chasing animals miles out of her jurisdiction and nation and ramming through office walls and windows like they are paper while chasing the gang, you'll understand what one critic meant saying "she makes Cruella De Vil look like a quitter."
Funny Background Event: You can see Bluehair's poodle and the duckling that got gobbled by the crocodile on Dubois' trophy wall in Europe's Most Wanted.
There's a bunch of them, actually. There's King Julien's gecko, Steve and a few other Dreamworks/Madagascar critters.
During the scene when Alex is giving his Rousing Speech to Vitaly, a Chalk Outline of the lion can be seen on the wall, with knives sticking out of it from target practice.
Fun with Foreign Languages: Played with in Vitaly's case. At first it seems he is falling prone to the Malaproper aspect of the Funny Foreigner, since he makes the inadvertent puns "Wipe that Smirnoff your face and Popov!" with an absolutely straight face and no indication he knows he got the words wrong. This is subverted later though with his Getting Crap Past the Radar (literally!)/Unusual Euphemism moment, since he most certainly knew what word he should have said instead of "bolshevik"...
Irony: The very thing Vitaly made fun of, Alex's glossy fur and mane, ends up being what helps him survive the fiery hoop unscathed, via the non-flammable hair conditioner. And then gives him back the glossy fur he used to have.
Jumping Out of a Cake: Though the animals that do so are small enough that an actual cake is used, and Mort ate a fair portion of it from the inside.
Killer Rabbit: The toy dogs in Europe's Most Wanted. One of them is voiced by Vinnie Jones!
Mood Whiplash: Amidst all the colorful wackiness of the third movie there's a quiet drama scene with Alex the lion and Vitaly the tiger. In the middle of it, for no apparent reason, the two cats have a brief slap fight over a ball of yarn.
Nothing Is the Same Anymore: If the series continues beyond the third film, it will have to take on a different focus since Alex and the gang finally make it back to Central Park Zoo in New York City and realize that they prefer being free after all.
Not What It Looks Like: When Alex leans on the pulley, ends up dragged up by the rope, and dropped into Gia's arms...just in time for the tarp to drop and reveal them to everyone else, complete with a Dramatic Drop by one of the elephants.
Plot Tailored to the Party: The completely awesome rescue of the Zoosters by the circus animals during the finale of Madagascar 3 makes use of everyone's abilities and acts—from Stefano's cannon act shooting the line across the park, to Gloria and Melman's dancing, to Gia's trapeze act pulling Alex out of the line of fire, to Vitaly's hoop jump getting Marty out of his cage through the keyhole, to Julien and Sonya's bike act, all of it made possible by the penguins and the monkeys rebuilding a flying machine to carry the circus into battle. Even Mort gets to tranq DuBois. Alex's Defictionalization of Trapeze Americano also makes use of multiple characters: Marty, Gia, the dogs' rocket boots, even Dubois as she accidentally frees the 'aquatic' cobras!
As a Visual Gag this also occurs in a lesser form during the infiltration of the casino, where the four vents on the roof are each shaped like one of the Zoosters.
Product Placement: All over the place, but the third movie in particular has this gem:
Italian prison guard: (stuck in his own cell as DuBois uses his PC) "Is that the sound of my HP printer printing?"
Reveal Shot/Right Behind Me: Melman, wondering how he and the others are going to escape from the cops when the circus boxcar is right behind him.
Rule of Cool: Vitaly's ring jumping act. It is explicitly noted to be in total defiance of the laws of physics, but not only is he capable of slipping through impossibly small holes, he can carry Marty with him. Through a keyhole.
Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: Skipper mentions he wants to invoke this in regards to the laws of PHYSICS, specifically he wants to be so rich he can fly a solid gold airplane. Fortunately this never actually happens.
Self-Deprecation: In the second advert for the third film against the mash-up between I Like To Move It and Afro Circus.
A Simple Plan: The four Zoosters will slip into the casino through the air ducts; Julien, Maurice, and Mort will shut off the power; and then Alex will be lowered down through the skylight he and Marty got open so he can snatch the King of Versailles and they can make their escape. Naturally it all goes wrong: Alex and Marty get into an argument over who should lead and why which ends with Gloria accidentally smashing through the skylight so they all drop in full view of the people, and Julien, who had been constantly demanding to know if it was time to shut off the power is suddenly too "busy" stuffing pencils in his mouth, nose, and ears to bother with it until it's almost too late. The whole thing ends with the penguins bringing in their SUV, the casino being wrecked, and DuBois being called in to capture them.
That Tiger is Dead: Despite his overall aggressiveness, Vitaly gives the second kind of response (regretful) to Alex when the lion asks where "the other Vitaly" went, which is what lets him end up proving he isn't gone after all.
Third Act Misunderstanding: It's only after their successful London show that the truth of the Zoosters not being circus animals is revealed (courtesy of a flyer DuBois brings with her)...by which point, of course, the Zoosters had not only established close bonds with the circus animals and vice versa for two of them, but had realized they enjoyed being in the circus and didn't really belong in the zoo any more or want to go back to it. It's actually rather heartbreaking.
Twenty Minutes into the Future: When the circus arrives in New York City, the completed One World Trade Center (a.k.a. "Freedom Tower") can be seen in the background, indicating that the events of the film take place at least a year after its film's release in 2012, when the tower was still under construction.
Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The Foosa from the first film are just trying to survive and Mukunga from the second film is more of a Jerkass than a villain. Captain DuBois on the other hand, is out to murder Alex. As in literal, first-degree, premeditated murder. Even after Alex is re-contained in the zoo (at which point her warrant expires, and Alex becomes zoo property), she makes it very clear that she won't be satisfied while Alex still draws breath.
Vomit Indiscretion Shot: When Julien & Mort burst from the cake early in the film, Mort says "My tummy feels funny". Cue a river of pink oozing from the tiny deranged critter's mouth.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Lola, the abovementioned bobble-head doll, is neither seen nor referred to in the third film. This strikes one as a little odd, considering the trip to Monte Carlo was supposed to be her's and Skipper's honeymoon.
You Can't Go Home Again: In the third film, Alex and the gang finally make it back to Central Park Zoo in New York City, but realize that they have grown to prefer being free after all.