A 2014 feature film from DreamWorks Animation, starring the eponymous penguins of the Madagascar film trilogy and TV series spinoff.
In the film, which begins right after Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, the four penguins (Skipper, Kowalski, Rico, and Private) are breaking into Fort Knox for Private's birthday, only to cross paths with a vengeful octopus named Dave, who is jealous of penguins and wants to make them nasty. The quartet escapes from Dave's forces and hook up with the North Wind, an animal task force out to stop Dave before he can utilize his mysterious Medusa Serum. Unfortunately, the two teams of heroes end up clashing with each other, allowing Dave to proceed with his evil penguin-threatening plans... But most importantly (which only viewers have cared about), Private longs to be a meaningful and valued member of the team. Will he earn his title?
As the film is in canon with the films and not the TV series, tropes about the characters within should go here.
For the TV series, see The Penguins of Madagascar.
"Kowalski! What tropes can you find in this movie?"
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Technology seen in the movie is decidedly far more futuristic than anything seen in any of the main Madagascar movies.
- Accidental Misnaming: Skipper keeps forgetting Dave's name, calling him Doug, Darryl and Debbie, among other names.
- Adam Westing: Werner Herzog as a particularly Jerkass version of himself who pushes the penguins off a cliff to get the shot he wants.
- An Aesop: "Looks don't matter. It's what you do that counts."
- And Call Him "George": Corporal hugs the penguins quite tightly. Also, the girl who shakes the snow globe Dave's trapped inside might count.
- And I Must Scream: Dave's ultimate fate - trapped inside a snow globe.
- And Starring: And John Malkovich as Debbie... er, Dave.
- Apathetic Citizens: The film starts with a long row of penguins who are blindly marching in line (for a brief dip in a pool) and unconcerned about a runaway egg rolling past them.
- Awkward Kiss: After Private is told his birthday surprise, he's overcome with joy and gives both Skipper and Kowalski familial cheek pecks before moving on to Rico... who pulls Private back in and traps him in a big wet-sounding smooch for a good half-minute.Skipper: You mess with the bull you get the horns, Private.
- Bag of Holding: Rico is a Big Eater who eats everything and can cough up whatever he ate on cue. He ends up becoming a literal bag when he uses this talent while disguised as a backpack.
- Bait-and-Switch: The Penguins' break-in into Fort Knox. At first, you would think they were after the gold in the facility, but in reality, they were really after a bag of rare cheesy snacks for Private's birthday. Skipper even says a line that heavily implies that they were after the former.
- Barrier-Busting Blow: Dave’s first scene has him smashing his way out of Fort Knox’s roof thanks to the vending machine he’s wearing like a costume.
- Batter Up!: Private takes out one of Dave's henchmen with a baseball bat, rescuing the North Wind from the Death Trap.
- Beary Funny: Corporal is a Dumb Muscle polar bear whose obsession with cute animals is Played for Laughs.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: As a result of his own ray being used on him, Dave finally out-cutes the penguins and gets the kids' attention... having been reduced to a tiny octopus trapped inside a snowglobe a girl has run off with (shaking it violently).
- Beware the Silly Ones: Dave is more than a little off his rocker, but the fact that he was able to concoct such a plan, gather an army of minions, and create that entire base as well as a human alter ego pretty much cements him into this trope.
- Big Bad: Dr. Octavius Brine, a.k.a. Dave the octopus.
- Big Damn Movie: Forget relative to the cartoon, this movie is grandiose relative to the other Madagascar movies.
- Big Eater: Not only does Rico eat everything, but he can also cough up whatever he ate on cue. Skipper and Mort become this after they've been mutated.
- The Penguins, after being captured and trapped in the vending machine in Fort Knox, have eaten the entirety of the Cheezy Dibbles in it during their transfer to Dave's sub in Venice.
- Big Entrance: Dave as Dr. Brine shows up at the end of the movie riding on top of his submarine as if he was dashing through the water.
- Big Little Man: Dave at first appears to have been turned into a giant towering over New York City, but in reality, he is now tiny and trapped in one of his snow globes.
- Big "NO!": Private when all the penguins (except him) are mutated.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Corporal.
- Book Ends: The "95%" line.
- [young penguins stranded on an ice floe floating out to sea]
Skipper: Kowalski, What's our trajectory?
Kowalski: 95% certain we're still doomed.
Skipper: And the other 5%?
Kowalski: Adventure and glory like no penguins have ever seen before!
[penguins flying on jetpacks]
Skipper: Kowalski, What's our trajectory?
Kowalski: 95% certain this will end in massive, flaming disaster!
Skipper: And the other 5%?
Kowalski: Irrelevant, sir! Jetpacks are AWESOME!
- The start of the movie when Private hatches as a cute baby and the scene at the end when he hatches mutated.
- Broken Aesop: The "looks don't matter" aesop is a bit broken in many ways:
- First, the mutated Private isn't nearly as unattractive as all the other mutant penguins - he still looks mostly like his adorable self, despite having allegedly taken on all of the other penguins' disfigurements.
- In The Stinger, the penguins go through the trouble of changing him back to normal, at his request.
- The sheer fact Dave's plan counted on the humans trying to kill the penguins simply because they were hideous and scary-looking (but still affectionate). Since nearly every human there calls for the exterminators in droves, the climax revolved around the penguins having to change back to being cute.
- Brutal Honesty:
- Kowalski is prone to this.Private: Hello! Are you my family?
Kowalski: You don't have a family, and we're all going to die. Sorry.
- Even at the end of the movie:Private: So... how do I look?
Kowalski: You're hideously disfigured, and will probably be hunted for sport.
- Kowalski is prone to this.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: An inversion. The penguins arriving at the zoo and stealing the spotlight from Dave with their cute antics was the Start of Darkness for the octopus, but the penguins weren't even aware of his existence.
- After Agent Classified drugs the penguins, he has them shipped to the North Wind's most remote safehouse. Its location: Madagascar.
- After they break out of the box, and tumble into the cockpit of a commercial plane, Skipper briefly flirts with a bobblehead doll.
- At the first Madagascar movie, Skipper asks Kowalski what's written in the box they're in and he says he doesn't understand because he can't read. During the scene where Kowalski is checking the manual of the North Wind's jet, he says "No, still can't read".
- The Cameo: The main cast of Madagascar only shows up as a shadow behind a circus tent at the beginning. Mort and King Julien show up during The Stinger, though.
- Captain's Log: Skipper delivers one after the penguins are stranded at sea without food and water.
- Captivity Harmonica: Diegetic version where one of the kidnapped penguins is shown playing the harmonica after Private is captured.
- Changed My Mind, Kid: Classified has the North Wind "regroup" at their headquarters, leaving the captive Skipper, Rico and Kowalski behind, to Private's dismay. They return in the final battle, providing a little help against Dave's forces.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- The paperclip that Rico coughed up earlier is later used by Private.
- Similarly, Rico eating Dave's snow globes becomes useful when the penguins need to figure out where he will attack next. They are also used to enhance the ray gun when it is set to return the penguins back to normal.
- Private's cuteness works like this: it starts off as an obstacle for him to be respected by the others, but eventually powers Dave's gun to reverse the effects of the Medusa Serum.
- Clean, Pretty Childbirth: Private splashes some gunk on the three older penguins when he hatches, but once that's over with he's perfectly dry and clean.
- Combat Tentacles: Dave the Octopus and his army of squid minions regularly use this as a combat tactic.
- Comically Missing the Point: Skipper, a lot. Within one action scene, he scolds Private for playing with "backpacks" (actually parachutes), says passengers on a plane they punched holes in are going to freak because of a lack of snacks, and responds to Kowalski saying a plane is at 12 o'clock (referring to its position in relation to the penguins) with "Good, it's only eleven-thirty".
- Composite Character: Rico takes a lot of cues from his cartoon version, choking up more things and saying more while not actually being intelligible.
- Continuity Nod:
- The movie opens with a Minor Kidroduction, showing the penguins as children in Antarctica and how they became lost at sea where they eventually end up in New York, much the same way Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa depicts this happening to Alex.
- The main plot opens with a celebration of Private's 10th birthday and escalates from there; Marty's 10th birthday similarly motivates the opening act of Madagascar.
- When locked in a cage, Skipper orders Rico to bust them out, which he does by coughing up a paperclip to pick the lock with. This action in the first movie is what inspired his stomach of holding abilities.
- The Penguins meet a rival group known as the North Wind, who is comprised of northern animals. The penguins don't get along with them at all, aside from one of them having a crush on the female of the group. The idea that the Antarctic Penguins would be natural rivals of Arctic life but one of the penguins having a crush on one of them also comes up in Merry Madagascar.
- Continuous Decompression: Averted; the penguins puncture holes in several passenger airplanes, but there's none of Hollywood's usual continuous-wind-sucks-everything-out-of-the-fuselage involved.
- Contrived Coincidence: Dave somehow knew ahead of time that the Penguins were going to break into Fort Knox and go for the vending machine long before they even told Private of their plans.
- Covered in Kisses: Kowalski is subjected to this by Eva after he and the penguins save the day.
- Credits Gag: John Malkovich's character is at first credited as Debbie, then corrected as Dave, in keeping with the Running Gag of Skipper misnaming him.
- Cursed with Awesome: The penguins waste no time putting their horribly mutated bodies to good use in the final battle, their misshapen limbs making excellent bludgeoning weapons.
- Cuteness Proximity: Corporal goes into gushing mode when he sees penguins.
- Death Trap: Dave has one in his submarine, where victims are tied into a Theme Park-style ride car and driven through a series of swinging blades, mashing spikes, and explosive rockets fired at close range.
- Didn't Think This Through: At Shanghai Marine World, Skipper pulls off Operation "Flash, Splash, and Crash" in order to trap Dave and save the mermaid penguins, but it allows Dave to escape through the pipes and kidnap the mermaids and Private, dressed up as a mermaid.
- Driven to Madness: The Penguins are approaching this at the start of the film from the rest of the circus playing their Afro Circus/I Like to Move It mashup at the end of Madagascar 3.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: This is Private's goal throughout the movie — he wants to be treated as a valued member of the team, but everyone else (especially Skipper) just sees him as the Tagalong Kid.
- Everyone Has Standards: Despite his love for penguins, even Corporal is a little miffed that Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico destroyed the North Wind's airship.
- Extreme Graphical Representation: The North Wind's computer interfaces run on this trope. Even their in-field tactical planning sessions utilize a projected display dome with animated graphics.
- Family of Choice: The penguins. A brief flashback even shows a page from Private's journal, with a crayon drawing of the four of them labelled "FAMILY"
- A Father to His Men: Skipper, most specifically to Private.
- Feet of Clay: While the North Wind are a competent and heroic team, they're also rather egotistical and unsympathetic, causing much of the antagonism between them and the penguins. They even abandon the penguins inside Dave's submarine to "regroup" at one point, even after Private saved them from a Death Trap.
- Forced Transformation: Dave plans to use the Medusa Serum to turn all of the penguins of the world into hideous monstrosities so people will stop loving them.
- Funny Animal Anatomy: Dave, who has cartoony eyes, a mouth in front of his face instead of a beak beneath his head, two siphons which look like ears, and is purple. This is especially jarring since every other octopus in the film looks comparatively realistic (no mouth, for starters).
- Funny Octopus: Dave the octopus may be the Big Bad, but he's quite Faux Affably Evil at times, which, combined with his sheer ham, makes him a very entertaining character. His octopus Mooks are even funnier, with their silly antics such as sleeping on the job or starting fights with each other, their "blub" language, and their tendency to fall victim to Amusing Injuries more than any other character in the movie.
- Furry Confusion: There are two species of seals appearing in the movie. Short Fuse is an anthropomorphic harp seal, capable of using a variety weapons and operating technology. The much less cute leopard seals are vicious predators that are completely animalistic.
- Gasshole: Private whenever the Penguins fly. This makes them realize they’re on a cargo plane.
- Genre Blindness: The North Wind get hit with this when they break into Dave's submarine to capture him. They confront him in the cockpit, and after a brief exchange of banter, Dave's octopus minions capture the team inside of five seconds.
- Gentle Giant: Corporal of the North Wind is a polar bear who coos visibly whenever he sees a penguin.
- Glass Smack and Slide: The four penguins, while in freefall, ends up smacking against the windshield of a passenger plane, before being pushed away by the wipers.
- Global Ignorance: The penguins mistake Shanghai, China for Dublin, Ireland.Skipper: We gotta blend in. River dance.
- Glory Days: Before he was upstaged by penguins, Dave used to be a star attraction at the Central Park zoo, entertaining crowds with his dexterous antics.
- Groin Attack: Skipper hits a gondolier in the crotch while fighting with three octopi.
- Heroes "R" Us: The North Wind is a secret organization of arctic animals. Their backers are unspecified, but they have a massive secret base, complete with hypersonic flying craft, Powered Armor, Big Freaking Guns, and flying jetpacks.
- A Hero Is Born: The movie starts with young versions of Skipper, Kowalski, and Rico rescuing a runaway egg, which hatches to reveal Private.
- Hidden in Plain Sight: In Venice, Eva is disguised as a statue, while Short Fuse is pretending to be a scoop of ice cream and Corporal masquerades as a telephone booth.
- Hopeless with Tech: Dave, when he tries to video chat with the North Wind.Eva: Where's the sound?
Kowalski: Dave, your microphone, it's not on.
Classified: Click on the button with the picture of the microphone.
Short Fuse: Every time a villain calls in, this happens.
- Human Mail:
- The North Wind sends the penguins to a safe house in Madagascar via cardboard box.
- The penguins travel from Shanghai, China to Shanghai, China (See Global Ignorance above) by piling into a box and shipping themselves.
- Humans Are Bastards: Though the trope was mostly based on fear rather than maliciousness, Dave's whole plan relied on the fact that upon sight of the mutated penguins, the entire population would unanimaously agree to wipe the whole species off the planet.
- Ignored Epiphany: At the climax, after Dave has turned all of the penguins into disgusting monsters, he states that he feels empty as if there is a hole in him now. He comes to the conclusion that the best way to fix that is to plan MORE revenge and starts preparing to uglify every other cute animal species.
- "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Downplayed, as it only takes Private to make Mutant Skipper remember the memories they had together to snap him out of it.
- Immediate Sequel: After a flashback detailing how the Penguins became a team, the film begins during the ending of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: During the climax, Skipper is able to shoot the activation button for Dave’s machine by launching a Cheezy Dibble like a rocket, while he himself is flying through the air.
- Inexplicably Awesome: Turns out the Penguins were always awesome, even as chicks. Kowalski even lampshades it after their first adventure together.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Played with. Despite being a purple octopus with red eyes and a mouthful of crooked teeth, Dave displays some very Malkovich-like facial expressions.
- Innocently Insensitive: Even when Private expresses how much he wants just to be a meaningful and valued member of the team, the others continue to just treat him as simply "the cute one", much to his annoyance.Skipper: You can't take away Private's cuteness!
Kowalski: He's the cute one! That's, that's his thing!
Skipper: It's all the little guy's got!
- Interspecies Romance: Kowalski (a penguin) falls in love with Eva (a snow owl), who rebuffs his advances. She reciprocates at the end, though.
- It's Personal: This is Dave's motive for revenge against cute animals, as he feels their cuteness stole his fans from the various zoos and parks where he performed in.
- The Documentary Crew deliberately pushes the young Skipper, Kowalski and Rico over the side of a cliff despite just stating that the fall will most likely kill them. Subverted in that it helps them make it safely to the old abandoned ship to save baby Private from the leopard seals
- Classified really likes to twist the knife about how Skipper's plan let Private get captured.
- Dave is also this as well, blaming the penguins for all of his misery, while it is the humans that mistreated him.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Classified definitely rubs in the fact Skipper's plan to thwart Dave in Shanghai had failed and resulted in Private being captured to the point where he agrees to act at the North Wind's diversion.Classified: I've never lost a member of my team. It must feel awful. Can't imagine the guilt, the regret, the feeling that, I don't know, that... it should have been you.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Near the end of the movie, after Dave has enacted his revenge against penguins by making them ugly, he wonders why he feels so empty inside, then he concludes it must be because he needs MORE revenge and starts plotting to uglify more cute animals.
- Jet Pack: Shown off a few times in the film. The Penguins get four of them as rewards for their victory
- Kick the Dog: Skipper slaps around a baby squid at one point. He quickly realizes his mistake, though.Skipper: Sorry, laddie.
- Kissing Discretion Shot: When giving Kowalski a Smooch of Victory, Eva uses her wing to block the camera’s view of the actual smooching.
- Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Skipper invokes this after the team dress up in lederhosen to distract the squids.Skipper: We take this shame to our graves.
- Liquid Assets: Without any synthetic antidote for the Medusa Serum, Private uses himself instead, allowing the machine to drain cuteness from him to transfer it back to the other penguins.
- Literal-Minded: At one point Corporal the polar bear mistakes a part of Classified's ultimate plan as a knock-knock joke.Classified: At 22:02, knock-knock.
Corporal: Who's there?
Classified: The North Wind.
Corporal: The North Wind who?
Classified: The North Wind who doesn't have time for knock-knock jokes because we're too busy taking down Dave!
- Lost at Sea: Occurs after Dave escapes with Private captured and the penguins are adrift in a metal bowl without food and water. Subverted when it is revealed they're being towed by the North Wind, who are relaxing five feet away in an inflatable pontoon dining on fine food and drink.
- Mid-Battle Tea Break: A variation — after the penguins escape from being shipped to Madagascar, they use an inflatable bounce house to land safely in the middle of the desert. A short cut later, it's revealed they spent the last hour bouncing on it instead of heading for civilization.
- Mix-and-Match Critter: The mutated penguins. In particular, Skipper has a lobster claw, Kowalski has an afro, octopus tentacles and chicken feet, and Rico has dragon wings.
- Monstrous Seal: The penguins are shown to despise leopard seals, which are portrayed as mindless penguin killers with Black Eyes of Crazy. Curiously, the leopard seals seem to be the only animals in the movie who are not humanized in any way, which is especially strange considering that one of the heroes is a harp seal.
- Mood Whiplash: A young girl sees Dave in the snow globe, and says he's cool. Skipper wishes Dave to find happiness, but then the girl starts to shake the snowglobe rapidly.
- Mythology Gag:
- King Julien's cameo in The Stinger uses an older design that would be out of date relative to the time the movie takes place but matches how he appeared alongside the penguins in The Penguins of Madagascar cartoon.
- Noble Wolf: Classified is a heroic wolf leading a team that rescues small, cute animals. He might be a proud, bragging jerkass, but he has good intentions.
- No Name Given: Classified. He tells Skipper that his real name is classified, but Skipper takes it literally and calls him Classified for the rest of the film.
- Non-Standard Character Design: Dave is much more anthropomorphic than the other octopi.
- Noodle Implements: Kowalski's plan to get down to the abandoned ship involves hundreds of feet of kelp, and jellyfish trained to follow voice commands, and that's all we know about it.
- Noodle People: Dr. Octavius Brine has very thin and flexible arms and legs. Justified, as he's an octopus in disguise.
- No Party Like a Donner Party: Rico starts trying to eat Kowalski when the penguins find themselves stranded in the middle of the ocean. Of course, he doesn't succeed.
- No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted. After the penguins steal the canister containing Dave's Medusa Serum and escape, they and the North Wind are feeling pretty smug about it... until Dave reveals he has a huge vat of the stuff.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Dave is a goofball but startlingly competent and ruthless, with a rather savvy handling of his minions. Even his plan to take away the penguins' cuteness was a tall order Not So Harmless Punishment, since he planned on it's doing so resulting in every last remnant of the species getting wiped out by terrified humans.
- Not the Fall That Kills You…: For some reason, only hitting the ground becomes a concern when the penguins fall from a plane when the other planes in flight they hit along the way down would probably have been a bigger concern.
- Not Where They Thought: The penguins surface from the sewers and believe they're in Dublin, Ireland, when they're actually in Shanghai. After deducting that Dave's next target of penguins to kidnap were in Shanghai, they decide to pack themselves in a box and mail themselves there. They don't even notice that they were dropped off at the exact spot they were picked up from.
- Oireland: Skipper's understanding of Ireland falls in line with this trope. When he thinks the penguins have arrived in Dublin, he orders them to engage in Riverdancing to blend in, mentions the Blarney Stone, and tosses out a "Begorrah!" for good measure.
- The Oner: Used for a roughly two-minute long scene where the penguins fall out of the cargo hold of one airplane, slam into another airplane, actually board another plane and mess around on it a little before deciding to leave it, then barely miss getting on yet another plane, and finally fall to the ground, with the shot ending just before they actually land.
- Parental Bonus:
- The Running Gag of Dave saying a minion's name and then an order that coincidentally happens to sound similar to a celebrity's name.
- Also, Skipper's reaction to Kowalski saying the plane they're on is going to Paris;Skipper: France!? Forget it! Not with their tax laws!
- Remember the New Guy?: Lampshaded as when Dave makes his big entrance, not one of the penguins has a clue as to who he is.
- Reptiles Are Abhorrent: Although no reptiles appear, the leopard seals are called "Nature's Snakes" by the penguins to show their fear.
- Ret-Canon: On a smaller scale. While none of the characters appears in the movie, a few details from the show are carried over in this film, such as Rico's design and status as The Unintelligible, and King Julien's crown being that of the one from the first Madagascar movie.
- Revenge Is Sweet: Played With. Dave is on the verge of a Near-Villain Victory, having turned all the penguins that stole his limelight into ugly abominations certain to be exterminated. As he celebrates, he notes a rather empty feeling inside, which he devises can only be filled with... more revenge, and to enact the same on all cute lifeforms, shifting him right back to gleeful celebrating again.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: A plot point; Dave becomes evil because penguins, in general, are so cute they keep stealing his attention everywhere he goes. Near the end of the movie, Private uses his cuteness to save the day, and in the stinger Mort uses his to change Private. For examples that aren't in-universe, there are the four younger, smaller versions of the main penguins in the beginning, especially Private, who's newly hatched and pretty much just a ball of white and grey feathers.
- Road Trip Across the Street: After mistaking Shanghai for Dublin, the penguins mail themselves to Shanghai, where they think Dave will strike next. The mail truck picks them up and drives off... then drives back and drops the penguins back where they started.Skipper: So this is it; Shanghai's famous Little Dublin District.
- Rubber Man; Dave and the rest of the Octopi, who stretch and contort themselves in a way very appropriate for boneless cephalopods.
- Rummage Fail: A dramatic example as Skipper desperately heimlichs Rico looking for the paper clip to pick the lock to their cage in order to save Private, but are unable to find it because Rico left it in the lock he picked earlier in the movie and Private has it.
- Running Gag:
- Dave's orders to his squid minions coincidentally sounding like the name of an actor. It gets to the point where he delivers multiple ones in the span of a few minutes, rapid-fire.Dave: Nicolas, cage them!
Dave: Elijah, would you please take them away?
Dave: Drew, Barry! More power!
Dave: Robin, write this down.
Dave: Charlize, they're on the ray!
Dave: Helen! Hunt them down!
Dave: William! Hurt them!
Dave: Halle! Bury them!
Dave: Hugh! Jack! Man the battle stations!
Dave: Kevin! Bake on!
- Skipper repeatedly forgets and misremembers Dave's name.
- Dave's orders to his squid minions coincidentally sounding like the name of an actor. It gets to the point where he delivers multiple ones in the span of a few minutes, rapid-fire.
- Running on All Fours: Just like with Alex in the main movies, Classified drops to all fours briefly when he has to run fast.
- See the Whites of Their Eyes: Parodied, Skipper insists they can't fire the harpoon gun until they see the whites of the eyes of the leopard seals, even when they are right in front of them.Kowalski: [their eyes are] mostly pupil! Very little white, almost none!
Skipper: They gotta have a little white, right?
Kowalski: None whatsoever!
Skipper: What if they look really far to the left?
- Self-Deprecation: The scene of the Penguins blasting away from the Fur Power Circus due to the members constantly singing the "Afro Circus/I Like to Move It Move It" mashup is essentially DreamWorks admitting that they've run that joke into the ground.
Kowalski: Sir, how long do we stand here like this?
- During the climax, the four heroes go into battle stance while the camera pans around each of them, similar to a previous blockbuster. Lampshaded by this exchange:
Skipper: Until we reach maximum coolness.
- The sheep that the North Wind first thought was Dave is from the Dragons franchise.
- Using knock-out gas on the guards at Fort Knox in the beginning should remind James Bond fans of Goldfinger.
- In the finale, with the possibility that reversing Dave's ray will kill him, Private's butt hand places its palm on the glass which Skipper returns with his flipper, imitating the death scene from Star Trek's Wrath of Khan/Into Darkness .
- You maniac! You blew him up!
- Doubles as a Continuity Nod to one scene in the first Madagascar.
- Every time Dave instructs his minions by name, it is a reference to a famous Hollywood actor.
- The opening nature documentary spoofs both March of the Penguins and Werner Herzog's own Encounters at the End of the World.
- Sickly Green Glow: The Medusa Serum glows green, indicating its dangerousness. The transformed penguins also gain a greenish shade, which makes them look very unnatural.
- Smooch of Victory: Kowalski gets this from Eva after Dave is defeated.
- The Snack Is More Interesting: Classified's introduction of the North Wind keeps getting interrupted by Skipper loudly munching on Cheezy Dibbles.
- Spell My Name with a "The": The film is differentiated from the TV series by not having "the" in its title.
- The Stinger: The team helps get back Private's cuteness by using Mort in Dave's ray. Mort has no visible side effects... but he is able to eat King Julien in one bite now.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Dave the octopus fills in the role of Mad Scientist sea animal antagonist of the penguins that Dr. Blowhole the dolphin from the TV series has.
- Sweet Seal: Subverted with Short Fuse, a tiny, fluffy seal with a high-pitched voice who is also the demolition expert for the North Wind.
- Tagalong Kid: Private is seen by the others (especially Skipper) as a cute version of this. Somewhat justified when he was a newly-hatched chick, but not after he's fully grown.
- Talking Animal: Dave can speak English in the guise of Dr. Brine.
- Tentacle Rope: Being octopi, Octavius and his minions often grab the penguins in this way with actual tentacles.
- Toilet Humor: Fairly abundant, as is typical for most DreamWorks movies.Classified: We are the North Wind. And no-one, no-one, breaks the wind.
- Took a Level in Dumbass:
- Skipper, for example, keeps mispronouncing Dave's name with other names that start with 'D' throughout the entire movie.
- Kowalski, to a lesser extent. While still the brains to the penguins, he has a few moments where he's sometimes a Know-Nothing Know-It-All. Believing that the plane they've crashed in was heading for Paris after looking at a croissant, for one thing. Then as the penguins arrive in Shanghai, he thought they were in Dublin, Ireland, for another.
- Toothy Bird: Dave has a mouth full of teeth, even though real-life octopi have beaks. Averted with his minions.
- Played straight with Skipper when he becomes mutated.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Cheezy Dibbles are the preferred snacks of penguins and octopi.
- Transformation Horror: The Medusa Serum turns penguins into hideous creatures with mismatched body parts, extra eyes, and other deformities.
- True Companions: The penguins bond is particularly emphasized in this movie, to the point where Private (and some trailers) referred to them as "brothers".
- Uncanny Valley: An intentional example: Dave, when posing as Dr. Octavius Brine, makes some movements that are impossible even for a cartoony human, like walking on the ceiling, leaning forward almost to the ground, and stretching his arms to extreme length. These all indicate his true identity, but the humans are still fooled by his appearance.
- Unflinching Walk:
- Lampshaded. Classified's plan for infiltrating Dave's submarine/base includes a simulated graphic of the team walking away without looking behind as the base explodes.
- Later subverted; when the submarine explodes, the North Wind indeed walks away without looking behind... only to get hit by a truck crossing their path.Short Fuse: Oh, that's why you don't look back at the explosion.
- The Unintelligible: Taking a cue from The Penguins of Madagascar, Rico becomes this where he was simply The Quiet One in the main film trilogy. Unlike the series, he is completely unintelligible and never says anything recognizable.Dave: Dave!
Kowalski: [uncertain] Daaave...
Skipper: [confused] Dave?
Private: [pretending] Dave!
Rico: [bored] Blah...
- Unknown Rival: Dave's disdain for penguins started out when the Penguins stole his glory back at Central Park Zoo back when they were younger. They never really met the guy until this movie and Skipper especially has trouble remembering his name.
- Unusual Euphemism: Skipper is not too comfortable in lederhosen:Skipper: These 'hosen are riding up in my Bundesliga.
- Vengeance Feels Empty: Said nearly word-for-word by Dave. However, his solution is more revenge.
- Video Call Fail: When Dave calls the Penguins and North Wind about the Medusa Serum the Penguins stole, no audio comes from the call, so they tell Dave to turn on his audio. As he does so, he accidentally turns off his video, so they tell him to turn it back on. Dave also has a little trouble ending the call, so he asks his henchmen for help
- What Does This Button Do?: Private can't stop pushing the buttons on Dave's submarine, each one sending them deeper into the ship. Later he presses another one to save the North Wind from Dave's death trap.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Dave's minions are never seen again after the end of the final battle.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: A plot point as Dave became a villain because people didn't think he was cute.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Private calls out the North Wind for prioritizing "regrouping" over saving the rest of the penguins' lives after he frees them from their torture chamber.
- Withholding Their Name: The leader of North Wind refuses to share his name, telling Skipper that it is classified. Skipper takes it literally and calls him Classified for the rest of the film.
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Dave's sole reason for becoming an evil mastermind is due to the fact that he feels penguins stole his glory at every zoo and aquarium where he was ever an attraction.