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At the tail end of DreamWorks Animation’s Comic-Con panel, Madagascar director (and penguin voicer) Tom McGrath dropped a hint that he’d have a feature-length Penguins of Madagascar movie in theaters by 2015. Today’s news could create an obstacle to that actually happening.

Variety says McGrath’s currently in talks to direct RentaGhost, a live-action afterlife comedy Fox has set up with Ben Stiller in the lead. Obviously, Stiller’s a Madagascar veteran, and having him on board could only help McGrath’s transition from animation go that much smoother. RentaGhost used to be set up at Warner Bros., where the studio wanted Russell Brand for the lead. Stiller picked up the project in 2011, though, and the potential hiring of McGrath likely will get the project on the fast track toward theaters.

In the film, Stiller would play a recently-deceased man who rents spirits to the living from his position in the afterworld. Night at the Museum scribes Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant will tackle the script, which is adapted from a BBC childrens' comedy series from the late 1970s and early ‘80s.

It sounds like a quintessential Stiller vehicle, and pairing him with a frequent collaborator like McGrath’s an easy call. It’s always interesting to see how creative an animator can be in the live-action realm (or, in the case of Andrew Stanton’s John Carter, how stymied they can be). And if McGrath can somehow lure another Madagascar actor into the RentaGhost fold – maybe Chris Rock – all of a sudden, we’d be moving this to the top of our must-see comedy lists.

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