DreamWorks Animation brought just enough footage of Penguins of Madagascar to San Diego Comic-Con to convince me that it’s destined to be one of the funniest films yet to open this year. Confidently screening more than 20 minutes of polished footage, Thursday’s Hall H panel played up all of the quirky, hysterical traits we appreciate in the tight-knit team of adventurous penguins. The footage was a huge hit… though the biggest laughs came from an unexpected cameo.
If you don’t want to know this surprising character who appears in Penguins of Madagascar, stop reading now!
We know that Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich are part of the ensemble. As part of the Hall H presentation, though, Penguins of Madagascar co-directors Eric Darnell and Simon J. Smith screened the first six minutes of the movie, which are a flashback to the first day the baby penguins of Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Corporal (Peter Stormare) and Private (Christopher Knights) met. It turns out, they were part of a marching line of obedient penguins, all behaving "cute and cuddly," because they are being filmed. By a documentary film crew. Led by Werner Herzog!
It’s an hilarious tip of the cap to Herzog’s own Encounters at the End of the World, a spectacular, Oscar-nominated documentary that explored the wildlife living on the frozen tundras of Antarctica. The film was released in 2007. If you haven’t seen it, the trailer illustrates why Herzog fits naturally into the fictional world of the DreamWorks Pengins.
Werner Herzog’s appearance isn’t brief. And it isn’t insignificant. In fact, there is a crucial act that he and his film crew commit that leads to the Penguins becoming an actual team. But I’ll leave that for you to discover.
This segment of the film was still unfinished, and there’s a chance that Herzog’s narration in the film (and his appearance) could disappear between now and the movie’s release date of November 14, 2014. But given the tremendous laughter that it generated in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con, it would be wise for the team to leave this whole sequence (including the Herzog cameo) in, because it’s as funny – and possibly a little funnier – than the red-hot material that screened in the venue today.