12 Things We Just Learned About 'Penguins of Madagascar' at Comic-Con

12 Things We Just Learned About 'Penguins of Madagascar' at Comic-Con
(Dreamworks Animation)In Penguins of Madagascar, the franchise's scene-stealing penguins finally get their own movie, and even origin story. This time Skipper (Tom McGrath) and his fellow penguins encounter a team of animal secret agents called North Wind, led by a wolf named Classified (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The penguins and North Wind don't really get along, but they'll have to team up to defeat an evil octopus known as Dr. Brine (John Malkovich) before he can destroy the world with his Medusa Serum. The panel was hosted by Craig Ferguson and was notable for bringing Cumberbatch to Comic-Con for the first time ever. Here's what we learned.

(Some SPOILERS Follow!)

1. Everyone's Here for Benedict Cumberbatch
As directors Simon Smith and Eric Darnell came out with voice actor Tom McGrath, there were cheers, but mostly people were looking around for Benedict Cumberbatch John Malkovich. (Mostly Benedict.) Panel host Craig Ferguson quipped, "There'll be some noise when Benedict comes out. [Cheers] But I'm warning you, if anyone asks a question about Sherlock, Comic-Con is canceled!"

2. The Penguins Were Almost Cut a Long Time Ago
Smith said the penguins were almost cut from the first Madagascar movie for length. So to see them get their own movie is pretty exciting.

3. The Penguins Can Get Past Any Security
In the first clip shown in Hall H, the Penguins break into Fort Knox by playing bluegrass music into a voice recognition device, but they're not after the gold. They're after the Cheezy Dibbles (basically Cheetos) in the vending machine next to the stacks of gold.

4. John Malkovich Voices an Octopus
John Malkovich plays Dr. Octavius Brine, an octopus pretending to be a human doctor. Malkovich says he was immediately drawn to the role. [Editor's note: It helps to play this quote in your head in John Malkovich's voice.] "When SImon came and presented this to me, this was three-and-a-half years ago and they showed me some materials and explained what they wanted to do. I thought it was such a funny idea to have my voice be the voice of an octopus. It was just a no-brainer."

5. Dr. Brine Is an Octopus Pretending to Be a Human
The second clip shown opens with Dr. Brine walking on the ceiling before jumping to the floor with his limbs all twisted up. He soon pulls off his human facade to reveal a purple octopus named "Dave" underneath. None of the penguins know who the expectant "Dave" is. It turns out Dr. Brine had his life ruined when the penguins came to the zoo and stole his thunder, driving him mad.

6. There Will Be Evil Octopi
In the third clip shown, the Penguins are on the run from a trio of evil octopi in Venice, Italy. The chase is packed with visual gags such as jumping a gondola out of the water and using the paddles as legs. Eventually the octopi have them cornered and the North Wind team saves them.

7. Benedict Cumberbatch's Character Is "Classified"
Literally. That's his name. According to Benedict, Classified "underestimates what the Penguins are capable of, and overestimates what he's capable of."

8. The First Thing Benedict Ever Said to John Malkovich
The first time I met John was yesterday — this extraordinary actor and man — and the first question I got to ask him was, "So what's it like playing an octopus."

9. Dr. Brine Can't Skype
The Penguins show up in North Wind headquarters having already stolen the Doomsday device North Wind is planning to steal from Dr. Brine. Which means the Penguins have upstaged Cumberbatch and company. Then Dr. Brine gets them on a video call and video call jokes ensue before he shows them a huge bursting vat full of the Medusa Serum which can, somehow, destroy the world. Also, he takes a selfie in front of the serum.

10. This Is the Most Self-Aware Madagascar Movie
The Madagascar series has always been self-aware. Filled with pop culture references and jokes that will inevitably be embarrassingly dated in 20 years, it's a very plugged-in franchise. This movie takes that to a whole new level, often breaking scenes as characters comment to each other on what's happening. In one example, when Dr. Brine reveals himself to be Dave the Octopus, we get a cricket sound effect. The shot widens to reveal the cricket chirping near the Penguins. Then the scene breaks, the cricket looks around, apologizes, and starts to walk away before turning around and saying, "oh right I live this way," and slowly shuffling off.

11. Benedict Felt Like James Bond
Asked what drew him to his wolf character, Cumberbatch said he liked the "Bond pastiche" at play, and joked that he had to learn to be a wolf by going into the wilderness to live the life of a wolf with Daniel Day Louis.

12. The Penguins' Origin Story
At the end of the panel, Craig Ferguson introduced a surprise clip: A rough cut of the first six minutes of the movie. With some of the CG edges still showing, we see the Penguins in their native Antarctica long before they ever made it to the zoo.

I write about movies for Zimbio.com, which means I spend way too much time thinking about the geekiest possible ways to approach the cineplex. I'm also hopelessly addicted to audio books. Follow me: Google