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Creating Africa
What Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria see when they reach that vista is their first truly inspiring glimpse of the beautiful and expansive African landscape. The filmmakers reasoned that in their previous film, the environment of Madagascar was pretty much a pass to create a fantasy land…but when you start dealing with the real landscapes of one of the most beautiful and photographed countries on the Earth—well, a little realism would have to come into play. They turned to research, looking at films, photography, books and the internet. But a wiser head prevailed.

Eric Darnell: "Jeffrey [Katzenberg] told us that we needed to go there, to see it ourselves. I mean, some of us figured, you know, trees and grass, it probably looks a lot like Simi Valley, right? But when we got there, we realized that nothing looks like it. I never imagined that I'd actually go on an African safari, but it was an amazing experience, and also a great bonding experience for the crew. All the key creative leads went together, and spent several days out there, living in tents on the savanna. To be able to experience this landscape and this place together as a creative team was just absolutely invaluable. Because after we came back, and for the next two or three years, we could say, ‘Remember when we were on the Masai Mara, the sun was going down and there were zebras walking across the grass?' Everybody remembers and they connect to that, and then we put the important components of that experience into our film. The trip was invaluable.”

Tom McGrath: "When you get to Africa, you realize just how big the place is. I mean, there are grass and trees and plants that look like familiar places, but when you get there, it opens up and it feels like you can actually see the curve of the Earth. And at that point, we realized, ‘Wow, we really need to get the scope to sell Africa in this movie.' And two-thirds of what you see when you're there is sky. And we just realized that it has to be a huge part of our set…how are we going to do that?”

Producer Mark Swift relates, "The senior leadership on the show visited about five different locations in Africa. When you get to Africa—and so many people have said this—it's a magical place. You get things from it that you never imagine when you see it on television or in the movies. What we all took away with us, visually, was the enormity of the sky. The land is extremely flat, and there are these beautiful volcanoes in the distance. But the skies and the clouds—those became really important elements for us. And then just seeing the sheer amount of animals all mingling with each other also made us realize that we were going to need a huge crowd system worked out for this movie.”

So production concentrated on utilizing the DreamWorks arsenal to create scale, as producer Soria explains: "The big challenge on this movie was the crowds, everywhere we went. Because of where this story takes them, they are meeting herds of zebra, big numbers of hippos, a pride of lions. The concern was that there were a lot of animals of different sizes…and how were we going to shoot that? So everything was bigger—the sky, the crowds. It ended up being a challenge of scale.”

Kendal Cronkhite, production designer of both the original and "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” was charged with the visual orchestration of all this…scale. In the first film, her designs were more fantastical, simple yet stylized. For the follow-up, the world had to be a bit more tangible, more sophisticated, yet the designer was able to transfer the overall design elements and simplicity already visualized on the screen and ‘Africanize' them, producing an ‘Africa' not seen before—rooted in realism but filtered through an animator's lens. She was able to also incorporate the scope of the environments, particularly the gr

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