Director Tom McGrath Talks Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

m2Recently I had the chance to speak with Tom McGrath about Directing the upcoming animated film “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa”. I want to thank Tom for taking the time to speak with us about his film.

GVK: What attracted you to the film?

TM: My partner and I had worked for 5 years with the characters and had come to fall in love with them. I had an idea for further adventures and the film did well enough in the eyes of Dreamworks for a sequel. I also liked the challenge of doing better than we did on the first film and creating a better story with even better animation.

GVK: What are the differences between directing and animated film versus a live action film as I am guessing they are two very different styles of directing.

TM: With live action films, most of the scripts are nailed down by the time you get to shooting them. While there are reshoots and such, for the most part they are already through with most of the creative process in terms of story.

With animation, we start with a rough script then move to storyboards which are like a comic book form of the movie. Next we record the actors and at this point it is still a fairly inexpensive process and we can make huge changes to the story over the next three years. We only get really serious with putting the final film together in the last year and a half.

GVK: What have been the biggest challenges and rewards this time out?

TM: Trying to do the best story that you can and trying to find emotion rather than simply doing a series of gags. In the first film we could hide a lot but we took a trip to Africa to prepare and it was amazing. When you get there you see the amazing scale of the land as well as the scope of the grass, the water, and clouds and realize that it is a huge place and a massive task to capture it correctly in the films. The look of everything is so much different than anything you could expect, it made for some real challenges. We had to keep refining the rough concepts we had and make changes with the virtual sets and cameras without sacrificing story and characters. Things such as the type and height of the grass, type and look of the clouds as well as emotions had to be factored in.

We also had all manner of new software written as we had tech hurdles arise and had the talented team always took it as a challenge to find new ways to overcome it.

GVK: Do you have a favorite character in the film?

TM: I like the penguins as while they do not support the main part of the story, they have a lot of fun and provide a lot of the comic relief in the film. Alex and the main characters tell personal stories as we have the Lion who follows his instinctual passion as well as the relation with his father.

GVK: What do you have coming next?

TM: While we never know how well the film will do, I have been kicking around ideas for another film in the series.