Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Expect no problems during this positive transfer.
Sharpness looked good. Softness wasn’t an issue, as the image seemed concise and well-defined. I noticed no issues connected to shimmering or jagged edges, and edge haloes remained absent. Of course, the computer-animated affair came without source flaws, so don’t worry about any specks, marks or other defects.
With its jungle settings and exotic characters, Escape featured a broad palette that looked great. The movie’s colors seemed dynamic they offered strong vivacity and impact. Blacks were concise and dark, and shadows seemed clear and smooth. Overall, Escape provided fine visuals.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Escape also seemed positive. In the forward domain, the music showed fine stereo imaging, while effects blended together neatly and smoothly. Those elements moved from speaker to speaker cleanly as the track created a solid sense of atmosphere. It even included a fair amount of dialogue from the side speakers, which offered a good impression of breadth.
Surround usage generally favored reinforcement of music and effects, but the rears came to life nicely during a number of scenes. For instance, shots related to the plane showed effective use of the surrounds, as did the other action sequences like the volcano sacrifice. The mix helped bring the material to life.
Audio quality consistently appeared fine. Dialogue was natural and distinct, and I heard no problems related to intelligibility or edginess. Music was rich and warm throughout the movie, with good clarity as well.
Bass stomped to life nicely during the louder scenes and effects always seemed clear and accurate, with no signs of distortion or other concerns. This was a nicely engaging soundtrack that earned a solid “B+“.
How did the Blu-ray compare with those of the original DVD? Audio was fairly similar, though the lossless mix offered a bit more heft. Visuals showed the more obvious improvements, as the Blu-ray seemed clearer and more distinctive.
The Blu-ray repeats most of the DVD’s extras and adds some new ones. Carried over from the DVD, we begin with an audio commentary from directors/co-writers Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath and producers Mirelle Soria and Mark Swift. All four sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They look at animation and visual design, color schemes and cinematography, cast and performances, story and character issues, music, research in Africa, and some topics related to making a sequel.
Across the board, we find an enjoyable though not great commentary. I certainly can’t find much to fault here, as the track delves into the appropriate topics with reasonable detail. I especially like the parts about changes made to the original story; for instance, Alec Baldwin was originally slated to play himself. The commentary simply lacks a certain zing that would’ve made it more engrossing. It works fine, though.
For an alternate view, the Blu-ray offers Animator’s Corner. In terms of audio, it mainly focuses on the commentary; other elements like clips of the voice actors and quick interviews also appear, but we mostly hear the filmmakers do their track.
The “Corner” includes visual components, though. We see test art and storyboards as well as clips of animators and others at work. I’d like the “Corner” better if it didn’t rely so heavily on the commentary, but it’s still a pretty satisfying expansion of that track.
Another addition to the Blu-ray, we can watch the movie with a Trivia Track. This text feature includes notes about the film’s production as well as facts about elements like animals and locations. It’s a good collection of details.
Some featurettes follow. It’s a Family Affair: The Cast of Escape 2 Africa goes for nine minutes, 13 seconds as it presents remarks from Darnell, Swift, Soria, McGrath, and actors Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, Alec Baldwin, Willow Smith, Sherri Shepherd and will.i.am. We get some notes about cast, characters and performances. Don’t expect much depth here, as the comments remain fluffy and insubstantial. I always enjoy shots of the actors at work, though, so that side of things satisfies.
The Making of Escape 2 Africa goes for 11 minutes, five seconds and features Soria, Darnell, McGrath, Swift, Stiller, will.i.am, production designer Kendal Cronkite-Shaindlin, visual effects supervisor Philippe Gluckman, head of effects Scott Peterson, supervising animators Jason Schieffer, Cassidy Curtis, Jason Spencer-Galsworthy and Sean Mahoney, character technical director Milana Huang, head of character animation Rex Grignon, and composer/songwriter Hans Zimmer. The show looks at research and bringing Africa to life, character design and animation issues, and music. With barely 11 minutes at disposal, “Making” doesn’t dig into details, but it provides a fairly satisfying overview of a few filmmaking issues. It’s a fun and informative little piece.
Next we find the three-minute and 40-second Crash Landing with remarks from Swift, Darnell, McGrath, Grignon, and head of layout Nol Le Meyer. The featurette follows the development and creation of the movie’s plane crash sequence. Behind the scenes elements come to the fore here; shots of the animators at work make this a cool glimpse of how they created the sequence.
African Adventure fills seven minutes, 18 seconds with notes from Swift, McGrath, Darnell, Soria, Cronkite-Shaindlin, and Grignon. “Adventure” follows the filmmakers’ trip to Africa to research the film. It proves satisfying as we get a nice peek at the inspiration for the movie’s settings.
After this we locate an educational piece. Jambo Jambo: Swahili Speak runs one minute, 41 seconds and provides an overview of some Swahili terms. It then splits into an optional glossary with an additional eight expressions such as “blessings are better than wealth”. It’s all pretty forgettable.
Next we find the Test Flight of Air Penguin game. This requires you to pick replacement parts for the aircraft. It doesn’t provide much of a challenge, but at least it’s not annoying like most games of this sort.
Under Mad Music, we find four videos. These accompany “Move It, Move It”, “Big and Chunky”, “She Loves Me”, and “Traveling Song”. The latter appears in a “sing along” format. These are essentially just cheap conglomerations of animation, though “She Loves Me” lifts a sequence from the final flick. None of them prove to be interesting.
Also under “Mad Music”, we get a DreamWorks Animation Jukebox. This lets you see/hear songs from Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Bee Movie, Flushed Away, Over the Hedge, Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and Shark Tale. All of this feels like glorified advertising to me.
Within The Penguins of Madagascar, we find two sequences from a Nickelodeon series. We see “Popcorn Panic” (12:08) and “Gone in a Flash” (12:09). In the first, Zookeeper Alice (Mary Scheer) enforces a “no feeding the animals” policy; the penguins and King Julien (Danny Jacobs) strive to subvert her efforts. During “Flash”, King Julien thinks he’s trapped Maurice (Kevin Michael Richardson) inside a camera; the penguins attempt to assist in his release.
Penguins offers brisk and peppy entertainment. The shows boast surprisingly good animation, and the vocal performances fare well. Only a few original performers return here, but the replacements do well, especially Danny Jacobs as King Julien; he offers a very convincing take on the character. I have no idea if the series’ producers can keep the laughs coming, but this first episode of Penguins entertains.
For an 11-minute and 56-second featurette called The Heart of a Lion, we take a look at life in the Ngotongoro Crater. This shows a mix of animals but focuses on lions. It’s too brief to provide a detailed nature program, but it includes some nice shots of the animals.
The Bronx Zoo: Madagascar goes for eight minutes, 17 seconds and offers a tour from Bronx Zoo director Jim Breheny. We also get comments from Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) president/CEO Steve Sanderson and Bronx Zoo director of planning Sue Chin. The show provides little pop-up factoids to add more info along the way. While obviously aimed at the kiddies, “Zoo” provides a reasonably interesting overview of animals native to Madagascar. Sure, it seems like an ad for the Bronx Zoo’s exhibit, but it’s still informative.
The disc opens with promos for Monsters Vs. Aliens, Secrets of the Furious Five, The Penguins of Madagascar, and the original Madagascar. These also appear in the disc’s trailers domain along with a clip for the Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa video game. No trailer for Escape itself appears here.
Look for some Easter eggs on the Penguins episode selection menu. Poke around and you’ll find at least four short clips of the characters. They’re moderate fun.
I can’t say I was wild about the original Madagascar, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that its sequel doesn’t do much for me. Escape 2 Africa provides a few laughs but nothing more than that; it proves rather forgettable. The Blu-ray offers terrific visuals along with strong audio and an interesting set of supplements. The movie doesn’t do a lot for me, but the Blu-ray represents it well.
To rate this film visit the prior review of MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA