Thursday’s San Diego Comic-Con kicked off with a presentation by DreamWorks Animation in the convention center’s hallowed Hall H.
Ferguson opened with a joke about how SDCC is the weekend all domestic cats dread as their owners dress up in weird costumes and leave them alone for the weekend. He also mentioned that he’s moderating the panel because he’s “frightened of Jeffrey Katzenberg” and of course due to his appearances in the How to Train Your Dragon films. He then introduced a trailer for the upcoming film Home.
First was the panel for Home with director Tim Johnson, and voice actor Jim Parsons (from The Big Bang Theory). Johnson mentioned that the film is still six months away from finishing and that he first began the project two and a half years ago upon reading the book the film’s based on, The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
Parsons talked about the audition process he had to go through before being cast, and how as awkward as his voice sounded, that “animators are the biggest excuse makers for one’s voice that anyone can hope for.” He described how Johnson did a great job of describing the scenes while he was in the recording booth, but it’s still a shock to see the final finished scene.
Then Johnson introduced a scene wherein the Boov alien named Oh and Tip, the Earth girl he’s run away with, are confronted by Smek, the Boov leader at the Eiffel Tower, which the Boovs have taken over and suspended in a gravity field above Paris. Tip, in an effort to evade capture, breaks the gravity field, causing the Tower to tip over collapsing onto the Paris streets below, causing general havoc.
Johnson mentioned that Rihanna was a pleasure to work with and had a great influence on the animators in designing the character and her costumes.
Ferguson then announced DreamWorks’ upcoming B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations, a animated film about ghost busters, featuring the voices of Melissa McCarthy, Seth Rogen, and Bill Murray.
Next was the panel for Penguins of Madagascar, moderated by Craig Ferguson with Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Tom McGrath, and directors Simon J. Smith and Eric Darnell.
McGrath mentioned how the penguins were almost cut from their first appearance in Madagascar. He originally wanted Robert Stack for the voice of Skipper, but since he’d passed away, the voice McGrath gives him is a tribute, one which Jeffrey Katzenberg approved.
Next they introduced a clip featuring the penguins breaking into Fort Knox to steal a vending machine with the country’s last remaining Cheezy Dibbles, only to be captured by the tentacles of an octopus.
Next Mc Grath introduced John Malkovich (who plays Dr. Octavius Brine, aka Dave). This was his first Comic-Con. When Simon Smith first presented him with the character, an octopus, he said it was a no-brainer to participate.
Malkovich described Dave as character who used to live at the same zoo as the penguins, and became enraged when the penguins began getting more attention than he did, leading him to a life of evil.
Ferguson said that the character himself resembles Malkovich, and Malkovich related that he thinks it actually looks like his youngest sister, and hopes she isn’t listening to this.
Next was a clip featuring the Penguins being pursued by Dave’s henchmen; a high-speed thrilling chase through the canals (and streets) of Venice Italy, only to be rescued by Classified, a wolf and team leader of the North Wind (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Ferguson then introduced Benedict Cumberbatch, who said it was also his first Comic-Con. He described his character as the leader of a sort of animal CIA, who recruit the penguins to help take down Dr. Brine. He mentioned that voice acting is a lonely gig, and that the first time he’d even met Malkovich was yesterday, and the first question he asked this “legend of acting” was “What was it like playing an evil octopus?” Darnell mentioned that they try to get as many actors in the recording sessions as they can, to allow for improv moments, but Smith said it’s practically impossible to get actors of Malkovich and Cumberbatch’s caliber in the room at the same time.
During the Q & A session, Cumberbatch was asked what was the process in bringing his character, Classified, to life. He joked that he had to go undercover in Yellowstone National Park as a wolf, eventually becoming alpha male, only to discover two of the other wolves were Christian Bale and Daniel Day-Lewis. He then said that seriously it involved “arsing about, being a bit of a woddie.”
Cumberbatch and Malkovich again reiterated the difficulty of trying to improv off each other without the benefit of being in the same room at the same time.
Smith and Darnell said that this film takes place in the world of Madagascar, and not a followup to the Penguins of Madagascar television series.
Cumberbatch and Malkovich were asked if they could play any comic book hero, who would they play. Malkovich said “Lois Lane” and Cumberbatch first joked, saying “Night Nurse” (from Doctor Strange) then seriously answered “Batman.”
The panel concluded with a sneak preview of the first six minutes of the film, revealing the origin story of the penguins, and how they discovered and rescued the egg that would become Private.
Penguins of Madagascar is scheduled to be released on November 26, 2014. Home is scheduled for March 27, 2015 and B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations is scheduled for June 5, 2015.