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‘Madagascar’: Third time’s charming with 3D thrown in

Animation Elite 2012: The 'Madagascar 3' Ensemble

The third “Madagascar” comedy from DreamWorks Animation, and the first in the franchise to go 3D, was also the best-reviewed in the series and the highest-grossing, earning more than $725 million worldwide.

According to producer Mireille Soria, who’s been with the series since the outset, “One of the most important aspects of its success is the vocal cast” — a lineup that includes not only original cast members Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Sacha Baron Cohen, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith, but also Jessica Chastain, Martin Short and Frances McDormand.

“It takes three years to make each film and we cast them fairly early and then develop the roles, a bit like workshopping a play,” Soria says. “So the cast and vocal talent really becomes an integral part of developing all the characters — particularly with Ben, Chris, Sacha, David and Jada. From the very start, they really owned their characters and worked closely with everyone on them.”

Soria says the same process applied to new cast members, such as McDormand (who plays Captain Chantel DuBois) and Chastain (Gia, the Italian jaguar).

“It was Jessica’s first animation ever, and we’d show them scenes as we go along, and get their suggestions, and they’d improv — and all that’s crucial to the end result.”

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