Dear Tom McGrath, Voice Actor
Your career trajectory sort of came out of left field, didn’t it? Not only are you the voice actor for Skipper the penguin in The Penguins of Madagascar, the latest spin-off of the Madagascar franchise, but you’re also the writer of the original film. It’s certainly not every day that the folks who toil on the screenplay get to voice characters in the movie they’re working on! And, even if they do, so far as I can tell it has never before been the case that their minor characters became so popular that they got their own movie and TV series. Kudos must also go to Chris Miller, Christopher Knights, and Conrad Vernon — the voices of the other penguins — who have likewise contributed in very different ways: as story artist, first assistant editor, and creative consultant on the original film, respectively.
I have no idea how you all accomplished this achievement, aside from the fact that the penguins in the Madagascar movies are truly entertaining, not least of all because of your voice work. So, congratulations (even if every actor who has studied the craft of voice performance for years might secretly fantasize about squishing your head for achieving success by such a sideways path)!
You’re lucky, too; this movie is actually far better than the last entry in the franchise, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, which featured returning stars Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, Chris Rock, and David Schwimmer (my apologies: I know you co-directed that one). What was a major weakness in that film — its randomness and lack of a solid story structure — actually works in the favour of such madcap characters as the penguins. It may have been a highly implausible story, but it nonetheless elicited a continuous chorus of giggles from the children surrounding me in the theatre (and from myself, let’s be honest).
So, go forth and enjoy the creation of Madagascar 4, which I see is already in the works for 2018. Maybe next time, you can find a best boy or a grip to add to the voice cast? I’m sure they’d appreciate it (though I’m sure they’ll never be abled to top Werner Herzog’s delivery of “bumbum” in the opening narration).
Air Mail (4 stars)
Directed by: Eric Darnell, Simon J. Smith
Written by: Michael Colton & John Aboud and Brandon Sawyer