This morning Dreamworks Animation held a special sneak preview of a couple of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and Rise of the Guardians. New trailers for each are forthcoming with Rise of the Guardians set to be arrive April 6.
The presentation opened with the first 15 minutes of Madagascar 3, which picks up where the second movie left off. The same whimsy and charm that made the first two movies popular hits are intact. The movie opens in Monaco where Alex, Marty, Gloria and Melman are searching for penguins Skipper, Kowalski and the chimps.
They unintentionally cause a scene while breaking into a casino leading to an extended chase sequence between our animal heroes and the film's villain Capitaine Chantel DuBois, voiced by Academy Award winner Frances McDormand.
Following their escape, the police are chasing after them and just their luck, they find a traveling circus in a rail yard. Inside one of the train cars are three new characters to the franchise – Vitaly the tiger voiced by Bryan Cranston, Gia the jaguar voiced by Jessica Chastain and Stefano the seal voiced by Martin Short.
The next sequence presented was an unfinished clip from a circus performance. Once the 3D is completed, it should look quite dazzling.
Directors Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon were joined briefly by Jada Pinkett Smith (she voices Gloria the hippo). They revealed that the movie travels from Monaco to Rome to the Swiss Alps and possibly back to New York. We'll have to wait until June 8 when the movie hits theaters to find out.
The second half of the presentation featured Rise of the Guardians, which to this point, has pretty much flown under the radar. The movie is based on a series of novels by William Joyce, who wrote and directed the Academy Award winning animated short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
Director Peter Ramsey took the stage to talk about the movie. He said the film taps into the vivid childhood imagination by re-imagining iconic characters – Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc.
"When you're a kid, you believe they're all real," he said. "This movie says that if kids don't believe in the guardians, they cease to exist."
He then ran through the cast of characters. First up was Santa, re-named in this movie as North. Voiced with a Russian accent by Alec Baldwin, North is "a wildman with naughty and nice tattoos on each forearm. He's like a Hell's Angel with a heart of gold."
Next was the Easter Bunny, re-named Bunnywad. Hugh Jackman voices this ranger/warrior who believes Easter is better than Christmas.
The Tooth Fairy is shortened to Tooth and voiced by Isla Fisher. While an obvious fan of clean teeth, she takes teeth from under kids' pillows and keeps them. Why? Because in this world, teeth hold our precious memories. Tooth hangs onto them so that we can draw upon those memories at a later date.
There's also Sandy, essentially a miniature, mute Sandman who communicates by creating objects with his magical sand. The villain in the movie is the Boogeyman, named Pitch. Pitch sets out to engulf the world in fear, forcing the Guardians to join forces and summon a new member – Jack Frost (pictured).
Jack possesses the magical powers of winter, meaning he can freeze objects and control wind. He's a mischievious loner whom nobody believes in and thus is rendered invisible to humans. This wild card character is voiced by Chris Pine, who took the stage to talk about voicing his first animated feature. He admitted that voicing an animated film isn't the ideal job for someone who is a perfectionist.
Ramsey then summarized everything by saying the movie is ultimately a fight against the cynicism of adulthood. It's fear vs. belief.
The first 10 minutes were then presented, which opens with Jack alone in the forest on his birthday. He discovers his magical powers and eventually floats into a nearby town where he greets the villagers. Unfortunately, no one can see him. He returns to the woods dejected. The tone couldn't have been more contrasting to the whimsical Madagascar. The film is much more serious and darker, though it does have touches of comedy.
We then cut to the North Pole where Santa and his Yetis (yes, Yetis do the work we all thought elves did) put out a call to the Guardians after Pitch's presence is detected on a giant globe.
The next scene involved the Guardians – North, Bunnywad, Tooth and Sandy summoning the services of a new Guardian – Jack. The things is though, Jack doesn't want to be a part of the group and North sets out to convince him.
The trailer premiere wrapped things up and admittedly, the 3D looks gorgeous. Both sequences from Madagascar 3 and Guardians were presented in 2D as the conversion process is still in progress, however both trailers were presented in 3D.
Rise of the Guardians arrives in theaters November 21, 2012 and could make a run at the best animated feature Oscar category. What do you think of the re-imagined characters?