After Madagascar and Madagascar 2: Escape 2 Africa were such hits (you might not know it, but they were), it seemed highly likely that the Dreamworks team would put the squad of animals on ice. While the headliners there were Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, Jada Pinkett Smith, and David Schwimmer, some of the funniest parts were stolen by the various penguins in the movies. Nickelodeon obviously noticed, and produced fifty-two episodes (so far) of adventures in the zoo that feature the penguins, King Julien (the lemur), and a host of other characters that kids will recognize from the first two films. And now, the second and third DVDs of those episodes (and a few unreleased ones) are available for kids (and kids at heart) everywhere.
I have to admit that these are some of the more palatable cartoons for me to watch with my son. They’re funny, witty, and overall, entertaining. And it definitely helps that penguins are quirky… or at least they look that way. With Skipper, Private, Kowalski, and Rico, we’re watching with awe and worry as they try to subvert the plans of the powermad lemur King Julien and whatever other dangers might invade their region. Of course, as you might tell, they are militarily minded: it’s their duty, and by their honor and lives, that they defend the zoo from all danger. No matter what, you can count on the penguins to come through, sometimes in spite of themselves.
In Happy King Julien Day, eight episodes seem to focus on the lemur king himself, with “The Helmet” revolving around Julien’s theft of Kowalski’s mind-bending headpiece serving as an “unaired” episode that fans of the show will like to add to their collection. “The Big Squeeze” is the unaired episode which rounds out the eight episodes of New To The Zoo, another entertaining one, but the focus is more squarely on the penguins. (I liked the episode about the poisonous frog, “Untouchable,” but “Skorca” (a sky whale…) was pretty funny, too.)
Overall, the Penguins emphasize teamwork, responsibility, and friendship, and the way they often leave Julien gasping for air (and power) have a certain “kingdom of heaven” approach to them. Nothing wrong with taking down dictators and raising up the lowly, is there?