Madagascar (Blu-Ray) Studio: DreamWorks Animation Home Video Rated: PG (mild language, crude humor and some thematic elements) Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HD Encoding: 1080p HD Video Codec: MPEG4-AVC Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; French, Spanish, Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; English SDH Time: 86 minutes Disc Format: 1 SS/DL Blu-Ray Case Style: Keep case Theatrical Release Date:2005 Blu-Ray Release Date: September 23, 2008 Talking animal pictures are all the rage these days, what with the computer animation companies stepping all over each other to make a bee, or a lion or a rat talk and entertain the masses. Madagascar is Dreamworks entry into this genre, featuring four New York City Zoo animals, Alex the lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (voiced by Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (voiced by David Schwimmer) and Gloria the hippo (voiced by Jada Pinkett Smith). Marty gets the big idea to see how the wild animals live and he makes a zoo break, with his friends chasing after him. The NYC authorities capture the four and send them back to Africa on a ship, which is commandeered by four shifty penguins. When the penguins can’t figure out how to sail the ship, the others are thrown off the boat arguing only to land on the island of Madagascar. While there, Alex’s true nature takes over and he begins stalking his friends and the denizens of the island, the lemurs. Can Marty and company draw Alex back to his kinder nature, or is nature just going to run its course? Madagascar is nothing too special, but it does throw in some good gags and references not usually made. The shifty penguins are a blast and the very under used “Odd Couple”-esque monkeys make for great supporting characters. The more I see these CG anthropomorphic pictures the more I yearn for some of the more radical CG films of the past, like Toy Story or the first Shrek. The idea of having an animal strut down the street to whatever popular song you want to put him to (in this case, Stayin’ Alive) or have him use such fine slang terms ending in “izzle” the more I yearn for a new or better way to do it. Until such a time, Madagascar is what we’ve got and it will at least amuse us and entertain the kids for a while. Video: Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment. The picture is framed at 1.85:1, and it is encoded in MPEG4-AVC at 1080p. Since I was less than impressed with the story, it did allow me time to stare at the gorgeous picture. Computer animation is now known for producing some of the finest HD images, and this title is no different. The picture is absolutely pristine and clear with no dirt or noise in it. I noticed no compression artifacts, aliasing or edge enhancement. Color fidelity was excellent showing a wide array of colors in every scene. Usually I’m impressed by the depth of field in these CG pictures, but here I thought it looked a little flat. Black levels are excellent for the few there are as most of the picture is set in the daytime. I kept staring at the fur in Alex’s mane and the intense detail in the jungle surroundings drinking in the lushness of the image. Audio: The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI. I listened to the feature with the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track engaged. The mix provides a good soundstage with most of the sound coming from the front channels. Voices and effects come through crystal clear as there is no hiss or distortion noted. The surrounds come up often adding to the realism of the jungle and other wild surroundings. LFE’s engage during the action and music scenes. Bonus Material: all of these items are in HD unless otherwise noted. Mad Trivia Pop-UpTrack: this track features behind-the-scenes fun facts about the production or the animals. It’s fairly basic information that has probably been covered on the other docs at some point. You can choose to watch this in the Subtitle menu as it plays over the feature. Commentary with Directors Tom McGrath and Eric Darnell: the guys go into some depth about the story, actors and production. There is nothing too revelatory or exciting here. Penguins in a Christmas Caper (12:08): “Hoover Dam!” The Penguins take the spotlight in this short showing exactly why they deserve their own movie. Meet the Wild Cast (7:47) (SD): the usual EPK stuff with interviews with the voice actors. Mad Mishaps (1:30): rendering gone wrong! Behind the Crates (23:16) (SD): a promo piece for the picture, which is, again, EPK type stuff showing us how the picture was made and interviews the cast, director and crew. The Tech of Madagascar (4:59) (SD): the details of the CG animation is explored in more depth. Penguin Chat (8:43): the penguins give commentary to their scenes in the movie. Enchanted Island (7:50) (SD): a documentary on the real Madagascar and the animators discuss its translation into the movie. DreamWorks Animation Jukebox: this feature allows you to pick songs from several of your favorite DreamWorks animated titles. It then plays the song with accompanying animation from the feature. DWK: choosing this feature accesses the music video for I Like to Move It, Move It and a “Learn to Draw” feature that shows you how to draw the four main characters step by step. Conclusions: While lacking in the story and audio department, this disc has a great video presentation and a few entertaining extras that should entertain us on a slow Saturday afternoon in the home theater.