DVD Review: “The Penguins of Madagascar-Operation: DVD Premiere”

Who could have imagined that the Penguin characters from the two Madagascar film would spin off to their own animated series so successfully? In both films, the characters were essentially comic relief, thrown in as a “C” story that pretty much had nothing with the main plots until they show up at the end to rejoin the rest of the escaped zoo animals. Yet, in their own show, the penguins not only carry the show, but they are funny and enjoyable for parents and kids alike.

The Nickelodeon series has been on the air nearly a year now and it’s a big hit for the network. So, in true fashion of the marketing savvy network, Nickelodeon has released Operation: DVD Premiere, the first “feature length” DVD with over two hours of entertainment. The DVD is a collection of some of the Penguins best adventures, as well as a brand new, never-before-seen special, “Dr. Blowhole’s Revenge,” and two never- before-seen episodes, “Truth Ache” and “Command Crisis.” On a side note, I know that Nick plans to air “Dr. Blowhole’s Revenge” on President’s Day. I don’t understand the logic in advertising something as “never-before-seen” for just one week before putting in on television. I digress.

The set up for the show is simple: The Penguins, that is Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private, are back living at the New York City Zoo. Even though they are residents in the zoo, that doesn’t mean they’re confined behind bars. Instead, they have plenty of crazy adventures within the zoo and outside it. Along for the fun are three characters they never lived in the zoo in the films: King Julien, the insane lemur, originally voiced by Sacha Baren Cohen, by on television capably handled by Danny Jacobs, Maurice, an aye aye who is Julien’s trusty servant, and Mort, the accident mouse lemur who is the brunt of Julien’s contempt.

Supporting characters on hand to fill the absence of the main Madagascar characters include Marlene, an otter whose character is solely new to the series, plus Mason and Phil, the two chimpanzees from the films.

“Dr. Blowhole’s Revenge” is a funny, “save the world” adventure that finds the Penguins pitted against the evil Dr. Blowhole, an angry dolphin who gets around on a Segway. Dr. Blowhole plans to melt the North Pole in order to flood the earth as payback to humans for making him perform tricks in a ring of fire. Making matters worse for the Penguins is the fact that Julien has teamed up with Blowhole. The nefarious Blowhole is voiced by guest-star Neil Patrick Harris (who seems to be everywhere these days) and he has a good time with the role. Like most animation being produced these days, the adult behind the creation of the show often slip in a little bit of safe grown-up humor to make the show enjoyable for parents, as well as their kids.

The other two episodes, “Truth Ache” and “Command Crisis” fit right in with the seven other episodes included on this DVD, all of which have previously aired on Nickelodeon. As for bonus features, they aren’t much. But you shouldn’t expect too much when you’re buying TV episodes on a single disc like this one, anyway. There are trailers for upcoming Dreamworks animated features, Nick animated show and a couple of online games. Like I said, it isn’t much. Still, if you have a Penguin or King Julien fan in your house (child or adult) then this DVD is a worthwhile investment.