Comic-Con: Benedict Cumberbatch Brings Charm to DreamWorks Animation Panel

The "Sherlock" star joked to the audience that he went "undercover at Yellowstone National Park" for his role as a wolf in "Penguins of Madagascar."
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Benedict Cumberbatch

While DreamWorks Animation may be taking a drubbing on Wall Street and in some cases the box office, the studio had the Comic-Con audience in Hall H charmed and eating out of its hands.

It helped that it had the very first Comic-Con appearance of Benedict Cumberbatch, the internationally beloved star of Sherlock, who is one of the voices of upcoming feature Penguins of Madagascar. And it helped that it had footage that was genuinely winning, proving that while the company may be relying on its old standards — Penguins is a spin-off from its popular Madagascar franchise — it doesn't mean going down that road needs to be stale.

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Tom McGrath, who voices the main Penguin named Skipper and was key in creating the characters, revealed that the penguins, a quartet of beaked birds who act like a military unit, almost didn’t make it into existence. They were initially in one scene in the first Madagascar movie, released in 2005, and studio execs wanted to know what their purpose was and told the filmmakers to excise them.  

"We found a way to integrate them more into the story," said McGrath. "And now after three movies, 10 video games, 80 TV shows, they get their own movie."

He said the goal of the move was to give them depth and an origin in an epic spy thriller.

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The panel also brought out John Malkovich, again making his first comic Con appearance. He proved to be a natural: When moderator Craig Ferguson remarked that his characters, a villainous octopus seeking revenge against the world, looked a bit like him, the actor nodded, then added in his well-known and measured tone: "And you know what? It looks even more like my youngest sister."

Cumberbatch also injected heavy doses of self-deprecation and humor into his answers. When asked what kind of preparation he did for role of a wolf running a secret SHIELD-like agency, the actor said he went undercover at Yellowstone National Park. He didn't stop there though as he recounted how he ended up being an alpha in the pack and how Christian Bale and Daniel Day-Lewis were also undercover as wolves.

He did become serious, however, saying he had to learn to not stay static and move his body when he did voicework. And he revealed that he had met Malkovich, his co-star in the movie, for the first time only the previous day.

The presentation showcased several clips from the movie, which featured irreverent humor and plenty of wisecracks, not to mention some creative action sequences.

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DWA's panel also included a peak at Home, the adaptation of a book by Adam Rex. Director Tim Johnson and voicestar Jim Parsons were on hand to talk about the movie, a comedy about an alien invasion that Johnson said was about six months from being completed.

The movie is the first feature Parsons, the star of TV juggernaut Big Bang Theory, has done voicework for, and he praised the animators for making him look good.

"The animator are the greatest excuse makers for me," he said.  "I'll do something, it won't be good and I won't like the way it sounds. Then they adjust (the animation), and then you say, 'That was perfect!'"

Some footage and a sequence were shown, pointing to a movie that looks like it will skew younger and could draw some comparisons to Despicable Me with the many little aliens who give off a Minions vibe.