<p>Gifted with both one of the all-time great radio-announcer voices and the barbed mind of an unrepentant social satirist, Stan Freberg was a singular artist. A familiar voiceover artist best k...
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America, Volume 1: The Early Years
Began working for Warner Brothers cartoon studios right out of high school
Begins working in advertising
First hit single, "John and Marsha"
<p>Gifted with both one of the all-time great radio-announcer voices and the barbed mind of an unrepentant social satirist, Stan Freberg was a singular artist. A familiar voiceover artist best known for his work on Warner Brothers cartoons and as the originator of Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent for Bob Clampett's "Beany and Cecil," Freberg also scored several hit singles through the 1950s, with biting parodies of popular hits like Johnnie Ray's "Cry," Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" and the Drifters' "The Great Pretender." These were interspersed with even more pointed sketch-comedy recordings like "Point of Order," a vicious backhand to right-wing demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy, and "Green Chri$tma$," a rebuke to holiday commercialism so stinging that Capitol Records originally refused to release it. Not that Freberg thought advertising was in itself evil: beginning in the mid-'50s, he became a visionary advertising man, the first to bring humor and surrealism to radio and television ads, with slogans like "Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles!" for a brand of pitted prunes and "Can I have a bite of your pencil?" for a termite exterminator. The timelessly inventive Freberg's career stretched from World War II well into the 21st century. </p><p>Stanley Friburg was born August 7, 1926 in Pasadena, California. His father, a Baptist minister of Swedish descent, later changed the spelling of the family name to Freberg to better match its pronunciation. Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Freberg was fascinated by radio and animated cartoons. By the time he was attending Alhambra High School, Freberg was writing his own comic radio scripts, which he performed over the school's loudspeakers, doing all the voices and sound effects by himself. During the summer between his high school graduation and a planned education at Stanford University, Freberg decided on a whim to take a bus into Hollywood and try to find an agent. The first office he walked into took him on as a client; within a week he was doing voices for Warner Brothers cartoons alongside animation giants like Mel Blanc and June Foray. His most memorable Warner Brothers characters included Pete Puma, a slow-witted cat who tangled with Bugs Bunny in several cartoons, and one half of The Goofy Gophers, a pair of extremely polite British-accented gophers played by Freberg and Blanc. </p><p>In 1949, Freberg and fellow voice actor Daws Butler joined Warner Brothers writer/director Bob Clampett on his new puppet animation TV series "Time For Beany" (Paramount 1949-1955), on which Freberg played Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent. Though Freberg and Butler weren't involved with Clampett's later animated version of the show, "Beany and Cecil" (ABC 1962), the characters remained pop-culture touchstones of the baby-boom generation. While continuing his animation and TV work, Freberg started making hit comedy records for the Capitol label. Beginning with the soap opera parody "John and Marsha" in 1951, Freberg had a long string of big-selling singles, split between stinging parodies of the growing folk, jazz and rock and roll scenes to surreal dialogues that co-starred Butler and Furay, such as "St. George and the Dragonet" and the political satire "Little Blue Riding Hood." As LPs came into fashion, Freberg created a brilliant long-form comic piece, the 1961 musical spoof <i>Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America, Volume One: The Early Years.</i></p><p>But by 1961, Freberg had found his true métier: radio and television advertising. In 1955, Freberg started his own commercial production house, Freberg Ltd. (But Not Very). From its punning name onward, the long-running company almost single-handedly changed the tone of radio and television advertising. Instead of either the pummeling hard sell or the slicker soft sell, Freberg's commercials caught the listener or viewer off-guard with oddball surrealism and deadpan irony. For example, a brand of milk was sold with the grandiose tag line "So good, it's almost too much to endure!" Though he continued occasional appearances on television (mostly in voiceover roles) and released sporadic albums, like a 1996 sequel to <i>The United States of America, Volume One</i> and a four-CD box set, <i>Tip of the Freberg: The Stan Freberg Collection 1951-1998</i> (Rhino Records 1999), Freberg spent the remainder of his career working almost entirely in advertising. </p>
His advertising agency, Freberg Ltd (But Not Very), won 21 prestigious Clio awards. His commercials also won prizes at the Cannes and Venice Film Festivals in the short film categories.
When Jack Benny moved to television in 1957, Freberg took over his Sunday night slot on CBS Radio; The Stan Freberg Show was the very last weekly comedy show ever carried by a national radio network.
His parents named him after Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the British journalist who trcked down Dr. Livingstone in darkest Africa during the Victorian age.
His son Donavan Freberg starred in a long-running series of commercials for Encyclopedia Brittanica from 1987 to 1993, which were written and directed by Stan, who also did the voiceover work.
"After I replaced Jack Benny in 1957, they were unable to sell me with spot announcements in the show. That would mean that every three minutes I'd have to drop a commercial in. So I said, "Forget it. I want to be sponsored by one person", like Benny was, by American Tobacco or State Farm Insurance, except that I wouldn't let them sell me to American Tobacco. I refused to let them sell me to any cigarette company." -- http://www.cosmik.com/aa-october99/stan_freberg.html