Writer, director and artist Tom McGrath was one of the creative forces behind the wildly popular animated film "Madagascar" (2005) and its numerous sequels and spinoffs, while also providing the voice for one of its most well-loved characters, the gung-ho penguin Skipper. Born August 7, 1964 in Lynwood, Washington, McGrath's interest in animation was sparked by the Saturday morning cartoon programming of the period. He initially pursued a degree in industrial design at the University of Washington, but left to follow a more creative path with the animation program at the California Institute of the Arts. After completing his studies with a number of former Disney animators, including Hal Ambro ("Cinderella," 1950), McGrath worked in various capacities for a number of major film and television projects, from animator on "Space Jam" (1996) and director for "Ren & Stimpy" (Nickelodeon, 1991-95) to prop designer for Ron Howard's "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000). In 2005, he was given his first opportunity to serve as co-director and co-writer with Dreamworks Animation's "Madagascar," about a quartet of pampered zoo animals that must fend for themselves in Africa. Though the voice cast included such major stars as Ben Stiller and Chris Rock, McGrath's own performance as Skipper, the leader of a group of renegade penguins, earned a positive response from audiences. As a result, the characters were featured prominently in the sequels, "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" (2008), and "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" (2012), both of which were directed by McGrath, Darnell and Conrad Vernon. McGrath also created, wrote and provided the voice for Skipper on two television efforts: the highly rated series "The Penguins of Madagascar" (Nickelodeon, 2008- ) and a special, "Merry Madagascar" (NBC, 2009). The success of the "Madagascar" franchise led to a dual career for McGrath: he made his debut as a solo filmmaker with the animated feature "Megamind" (2010), featuring the voices of Brad Pitt, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell, while also providing vocal turns for many of Dreamworks' animated efforts, including "Shrek the Third" (2007), "Monsters vs. Aliens" (2009), "Puss in Boots" (2011) and "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" (2014).