Archive for November, 2016

Two “Penguins” Articles

The following are a couple of articles that have disappeared from the Internet. Though, the second one might be paywalled. They are posted without permission.

The Penguins of Madagascar Hit TV
Saturday, March 28th, 2009

The Penguins of Madagascar

Exclusive interview with Penguins executive producer Bob Schooley – cartoon series premieres tonight on Nickelodeon

By Robin Rowe

HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 3/28/2009 – “Who wouldn’t want to be both adorable and fearless?” says Penguins of Madagascar executive producer Bob Schooley. “I think the key to the Penguins is the contrast between their tough guy confidence and cute and cuddly appearance. Skipper’s no-nonsense leadership is clearly established in the two Madagascar features. We’ve had a lot of fun embellishing on Private’s innocent charm, Kowalski’s scientific delusions and Rico’s crazed appetite for destruction.

In the Nickelodeon television comedy series Penguins of Madagascar, Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private are four cute penguins living in the Central Park Zoo, based on the characters of the DreamWorks Animation film Madagascar. Outwardly adorable, it’s a clever disguise for an elite penguin strike force with unmatched commando skills and a secret headquarters. Their mission? To maintain order in the zoo. Their nemesis is obnoxious neighbor “King of the Lemurs” King Julien, who’s always ready to take advantage.

“Penguins, like all modern TV animation, is a global effort,” says Schooley. “Nickelodeon has built an amazing in-house CG team that works in tandem with vendor studios around the world. A large staff of artists in California, design, model, texture and rig assets, which are then animated overseas in India and Taiwan. When the animation returns, it’s then further refined internally by our team.”

Nickelodeon’s The Penguins of Madagascar executive producers Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley first heard of the Penguins of Madagascar show while still finishing their our previous series, Kim Possible. “As huge fans of the characters we let Nick know we’d love to take a crack at it if they were still looking for producers when we became available,” says Schooley. “The timing was perfect. We finished up at Disney on a Friday and hit the ground running at Nick the next Monday.”

“The schedule is demanding, as TV tends to be, but everyone is eager to set a new standard in CG for TV,” says Schooley. “Compared to our previous experience in TV, this production is much more of a hybrid between the feature and TV model. For example, we do 3 or 4 revision passes on the story reel alone, constantly reworking and refining to make each eleven minute episode to be as polished as it can. While we may be producing the equivalent of a dozen features in 18 months, we are still devoting an incredible amount of energy, attention and detail to each and every story. We also get involved in the editing of the dialog, reviewing rough story reels and mixing the sound.”

DreamWorks Animation Jeffrey Katzenberg announced in January that Penguins was being renewed for a second season before the first season has even aired. “We were pretty dumbfounded when we got the news,” says Schooley. “The support we’ve felt on this show from every corner of Nick and Dreamworks has been phenomenal and certainly helped energize us for the marathon of creating 104 eleven-minute stories in a continuous marathon.” Schooley was in New York visiting Nickelodeon headquarters when he got the word directly from his boss, Brown Johnson, Nickelodeon president of animation.

“We focus primarily on the story side, working with writers to come up with ideas and flesh them out into scripts,” says Schooley. “Every one of our writers have previously been producers on their own cartoons. This crew is bringing an incredible amount of animation experience to Penguins. And a big thank you to Tom McGrath, who not only makes time in his crazy director’s schedule to continue as the voice of Skipper, but is also full of suggestions on stories and ideas for these great characters.”

The Penguins of Madagascar (TV Series Premiere)

Saturday, March 28 9:30PM Launchtime/Haunted Habitat
Sunday, March 29 10:00AM Launchtime/Haunted Habitat
Sunday, March 29 1:30PM Launchtime/Haunted Habitat
Sunday, March 29 5:30PM Launchtime/Haunted Habitat
Sunday, March 29 7:00PM Launchtime

This one is from February 2010.

Jonathan Storm: Two guys from Bucks bring “Penguins” to TV

By Jonathan Storm

Inquirer Television Critic

BURBANK, Calif. – It’s a long way from Bucks County to Madagascar, but Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley are still enjoying the fantasy journey.

In real life, they’ve only gotten as far as this Southern California hotbed of the entertainment industry. But their career – it has been a lockstep partnership all the way – has taken them from Sesame Place in Langhorne through the exotic palaces of Arabia to Kim Possible’s home base for world adventure in Middleton, U.S.A., and finally to the island of Madagascar, off Africa’s east coast.

That’s one way you could look at it. Another is that they’ve wound up only 75 miles from home, at New York’s Central Park. That’s where the intensely popular Penguins of Madagascar live in the zoo, not so quietly, with their three weird lemur tormentors, including one who claims to be the king of the zoo and another who not only worships at the king’s feet, but just plain worships his feet.

McCorkle and Schooley, both 48, are executive producers of Nickelodeon’s The Penguins of Madagascar, the TV spin-off of the two animated Dreamworks’ Madagascar feature hits that have played to more than a billion people worldwide.

Last year, it was the second-most popular animated show on TV (after SpongeBob, natch), and last week, it was the third-most popular show on all of cable, delivering 5.15 million viewers, nearly a million more than USA’s Burn Notice, the most popular original grown-up cable show, after wrestling.

On Feb. 6, the show, which premiered last year, won the the International Animated Film Society’s Annie as best animated television production for children.

McCorkle and Schooley’s biggest success came with the Disney Channel’s Kim Possible, which they created after working on spin-offs at Disney, including Disney’s Hercules and Aladdin, for nearly 10 years.

“Kim Possible was coming to a close,” says McCorkle in their airy and surprisingly uncluttered (as cartoon production venues go) office at the Nickelodeon animation studios here. “We were looking for something else – not a spin-off because we had done them for so long. And then we got a call to do a spin-off. But it was Penguins, and we really like those characters.”

There are four penguins who form a commando squad for adventures inside and outside the zoo. Penguins all look the same, but these guys have slight differences in the shapes of their heads and bodies, different accents, and distinctly different personalities and capabilities, and they repeatedly demonstrate that a quartet of amphibious birds can be as much fun as a barrel of monkeys.

Tomorrow at 8 p.m., in their first prime-time special, they go up against an enemy much more treacherous than their annoying lemur zoo-mates. He’s the diabolical Dr. Blowhole, a dastardly dolphin (actually, a pernicious porpoise), who has a plan to – what else? – destroy the entire world. Neil Patrick Harris, who honed his evil-villain chops in the exceptional Internet movie Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, voices the dolphin.

Because they still work at kids’ stuff, the executive producers, both Temple grads, have, in one way, journeyed very little from one of their first gigs – “a cool summer job for college kids,” says Schooley – as entertainment managers at Sesame Place, when the theme park was in its infancy and Jim Henson would visit all the time.

Both met their wives there. Alison Schooley worked in the gift shop selling balloons. Stephanie McCorkle was Ernie, the energetic, round-headed, rubber-duck-loving half of one of Sesame Street’s most famous comic duos.

Schooley lived in Levittown. His father, Jess, was a floor manager at WCAU-TV Channel 10. “I used to hang out there when I was a kid,” Schooley says. “They did tons of live kids’ shows in Philadelphia: Chief Halftown [on WFIL-TV Channel 6], Happy the Clown [also on Channel 6]. Gene London’s Cartoon Corners [Channel 10] was the one that I was on a lot.”

One of Schooley’s earliest memories – “I think I was 5” – was the time he was supposed to take a chicken out of a box and hand it to the beloved London, live on the air. The bird had been in the box for quite a while, and the little boy froze when he looked into the box and was greeted by the smell and vision of oodles of poop.

McCorkle lived in Morrisville. His father, Robert, worked for the phone company, “a different aspect of telecommunications,” says McCorkle, but it would turn out that a man who worked at Channel 6 in the Bandstand era would become his father-in-law. McCorkle and his family still return to Drexel Hill, to visit Ralph and Sue DiCocco.

Destined for show biz after their film and communications degrees and making training videos for Sesame Place and Busch Gardens, they loaded up and hit the road for Southern California in 1987. “I almost killed my Ford Escort going over the Rockies,” Schooley says.

They landed in the mailroom (oh, it’s a classic tale) at DIC, then a big animation house producing The Chipmunks, Dennis the Menace, Inspector Gadget and many more.

“The beautiful thing about working in a mailroom,” says McCorkle, is that “you can open the envelopes and see what they’re looking for.” It wasn’t long before the pair had some freelance writing assignments and eventually made it onto the staff.

At Penguins, they run the show, creating ideas, writing and working with other writers, casting, overseeing the music and the voice work of the actors, who range from Tom McGrath, co-creator of the original Madagascar movie, to Andy Richter, who plays the toe-toadie mouse lemur, Mort.

They don’t pretend to know a lot about the computer graphic imagery process (which its practitioners have abbreviated down from CGI now to just CG) that makes Penguins such a rich visual experience. “It’s our first CG, and it’s a learning curve,” says Schooley.

“We talk to the technical people,” says McCorkle. “I hadn’t been here very long when I met one of them. ‘I do the vortices,’ he said.

“OK. But when you watch the show, the special effects look great.”

To a normal person, the work seems bafflingly complicated, but Nickelodeon has about 35 employees – male, female, mostly young but a couple in their 50s, precisely crafting virtual models before they’re sent off to Bangalore and Hyderabad.

No, those aren’t other exotic characters on the show, but big cities in India where the models are brought to life. The animators, however, can’t make the models do anything beyond their programmed capabilities, painstaking anatomical constructions made up in Burbank, where the entire world of the show is rendered into zillions of zeroes and ones in computers and put into precise directories.

Nickelodeon line producer Dean Huff, who makes the more-than-24-hour journey (each way) back and forth to India about every other month, explains, “Every studio we work with around the world has to have our exact same directory structure or else the whole thing doesn’t work, which happens daily.”

There’s no use trying to explain the process, except to say that art students and techies alike work at Nickelodeon. The pay starts at about $45,000.

Justin Andrews from Los Angeles, the vortex guy (and all the other special effects besides bubbles and parting water – electrocution is very cool), went to the University of California at Santa Barbara as a film student and taught himself the complicated computer program, called Maya, in his spare time.

Susan Harris, of Brooklyn, Conn., studied painting at the Massachusetts College of Art. “I didn’t know this existed until I interned at Nickelodeon,” she said, “and I learned you could take painting and apply it to a career.”

One of Schooley’s and McCorkle’s biggest challenges is maintaining much of the feature quality on a TV budget. Madagascar, the 86-minute movie, took more than four years to produce. The Penguins of Madagascar churns out the equivalent material in two months.

After all their travels, literal and figurative, they thought they had found a touch of home right across the street from their office: Philly’s Best Authentic Cheesesteak and Hoagie Shop. “Made with Brotherly Love,” the sign reads.


“When they first opened, they were so hapless,” Schooley says. “They had no idea how to make a cheesesteak. The grill was just crusted with cheese.”

The steaks got a little better, but the operators are still pretty clueless. “I went over there to get some sandwiches for the Eagles playoff game,” Schooley says. “It wasn’t on any of their eight television sets.”

Nonetheless, the cartoon guys soldier on.

“We do it to make ourselves laugh,” says Schooley. “We still have fun, and I think this is some of the best work we’ve ever done, so that helps.”

“If it quits being fun,” McCorkle adds, “that will be a problem.”


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