The computer-animated series of "Madagascar" comedy films have been successful enough to spawn an original movie and two sequels since 2005.
People who want to see what the real Madagascar looks like and also receive a bird's eye view of an animal on the endangered species list - lemurs - can check out the new G-rated IMAX 3D documentary, "Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar," which debuts today at the IMAX Theatre at Tropicana in Atlantic City.
The film reunites Drew Fellman, who wrote and produced the 2011 IMAX 3D documentary "Born To Be Wild 3D" with director and cinematographer David Douglas, who was the director of photography on that project. Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman, who narrated the earlier film, returns to fulfill the same duties for an animal that has survived for millions of years on its own in Madagascar and evolved into hundreds of diverse species.
"Everybody was pretty happy with how things turned out last time. Morgan has a real personal commitment to conservation issues. He has an interest in science also," Douglas said. "He demonstrated a whole range of commitments to science education and conservation issues. I think it was easy for him to say yes."
The colorful, 40-minute film doesn't betray how difficult it was to film in Madagascar.
Douglas, Fellman and their crew ended up shooting in places filmmakers have never been previously. There is no road system in Madagascar. The terrain ranges from beach to desert and rock to mountains to rainforest.
"The problem is Madagascar is just a very, very hard place to work. There is very little infrastructure there, and you never know what's going to happen from one moment to the next," Fellman said. "We had a mentality while we were there that nothing was going wrong, that we were just on this wave, and we were riding it as best we could and doing the best we could no matter what circumstance presented itself. When you start having the perspective that something is going wrong, that's a kind of negative way to look at the situation, and you can't survive in Madagascar with that point of view."
"Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar" would not have been possible without the cooperation and participation of Dr. Patricia C. Wright, who is on a mission to help these creatures survive in the modern world. Wright, a New York native, spent several years fundraising and advocating for the establishment of Ranomafana National Park, which is home to more than 15 species of lemurs.
"Dr. Wright was enthusiastic about the idea from the beginning. I think she was a bit apprehensive about what actually could be done," Douglas said. "She's had this long experience of the difficulty of achieving things in a country like Madagascar, and she has some awareness of how limited time can be in a film situation... I think she recognized that this was an opportunity for lemurs to suddenly get showcased at a time when it's pretty critical for their future to be known."
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If you go
"Island Of Lemurs: Madagascar" will be shown at 11 a.m. and noon today through September at the IMAX Theatre at Tropicana, 2831 Boardwalk, Atlantic City. Admission $13. Tickets can be purchased at the IMAX box office or through Ticketmaster.