Laughter, Sadness Over Bernie Mac's Lion in 'Madagascar'

GLENDALE, Calif. — It was a bittersweet morning Wednesday at DreamWorks Animation, as the makers of "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" showed off the first footage of the film — much of it highlighted by a lion voiced by the late Bernie Mac.

The sequel to the 2005 comedy about zoo animals lost in the wild comes out Nov. 7, and this time the foursome — a lion (voiced by Ben Stiller), a hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer), a restless zebra (Chris Rock) and a hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) — make their way through Africa's Serengeti plains.

Mac voices a new character, Zuba, who turns out to be the wild father of Stiller's zoo-pampered lion, Alex. "Somebody you spend time with and get to know becomes a part of your family," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation chief. "And to have a sudden loss like this, it has been really, really hard on all of us."

He noted that animators were still putting the finishing touches on some of Mac's scenes when he died unexpectedly last week at age 50. "Every day we are animating, and every day we are living with the creative contribution he made," Katzenberg said. "We loved Bernie, and there is a heart and a soulfulness that he brought to the role of Zuba."

In the clips previewed Wednesday, Mac's character is overjoyed to find his long-lost son, but thinks the title of "King of New York," bestowed by the zoo as a marketing gimmick, means Alex is a fearsome warrior. It leads to a misunderstanding when the pacifist, show-tune-singing son is sent into battle with rival alpha males. Alex mistakes it for a dance-off, and when another lion roars "Fight!" he starts doing the gang dance from "West Side Story".

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