Eric Darnell

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Eric Darnell
Born (1961-08-21) August 21, 1961 (age 62)
Prairie Village, Kansas, U.S.
OccupationAnimator, storyboard artist, film director, writer
Years active1989–present
Notable worksAntz
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Penguins of Madagascar
SpouseLaura Darnell

Eric Darnell (born August 21, 1961)[1] is an American animator, storyboard artist, director, screenwriter, songwriter and occasional voice actor best known for co-directing Antz with Tim Johnson, as well as co-directing and co-writing Madagascar, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted with Tom McGrath, as well as the spin off Penguins of Madagascar (2014) with Simon J. Smith.

Life and career[edit]

Darnell was born in Prairie Village, Kansas.[2] He attended Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas, where he was a writer for the school newspaper the Harbinger. He studied broadcast journalism at the University of Colorado at Boulder.[2] After graduating in 1983, he spent four years working on experimental films in his basement, which helped him get accepted into the Experimental Animation program study at the California Institute of the Arts.[2] Meanwhile, he directed the music video for the 1989 R.E.M. song "Get Up".[2]

After graduating in 1991, Darnell joined Pacific Data Images,[2] where he worked as a character animator on the 1991 Hanna-Barbera Halloween special The Last Halloween. He also animated and directed the short film Gas Planet, which won the Ottawa International Animation Festival Special Jury Prize.[2] In 1995, he left PDI to join DreamWorks Animation, where he helped with research and development for The Prince of Egypt.[2] Shortly after DreamWorks merged with PDI the following year, he was assigned to direct his first feature film, Antz, co-directing alongside fellow PDI-turned-DreamWorks employee Tim Johnson.[2] The film, released in 1998, marked the studio's first computer-animated feature film, and the second computer-animated feature film after Pixar's Toy Story.[2] He then worked as a storyboard artist on the 2001 film Shrek, for which he also wrote the song "Welcome to Duloc."[3]

Darnell and Tom McGrath directed Madagascar in 2005 and its sequel, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa in 2008. He was co-writer for the Christmas TV special, Merry Madagascar. Darnell also co-directed Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted with McGrath and Conrad Vernon, which was released on June 8, 2012. He co-directed, with Simon J. Smith, a Madagascar spin-off, titled Penguins of Madagascar and released on November 26, 2014.[4]

In 2015, Darnell co-founded with Maureen Fan, a former vice president of games at Zynga, a Redwood City, California-based virtual reality studio Baobab Studios to create animated virtual reality short films.[5] Darnell serves as Baobab's chief creative officer, while Fan serves as its CEO. For the studio, Darnell wrote and directed short VR films, Invasion! (2016) and its follow-up Asteroids! (2017), featuring two comedic aliens, Mac and Cheeze.[6][7][8] Plans for a feature-length film based on the characters were announced in 2016 by Baobab and Roth Kirschenbaum Films.[9] Darnell also wrote and directed an animated VR short film, Crow: The Legend, inspired by the Lenape myth. Released in 2018, it features the voices of John Legend, Constance Wu, Oprah Winfrey, Diego Luna and Liza Koshy.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Darnell lives in Campbell, California with his wife, Laura, and their son, Rex, and daughter, Leah.[2][11]


Feature film[edit]

Title Year Director Writer Other Notes
Campfire Tales 1997 No No Yes Office production assistant: additional photography
Antz 1998 Yes No Yes Additional Voices (uncredited)
Shrek 2001 No No Yes Storyboard artist / Lyrics for song "Welcome to Duloc"
Madagascar 2005 Yes Yes Yes Additional Voices
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa 2008 Yes Yes Yes
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted 2012 Yes Yes Yes
Penguins of Madagascar 2014 Yes No Yes Executive producer

Short film[edit]

Title Year Director Writer Other Notes
Get Up 1989 Yes No No Music video for R.E.M.
Filter Gallery 1991 Yes No No CalArts
The Last Halloween 1991 No No Yes Character animator
Gas Planet 1992 Yes No Yes PDI; animator
Big Smoke 1993 Yes No No PDI
CyberWorld 2000 Segment No No
Merry Madagascar 2009 No Yes No
Invasion! 2016 Yes Yes No
Asteroids! 2017 Yes Yes No
Crow: The Legend 2018 Yes Yes No
Jack: Part One No No Yes Producer
Bonfire 2019 Yes Yes No
Baba Yaga 2020 Yes Yes Yes Cinematographer
Namoo 2021 No No Yes Executive producer

Television series[edit]

Year Title Role
1995 The Simpsons Computer animation in episode "Treehouse of Horror VI"
2008–2015 The Penguins of Madagascar Original characters by, creative consultant
2014–2017 All Hail King Julien Original characters by, creative consultant
2019–2020 Rainbow Rangers Uncredited storyboard artist for "Otterly Lost", "Got Silk" and "The Lost Puppy"
TBA The Witchverse Creator[12]
InterCats Co-creator[13]


  1. ^ "Darnell, Eric, 1961–". Library of Congress. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Berls, Scott (Spring 1999). "Little-creature feature". University of Colorado Boulder. Archived from the original on May 18, 2003. Retrieved November 24, 2013.
  3. ^ "Shrek". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  4. ^ Sneider, Jeff (August 5, 2013). "Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich Join 'Penguins of Madagascar' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Archived from the original on February 20, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  5. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (December 3, 2015). "'Madagascar' Director Eric Darnell's Virtual Reality Studio Raises $6M". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  6. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (April 15, 2016). "Tribeca: 'Madagascar' Director Unveils Virtual Reality Short 'Invasion!'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  7. ^ Wolfe, Jennifer (December 1, 2016). "Baobab's 'ASTEROIDS!' to Debut at Sundance 2017". Animation World Network. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  8. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (December 22, 2016). "Elizabeth Banks to Voice an Alien in Virtual Reality Short 'Asteroids!'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  9. ^ Giardina, Carolyn (September 26, 2016). "Director Eric Darnell's Virtual Reality Short 'Invasion' to Become Theatrical Feature". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  10. ^ Russian, Ale. "John Legend Ventures in VR with Oprah Winfrey and More in Crow: The Legend – Watch Here!", People, November 29, 2018; and Takahashi, Dean. "Baobab's Crow: The Legend debuts as a free short film on Oculus and YouTube", VentureBeat, November 15, 2018, accessed November 19, 2018
  11. ^ Peterson, Judy (May 28, 2012). "Take a trip to 'Madagascar,' and support YSI". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved November 23, 2013.
  12. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (December 15, 2021). "'The Witchverse' Anthology Series Based On Baobab Studios' "Baba Yaga" VR Experience In Works At Disney+". Deadline.
  13. ^ Petski, Denise (November 30, 2022). "'Intercats' Animated Cat Workplace Comedy In Works At Disney+ From Baobab Studios & Pamela Ribon". Deadline.

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