Analyzing the personalities of the “Madagascar” penguins

They’re cute, feathered and determined to to pull off the ultimate heist

Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private make up the quartet that push
the plot line of Madagascar forward with their absurdly conniving schemes.

Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private make up the quartet that push the plot line of Madagascar forward with their absurdly conniving schemes.

Emily Bebenek, Contributing Writer

They’ve hijacked a freighter ship, then steered it to and from Antarctica. They’ve repaired a crashed airplane by scavenging for parts in an African nature reserve. They’ve hidden themselves and other fugitives among a circus to avoid their pursuers. They’ve even stopped an international terrorist. Who are they? Spies? Assassins? Gods? No, my friend. They are the penguins of Madagascar.

Unquestionably, the best part of the “Madagascar” movies is these penguins, who have been able to pull off countless impossible feats using the classic heist casting technique: everyone has a specific role that they play to perfection, resulting in an unstoppable unit. The penguins are so endearing that they earned their own spin-off movie and TV show, and while I have not had a chance to watch the latter, I can confidently say that their movie is the best part of the entire “Madagascar” franchise. While watching the movie, I became curious regarding how much effort the creators put into the characterization of each penguin, so I decided to analyze each penguin’s name, personality, and role in the group to see how these elements complement each other.

We have to start with Skipper, commander of the squad, deliverer of incredibly funny one-liners, and one of the craziest in the group. “Skipper” is a term that refers to the master or captain of a ship, a name that certainly fits the penguins’ bold leader. While he undergoes some minor character development in their spin-off movie, for the most part, Skipper is completely confident in himself and his crazy plans, and rightly so. They somehow always seem to work out for the best.

Next, we have Kowalski, the voice of logic and brains of the group. He is the tallest and lankiest of the penguins, which could be a reference to the stereotypical body type of Hollywood nerds (looking at you, Spencer Reid). Kowalski is actually a slang term used to describe someone who works hard in the background but lets someone else (the leader) take the credit and the glory. This certainly describes the relationship between Kowalski and Skipper. His name doesn’t really have any other special meaning except for the slight implication that he might be Jewish, as Kowalski was apparently a common name among Jewish immigrants.

Rico is the third member of the team, and definitely the craziest. For the most part, he is unable to communicate in anything except through his own language of grunts and noises. Rico plays the role of gadget master, and he stores each by eating and regurgitating them when the need arises. Disgusting, but effective. Rico’s name has a variety of meanings across different languages: “home-ruler,” “strong ruler,” “glory” or even “cute.” These seem to fit, as the penguin is strong and shows little fear.

Finally, the cutest and most adorably innocent penguin: Private. The beginning of the penguins’ spin-off movie shows how the other three penguins rescued Private’s egg from leopard seals and subsequently adopted him as their little brother. Private’s personality is incredibly naïve and optimistic, and he seems to be on the least equal footing with the other penguins due to his childlike nature. Private is aptly named, as a private is a soldier of the lowest military rank, serving under a higher commander (Skipper).

“Kowalski, analysis!” My analysis? The penguins of Madagascar are hilarious to watch and the perfect anti-heroes to make you laugh.