As the story (which takes place between the events of the first two Madagascar movies) begins, Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria are attempting to escape Madagascar and return to New York using a hot air balloon they built, only to be thwarted by the lemur population, led by King Julien, who mistake them for the “red night goblin” that visits every year at this time, the 24th of “Julianuary” (December, really). Immediately after that, the “red night goblin” appears and begins showering the island with coals. Evading the barrage, Alex manages to shoot it down, but the four friends discover that the “red night goblin” was, in fact, Santa Claus. What’s worse, the crash has left Jolly St. Nick with amnesia, unaware of his responsibilities.
Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria huddle together and come up with a plan: deliver all the presents for Santa and then use the sleigh to get them back to New York. Unfortunately, the reindeer only take orders from Santa, and it is revealed that they have a rivalry against the penguins. Before the two species can fight, Private falls in love with Cupid, a female reindeer. Skipper slaps him out of his daze. The team is then forced to use the penguins, who use Santa’s magic dust to enable the otherwise flightless birds to take wing. They take off and leave Santa behind with the lemurs, who are presenting gifts for Julien in celebration of Merry Julianuary. As Santa searches for a gift, he discovers his ability to make toys, much to the amazement of the lemurs. He soon crafts gifts for all of them to enjoy, much to Julien’s anger since the focus is supposed to be on him, and decrees that all the lemurs' gifts are now his, much to the lemurs' disappointment.
Meanwhile, the animals make their first attempt at a delivery and manage to make a mess of everything – getting stuck in chimneys, breaking windows, getting lost, etc. Realizing the full scope of the task at hand, they decide to instead drop the toys off at the post office and make their way back to New York. However, after crashing into an apartment and unintentionally bringing joy to a little girl, they reverse course and continue the deliveries.
Back on Madagascar, Julien is quietly going through his mound of gifts alone in the crashed plane, feeling depressed. Santa shows up to apologize for his earlier “behavior” and suggests that giving someone a gift might change Julien’s mood. After giving one to his friend, the dead co-pilot on the plane, Julien discovers that is indeed the solution. As a result, he hands out gifts to all the other lemurs.
As the night nears its end, Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria discover that they and the penguins only have enough magic dust to make one last trip, either back to their home in New York or back to Madagascar, where Santa remains stranded. Putting aside their personal wishes, they return to Madagascar, crashing onto the beach and running over Santa by mistake. However, the crash also has the effect of restoring Santa's memory, and he thanks the animals for making his deliveries for him. Santa discovers one last bag meant for Liechtenstein and, to make the delivery in time, switches to a reserve tank of magic dust that the animals had overlooked. He flies away with his reindeer leading the charge before the animals can manage to ask for a ride to New York, in addition to telling Julien that he's off the "naughty list," which angers and also confuses Julien, who asks Maurice what the naughty list is. Despite still being stranded on Madagascar, the animals, with the holiday spirit filling them, decide to make the best of the situation and create their own Christmas along with the lemurs. However, Julien (still wanting to get back on the naughty list) hits Alex with a coconut, causing a large lump on the lion's head. When his friends ask if he's all right, he asks, "Who's Alex?", making Marty, Gloria, and Melman groan in despair. The special ends with Mort yelling "Merry Christmas and Happy Julianuary, everybody!" before getting hit with a coconut.
Much of the original voice cast from the movies returned for this special, with the exception Sasha Baron Cohen, King Julien's original voice actor. In this case, Danny Jacobs, who voiced the lemur leader in The Penguins of Madagascar spinoff series, replaced Cohen. In addition, Santa was voiced by television legend Carl Reiner, veteran voice actor Jim Cummings played the unidentified lead reindeer, and The Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev voiced the lovesick Cupid. Abby, the girl who discovers the Zoo Animals as Santa's helpers, was voiced by Willow Smith, daughter of Jada Pinkett-Smith (the voice of Gloria).
|Danny Jacobs||King Julien|
|Cedric the Entertainer||Maurice|
|Carl Reiner||Santa Claus|
|Jim Cummings||Lead reindeer|
|David Soren|| Lookout lemur|
|James Ryan||Additional lemurs|
After airing on NBC in 2009 and 2010, Merry Madagascar later aired as part of ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas, along with Kung Fu Panda Holiday, in 2011. From 2014 to 2015, Merry Madagascar (along with Kung Fu Panda Holiday) aired on The CW. As of 2019, it now airs on AMC as part of their Best Christmas Ever lineup.
A DVD of the special, distributed by DreamWorks Home Entertainment, was made available exclusively at Walmart stores the day after the special premiered. It was sold as both a stand-alone DVD and in a 2-pack with a separate DVD titled Party with the Penguins (which featured the short The Madagascar Penguins in a Christmas Caper). DreamWorks Home Entertainment later reissued the special on DVD on October 11, 2011, this time as a wide retail release; this re-release also included A Christmas Caper as a bonus feature. The special was later featured on the DreamWorks Holiday Collection compilation DVD and Blu-ray in 2012. The 2011 DVD was re-released with new cover art on October 1, 2013, and the special was also featured in the DreamWorks Holiday Collection 2-disc set, released two weeks later. After DreamWorks Animation was acquired by NBCUniversal, the DVD was reissued by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in a Holiday Double Feature set that paired it up with the original Madagacar, released on October 2, 2018. Its latest release was as part of the Madasgascar: The Ultimate Collection and DreamWorks Ultimate Holiday Collection DVD and Blu-ray sets, released on October 15, 2019.
- Private says to Cupid, "If that sleigh leaves and you're not with Santa, you'll regret it." This is a reference to a famous line from the 1942 film Casablanca.
The special won the 2009 Annie Award for Best Storyboarding in a Television Special, with the award going to Robert Koo. The special was also nominated for the 2009 Annie Awards for Best Animated Television Production, Character Animation in a Television Production, Character Design in a Television Production, Storyboarding in a Television Production, and Voice Acting in a Television Production.
- Madagascar Wiki: Merry Madagascar
- Merry Madagascar at the Internet Movie Database
- Merry Madagascar at the Big Cartoon DataBase
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