Eric Darnell (born 1961)[2] is an American animator, director, writer, songwriter and occasional voice actor best known for co-directing Antz with Tim Johnson, as well as co-directing and co-writing MadagascarMadagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted with Tom McGrath.

Life and career

Darnell was born in Prairie Village, Kansas.[1] 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.[1] 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.[1] Meanwhile, he directed the music video for the 1989 R.E.M. song "Get Up".[1]

After graduating in 1991, Darnell joined Pacific Data Images,[1] 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 Ottawa International Animation Festival Special Jury Prize.[1] In 1995, he left PDI to join DreamWorks and work on research and development for The Prince of Egypt.[1] In 1996, when DreamWorks merged with PDI, he was assigned to direct his first feature film Antz.[1] The film, released in 1998, marked the studio's first computer-animated feature film, and the second computer-animated feature film ever.[1] He then worked as story 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 Baobaob'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 directed the first episode of an animated VR series Rainbow Crow, inspired by the Lenape myth. Released in 2017, it features the voices of Diego Luna, Constance Wu and John Legend as the titular character.[10][11]

Personal life

Darnell lives in Campbell, California with his wife, Laura, and their son, Rex, and daughter, Leah.[1][12]


  • Crow: The Legend (2018) (Director, writer)[13]
  • Rainbow Crow (2017) (Director)[11]
  • Asteroids! (2017) (Director, writer)[7]
  • Invasion! (2016) (Director, writer)[6]
  • Penguins of Madagascar (2014) (Director, executive producer)[4]
  • Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012) (Director, writer, voice actor)
  • Merry Madagascar (2009) (Writer)
  • The Penguins of Madagascar (2008–2010) (Writer)
  • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) (Director, writer, voice actor)
  • Madagascar (2005) (Director, writer, voice actor)
  • Antz (1998) (Director)
  • Big Smoke (1993, PDI) (Director)
  • Gas Planet (1992, PDI) (Director)
  • "Get Up" music video (Director)
  • Filter Gallery (1991, CalArts) (Director)
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