In this film, Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria are still struggling to get home to New York. This time, their journey takes them to Europe, where they are relentlessly pursued by the murderous Monaco-based French Animal Control officer Captain Chantel Dubois (Frances McDormand). As a means of getting passage to North America, the animals join a circus, where they become close friends with the animal performers, including the new characters of Gia (Jessica Chastain), Vitaly (Bryan Cranston), and Stefano (Martin Short). Together, they spectacularly revitalize the business and along the way find themselves reconsidering where their true home really is.
Many days after bidding the penguins goodbye, Alex suggests to his friends and the lemurs that they should go to Monte Carlo to get the penguins and the chimpanzees and fly back to New York City, which they agree to do.
In Monte Carlo, the penguins and chimpanzees have been saving up their daily winnings from the casino to fly back to Africa and bring their friends home. Alex's interference to kidnap them leads to animal control, led by a vicious big-game hunter named Chantal DuBois, pursuing them around the city, with Alex and the gang barely escaping. With determination, DuBois vows to capture Alex and add his head to her collection of animals heads she's captured.
In the skies of France, the plane crashes as the authorities close in. They come across a circus train consisting of Stefano, Gia, and Vitaly, and manage to gain entry, claiming that they are circus animals themselves. The team soon learn from Stefano that they are performing in Rome and London, where they plan to impress a promoter to get them on their first American tour. Before the zoo animals' claim is discredited, the penguins suddenly appear with a deal to purchase the circus themselves; however, the circus animals' show in Rome proves to be a failure.
In route to London, Stefano soon reveals to Alex that Vitaly was the biggest star of them all, but quit due to an accident in one of his stunts; therefore, the friends lost faith in the circus. At a stop in the Alps, Alex convinces the circus to continue pursuing the circus. Gia persuades Alex to teach her Trapeze Americano. In the process, they grow closer.
Meanwhile, DuBois is arrested in Rome while chasing the animals, but escapes and discovers that Alex was the missing lion from the zoo in New York. Once free, DuBois recruits her injured men and they head toward the Alps, forcing the animals to proceed to London despite incomplete rehearsals. Alex finds Vitaly preparing to leave and convinces him to stay by reminding him of how he enjoys performing the impossible. He suggests that he uses hair conditioner as a safer lubricant to perform his flaming ring jump as well as fix his damaged fur. As a result, Vitaly's stunt is performed perfectly and the show is a spectacular success. After the impressed promoter arranges for an American tour, DuBois shows up with a paper showing that Alex was missing. Though the penguins are able to foil Dubois' plan, Alex is forced to confess that the four of them are just zoo animals trying to get home, disappointing the others who feel used and lied to.
The zoo animals and circus go their separate ways, but arrive in New York City at the same time. Realizing how much their adventures have changed them, the zoo animals find that their true home was with the circus. Before they can go back, however, DuBois tranquilizes and captures them, before being discovered by the zoo staff, who believe she is responsible for returning the missing animals. Julien and the penguins manage to get to the circus and convince the circus animals to rescue their friends.
Back at the zoo, Alex awakens to find that he along with his friends are trapped in larger fence enclosures. DuBois, who was honored by the zoo guards, secretly loads a poison-filled dart into a gun that she hides inside a foam finger in preparation for publicly executing Alex. The circus animals arrive led by Skipper and are able to defeat DuBois and her henchmen. Alex and his friends decide to permanently join the circus to pursue their adventures. Meanwhile, DuBois and her henchmen are sent off in crates bound for Madagascar.Ben Stiller as Alex, a lion.
Chris Rock as Marty, a zebra and Alex's best friend.
David Schwimmer as Melman, a giraffe, another of Alex's friends and Gloria's love interest.
Jada Pinkett Smith as Gloria, a hippopotamus, another of Alex's friends and Melman's love interest.
Sacha Baron Cohen as King Julien XIII, a ring-tailed lemur.
Cedric the Entertainer as Maurice, an aye-aye.
Andy Richter as Mort, a mouse lemur.
Tom McGrath as Skipper and First Policeman.
Frances McDormand as Captain Chantel DuBois, the leader of the Animal Control.
Jessica Chastain as Gia, an Italian jaguar and Alex's love interest.
Bryan Cranston as Vitaly a Russian Siberian tiger.
Martin Short as Stefano an Italian sea lion.
Chris Miller as Kowalski, one of Skipper's right-hand men.
Christopher Knights as Private
John DiMaggio as Rico
Frank Welker as Sonya the bear
Paz Vega as the Andalusian Triplets (Esmeralda, Esperanza and Ernestina)
Conrad Vernon as Mason and Second Policeman
Vinnie Jones as Freddie the dog
Steve Jones as Jonesy the dog
Nick Fletcher as Frankie the dog
Jules de Jongh as Shakey the dog
Eric Darnell as Comandante, Zoo Official and Zoo Announcer
Daniel O'Connor as Casino Security and Mayor of New York City
Danny Jacobs as Croupier and Circus Master
DreamWorks Animation's CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg confirmed in 2008 that there would be an additional sequel to Madagascar and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. Katzenberg stated, "There is at least one more chapter. We ultimately want to see the characters make it back to New York." At the Television Critics Association press tour in January 2009, Katzenberg was asked if there would be a third film in the series. He replied, "Yes, we are making a Madagascar 3 now, and it will be out in the summer of 2012." On August 9, 2010, Katzenberg revealed in an e-mail that writer-director Noah Baumbach has done sixty pages of re-writes to the screenplay.
A significant amount of the animation and visual effects for the film had been done at DreamWorks Dedicated Unit, an India-based unit at Technicolor.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2012. The American release followed on June 8, 2012. The film was also converted to the IMAX format and shown in specific European territories, including Russia, Ukraine, and Poland.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and Blu-ray 3D on October 16, 2012. It was the first DreamWorks Animation film to use the UltraViolet System and the Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D comes with a rainbow wig.
Based on 129 reviews, the film holds an approval rating of 79% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and an average rating of 6.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Dazzlingly colorful and frenetic, Madagascar 3 is silly enough for young kids, but boasts enough surprising smarts to engage parents along the way." This marks the best general review consensus of the film series that has showed improving critical favor; the original film has a score of 55%, and the sequel scores 64%. On Metacritic, it holds a score of 60 out of 100 based on 26 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews."
Lisa Kennedy of The Denver Post gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars and said, "From time to time the improbable occurs: A sequel outdoes its original." Colin Covert of Star Tribune said that Madagascar 3 set a high standard for cartoon comedy and was almost too good for kids. He gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars. Giving the film 3.5 out of 5 stars, Betsy Sharkey of Los Angeles Times said, "A neon-saturated, high-flying trapeze act with enough frenetic funny business that it's a wonder the folks behind this zillion-dollar franchise about zoo critters on the lam didn't send the animals to the circus sooner." Stephen Witty of the Newark Star-Ledger calls the movie "fun and fast family entertainment. [...] the animals' jazzy circus performance, done in black-light colors and set to a Katy Perry song — may be one of the trippiest scenes in a mainstream kiddie movie since Dumbo saw those pink elephants." Film scholar Timothy Laurie writes that the plot development of Madagascar 3 is "met with large servings of personal growth and side dishes of overcooked romance".
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted earned $216,391,482 in North America and $530,529,792 in other countries for a worldwide total of $746,921,274. Its worldwide opening weekend totaled $137.6 million. Worldwide, it is the highest-grossing film in the series, the fourth highest-grossing DreamWorks Animation film, the second highest-grossing animated film of 2012, and the eighth highest-grossing film of that year. Overall, it is the eleventh highest-grossing animated film and the 52nd highest-grossing film of all time. The film took between 66 and 94 days of release, respectively, to out-gross its two predecessors. It surpassed Kung Fu Panda 2 to become DreamWorks' highest-grossing non-Shrek film, and the first non-Shrek film to reach over $700 million.
In North America, the film made $20.7 million on its opening day, which was higher than the opening day grosses of the original film ($13.9 million) and its sequel ($17.6 million). For its opening weekend, the film ranked at the #1 spot, beating Prometheus, with $60.3 million, which was higher than the opening of the original Madagascar ($47.2 million) but was behind the opening weekend of Escape 2 Africa ($63.1 million). It remained at the top spot for two consecutive weekends. In North America, it is the highest-grossing film in the series, the sixth highest-grossing DreamWorks Animation film, the second highest-grossing 2012 animated film, and the tenth highest-grossing film of 2012.
Outside North America, Europe's Most Wanted out-grossed Shrek Forever After to become DreamWorks Animation's highest-grossing film. On its opening weekend, it topped the box office with $77.3 million from 28 countries. It hold that position for three consecutive weekends. Its three highest-grossing openings occurred in Russia and the CIS ($15.7 million), China ($10.4 million), and Brazil ($10.1 million in 5 days). It set an opening-day record for animated films in Russia with $3.7 million (since surpassed by Ice Age: Continental Drift) and became the highest-grossing animated film (surpassed by Ice Age: Continental Drift) and the third highest-grossing film ever (at the time), earning $49.4 million. It also set an opening weekend record for any film in Argentina with $3.80 million (first surpassed by Ice Age: Continental Drift) and it set opening weekend records for animated films in Brazil, Venezuela, Trinidad, and the United Arab Emirates.
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted is the soundtrack of the film scored by Hans Zimmer and was released on June 5, 2012. "Afro Circus/I Like to Move It" peaked at 7 on the ARIA Hitseekers Singles chart on the week commencing October 15, 2012.
In some variations of the soundtrack, "Cool Jerk" is featured in replacement of "We No Speak Americano". "Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO was only used in the theatrical trailer, and not included on the soundtrack and was replaced by "Firework" for the circus. "Any Way You Want It" by Journey and the instrumental "Watermark" from the album of the same name by Enya were also used, but are not included on the soundtrack. "Land of Hope and Glory" by Edward Elgar appears in the track "Fur Power". The "Afro Circus" tune is from "Entrance of the Gladiators", by the Czech composer Julius Fučík.
A video game based on the film, Madagascar 3: The Video Game, was released on June 5, 2012. The game allows gamers to play as Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria as they travel across Europe promoting the circus by performing stunts, circus acts and completing missions. It was released to Wii, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Published by D3 Publisher, the Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions were developed by Monkey Bar Games, and the 3DS and DS versions by Torus Games. The game received negative reviews from critics with Metacritic giving the Xbox 360 version a 45/100.
A mobile video game, Madagascar: Join the Circus!, was released on June 4, 2012, for iPhone and iPad. The game allows players to build a circus and play mini-games.
A comic book based on the film and titled Madagascar Digest Prequel: Long Live the King! was released on June 12, 2012, by Ape Entertainment.
A spin-off feature film titled Penguins of Madagascar, featuring the penguins from the Madagascar films, was released on November 26, 2014. Its story picks up right after Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. The plot of the television series of the same name does not tie in with the film.
In June 2014, it was announced that Madagascar 4 would be released on May 18, 2018. However, in January 2015, the film was removed from the release schedule following corporate restructuring and DreamWorks Animation's new policy to release two films a year. In April 2017, Tom McGrath said about the film: "There are things in the works, nothing is announced yet, but I think they'll show their faces once more..."