Benedict Cumberbatch attends "The Penguins of Madagascar" press line on Day 1 of Comic-Con International on Thursday, July 24, 2014, in San Diego. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Benedict Cumberbatch attends "The Penguins of Madagascar" press line on Day 1 of Comic-Con International on Thursday, July 24, 2014, in San Diego. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

SAN DIEGO (AP) — John Malkovich and Benedict Cumberbatch each made their Comic-Con debuts — as themselves and as their first animated characters.

The two actors were in San Diego Thursday to offer an early look at DreamWorks Animation's "Penguins of Madagascar," a sequel to 2012's "Madagascar 3."

They revealed they'd only just met one day earlier. Each did their voice-recording sessions alone in a sound booth while making the film.

"I was really gutted about that, because I was really looking forward to working with the penguins and John," said Cumberbatch, who drew swoony screams from the audience every time he spoke. "That's the hardest thing: You don't have the usual camaraderie which you do in most other mediums."



He called Malkovich "a legend of acting" and an "extraordinarily brilliant man."

Cumberbatch plays a wolf in the film — a super spy who runs an organization called the North Wind, which protects animal welfare. The "Sherlock" star joked that he went undercover to prepare for the role.

"I worked in Yellowstone Park as a wolf for a while," he said. "It got a bit hairy when, no pun intended, when I became the alpha male."

Malkovich plays the villain, an evil scientist octopus named Dave, whom Malkovich said looks like his youngest sister.

"She's going to have to learn about this," he said. "I didn't even call her before."

Hosted by Craig Ferguson — who worked in a few playful jabs at DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg — the panel included several clips of the penguins in action, as well as the first six minutes of the new film, which is set to open at Thanksgiving.

The 90-minute presentation also included a peek at "Home," which stars Jim Parsons as a lost alien who befriends a human girl, voiced by Rihanna. The film is set to be released in March 2015.

The studio also announced its newest star-studded effort, "B.O.O.," which stands for the Bureau of Otherworldly Operations. Featuring the voices of Seth Rogen, Melissa McCarthy and Bill Murray, "B.O.O." is set to open next summer.