After a frenetic chase through the streets of Monte Carlo, the Zoosters and the rest of the gang narrowly escape DuBois. Their one goal is to find a place to hide quick, or Alex will become a wall ornament. With mere seconds to spare, they stumble upon a traveling circus train. Could there possibly be a better place to hide and move, undetected, through Europe?
Just as Alex is the de facto leader of the Zoosters, Vitaly, the tiger, is the top cat in the Circus Zaragosa. Unlike Alex, however, Vitaly is bitter, irritable and depressed, half the tiger he used to be after an accident during one of his breathtaking signature performances.
Bryan Cranston explains how he approached portraying the tiger that lost his roar: “Vitaly’s not a bad guy. In fact, he’s got a great heart. He’s just had a rough time of it lately. It was important for me to capture and convey both his aggression and his ‘humanity,’ if you will. Working with the three directors was great fun because even though we started with the script, they gave me the freedom to go off script, to throw out a couple of different versions of the scene — and they did that with all the actors. They made us feel that we could do no wrong.”
As the train pulls out of the station, making its way to Rome, the Zoosters jump on board and learn that the circus is ultimately headed to New York — their dream come true! — provided the performers can impress an American promoter in London. But it doesn’t take long for Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria to discover that…the Circus Zaragosa needs lots of help.
What do you do when the star of your show suddenly loses confidence in his abilities? You start losing yours. At least that’s what happened to the performers of Circus Zaragoza after Vitaly’s bravery took a backseat. A disastrous performance in Rome convinces Alex that the circus troupe is need of an intervention — and reinvention — if they are to have any real chance of getting back home to New York.
And reinvent it they do. Though the filmmakers found enjoyment in creating scenarios that had the Zoosters interacting with the human world, Darnell says, “There’s plenty of humor in the idea of an all-animal circus, which is what Alex has in mind.”
Ben Stiller puts it this way: “The circus animals stopped taking risks. Alex has this brainstorm that the way to reinvent the show — to differentiate it from all others — is to reignite the performers’ zeal, which they’ve lost. He tells them, ‘We don’t need humans because we’ve got passion,’ then he uses his imagination and experience to pull it off.”