As the CEO of Dreamworks animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg is a very important man. Katzenberg joined Disney in 1984 under the wing of new CEO Michael Eisner and began a career that saw him change the company’s fortunes with films like The Little Mermaid and The Lion King. Ironically, considering Dreamworks’ position as a pioneer of computer-generated animation, it was during Katzenberg’s tenure at Disney that he shook on the deal that would begin Pixar’s long-standing relationship with the House of Mouse.
Co-founding Dreamworks SKG in 1994 with Steven Spielberg and David Geffin, Katzenberg brought to screen films like Antz, Chicken Run and Shrek. Bee Movie, not surprisingly a tale of a bee voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, is the studio’s latest, and RT caught up with Katzenberg to learn more.
I assume you say no to a lot of projects, so what’s was it about Bee Movie that made you say yes?
Jeffrey Katzenberg: Jerry Seinfeld first and foremost. I was a by-appointment Seinfeld Thursday night fan so I know he is one of the most creative, brilliant, exciting and innovative comedy talents in my lifetime and he had a funny idea.
Can you compare working with CGI to the stop-motion animation you’ve done with Aardman?
JK: Well they are very different. We’ve made three films with the Aardman team and I have nothing but the highest admiration for those guys, I love what they do. It’s beautiful stop motion animation and a different working process from the likes of Bee Movie.
Did you see The Simpsons Movie?
JK: Yes and I liked it a lot. It’s brilliant 2D animation and not only a funny television show but also the movie is funny.
Is there still a place for 2D animation? What does the future hold?
JK: I love all different forms of animation; we’ve made many 2D movies. And I think the stories that we’re telling are the most interesting in CG. What I expect to be the next really important revolution is going to be 3D. I am very excited about it.
And Dreamworks are presumably at the forefront of that…
JK: We will actually make the first CG animated movie in 3D. It’s called Monsters Vs. Aliens and it’s coming out in Easter 2009.
How long does that process take?
JK: Four years out of my life.
One of the unique things about Dreamworks is the variety of films you put out. How do you juggle all that together?
JK: It’s the team behind me, great artists and studio of 1400 people!
Working around animators must be like working in a teenager’s bedroom every day!
JK: Well we have a beautiful 15-acre site which is like a college campus, but for me to drive through that studio everyday is an honour. I honestly feel like I’m going into heaven. Each movie is very different and always original and you have to have that enthusiasm and energy and treat each new project like it’s your first.Each thing that you do is pioneering in that way.