Bee Movie

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After months of seeing clips, excerpts, storyreels and tons of production art, I finally saw the finished film for the first time today.

Let me back up a little. About fifteen months ago I began working on latest volume in Chronicle Books ongoing “Art Of” series, The Art of Bee Movie. I’d been a fan of Jerry Seinfeld’s since viewing the first episode of his famous TV series in 1989. Working on this book project allowed me to take a first hand look at the making of a modern animated CG feature and the rare chance to immerse myself with the spectacular preproduction sketches, paintings, visualizations and character designs that both made it and didn’t make it in the finished film.

The book, just going on sale this week, is loaded with much of the incredible art that didn’t make it, and early versions of characters, props and places that ultimately helped the filmmakers realize Seinfeld’s script. There’s enough good stuff here for ten different visual versions of the film. The book is justified if only to preserve the amazing unused material that Craig Kellman, Nico Marlett, Christophe Lautrette and Tony Siruno produced, and I’m proud to have done my part to preserve it.

Obviously I’m biased about the finished film. If you are (or were) a Seinfeld fan, you won’t be disappointed. It’s funny – very funny – and sweet (no pun intended). The film is a “screwball comedy”, as just about everything in it is about getting laughs, telling jokes or a set-up for a comic set piece. It has a good story and I even learned a few things about bees I never knew before (some of them factual: like how honey is produced; some of them fanciful: that bees can talk). Producers Christina Steinberg and Jerry Seinfeld also attended todays screening and were clearly jazzed by the reception the film got: almost non-stop laughs from begining to end (this was a screening for members of the Producer’s Guild – not Dreamworks employees).

Members of ASIFA-Hollywood, ASIFA-East and ASIFA-San Francisco are invited to a members only sneak preview screening on Tuesday night (10/30) in their respective cities. I’ll be there, in Hollywood, to do a Q&A with the directors after the film. Can’t wait to see it again. I’m buzzed.


  • Steve

    on a somewhat unrelated note…did u know that bees can be albino?
    there’s been one hanging around my morning glory vine all summer…she’s BEAUTIFUL. she’s one of those gigantic (usually all-black) bumblebees that you see here in southern california, except a lovely light caramel color, shading darker where her segments come together. the light color also really highlights the complex diffraction patterns in her eyes…they look like the eyes of those (bad asian stereotype) aliens from star wars: episode one.

    (sorry for the derail) i wasn’t that impressed with the shrek movies from dreamworks, but if u say its good (and i do like the seinfeld) then i’ll ‘bee’ sure to check it out…;)

  • Mike

    I like to give every movie or show a chance to stand on it’s own merits. I don’t think, like many of your readers, that a particular medium is an abomination to the animation community (with perhaps the exception of Mocap) Also, you always seem to be the level headed contributor to this blog and you don’t imply a heavy handed opinion in your posts.

    That all being said, I will be interested to hear what kind of reception the grumpy, crumudgeonny xenophobic inhabitants of “Classic-Animationland” who love to post responses on your site will give a movie they normally would have torn to little bitty pieces under these circumstances. Will they go easy on it because you worked on it? Or will they show the insulting disrespect that they usually throw straight in the face of artists who don’t work in their medium of choice?

  • Relevan

    I’m going to bet the latter.

  • Chris

    I’ll probably attend a free showing in San Francisco soon to check the movie out myself. I would definitely like to mention how nice the “art of” book looks and how disappointed I am to see how little of the initial(?) character designs made it into the finished film. Kellman and Marlet particulary had some funny and incredibly appealing designs in the book that appear to completely absent from the finished film. Where the hell did they go??? Do they blandize these films to death on purpose?

  • http://www.autodaddy.blogspot.com tom

    I am predisposed to dislike Dreamworks movies, I’ll admit it. One reason is my loathing of those star-laden voice casts they favor. I don’t see Renee Zellwegger as a voice actor, and I don’t think the animators did either, given the marionette-like movement of her character (and the same character’s botoxed expressions) in everything of Bee Movie I’ve seen to date. The performance originates in the reading.

    I won’t prejudge it too much though. I thought that the concept of Surf’s Up (Sony) was too dumb to consider, but in the end I really loved that movie. I’m open to the possibility that any movie (any movie without Shrek in it) can be wonderful. On your recommendation I will be sure to check it out. Thanks.

  • http://www.starfieldcreations.com awd!

    Seeing some of the concept character designs compared to the final designs, I have to admit the movie would’ve looked like it had more character in my opinion. But when I pointed this out when I visited Dreamworks on a tour, I was given the coldest stare I’ve ever received…

    So much for style. But I’m still looking forward to it since it’s Jerry Seinfeld. Just not sure if I like my cartoons looking like people I see every day on the street (ex. Shrek.)

  • Jay

    It’d make me happy if an animated movie with an original story was critically and financially successful. The animated trailers for this so far have done more than leave me cold — they were head-shakingly bad for the most part. But I’ve heard nothing but great buzz (har har!) about it, so I’ll hope for the best!

  • Corrado (Anthony)

    I wouldn’t bee (Heh, pun) surprised if American Gangster is the #1 movie next week, but Bee Movie will most likely bee. Either way it looks like a situation similar to the Happy Feet/Casino Royale upset of last November.

    The overpromotion of Bee Movie turned me off to it. For the past few Thursdays on NBC, they’ve been doing this long, boring segments during commercial breaks about Bee Movie. They had Seinfeld on 30 Rock promoting it.

    Well, hopefully it does better than fred Claus. The commercials for that are very very horrendous.

  • Thad Lewis

    Jerry Seinfeld recently was quoted as saying that most comedy movies shouldn’t be 90 minutes, because they run out of steam by the last fifteen minutes. Bee Movie probably doesn’t, because Jerry is aware of the problem and capable of keeping it funny. No suits are gonna dare overrule him in that department.

  • http://taber.blogspot.com/ Taber

    I’m so upset I wont be able to make it to the screening! I had my doubts about his one but an endorsement from you Jerry is good enough for me to give it a shot. Hope you enjoy the screening!

  • Travis Gentry

    The final look is a bit of a let down. It’s just a little too plasticy and bland. Looking at the concept art, that was definitely a missed opportunity. Still looking forward to seeing it.

  • Bryan

    How does it feel to have your name above the more famous Jerry,… Jerry?

  • http://www.markmcdermott.com Mark McDermott

    I was way put off by the design of Jerry’s bee character. Looks like the same blank, wide face they gave the celebrity caricatures in “Shark Tale.” And, too, NBC’s track record on overhyping upcoming Universal releases on Thursday prime time bodes ill: “Evan almighty,” anyone?
    But I, too, ended up liking “Surf’s Up.” Just don’t know if I’ll be pumped enough to take the kid to the theatre or wait to rent the video.

  • http://reddiabla.blogspot.com/ Red Diabla

    I hope the movie isn’t as bad as its publicity campaign.

    “Honey just got funny”???

    It doesn’t make me wanna go rush out to the theaters to see it with taglines like that.

  • Spock Foolish

    “Honey just got funny.”
    Let’s hope they make some money.
    Twixt Jerry’s smarts and Jeffrey’s farts,
    The outlook’s less than sunny.

  • Melissa

    I, like Jerry, saw the Bee Movie screening on Saturday. What a disappointment! This is about as much a “kid’s show” as an episode of Seinfeld. And less fun. The film is so talkie, I had trouble sitting still, and judging from the loud/fidgeting kids in the audience, much of the rambling went way way way over their heads. The plot was contrived. There was very little action. The human characters were in no way endearing, nor was their relationship to the bees, and, like most CG human characters, their animation looked expressionless and stiff. I can’t wait until all of the “Cee Movie” reviews start pouring in. Rarely do I voice my reviews on films, but this one was so poorly executed, I felt the need to say something. It would be nice if the studios would quit relying on “slick” CG animation to cover up for their lack of script.

  • gene schiller

    Hope the film’s more interesting than the trailer. Maybe I’ll buy the book instead – the cover art is first-rate.

  • http://chippyandloopus.typepad.com/ John Sanford

    Anyone catch Jerry on Leno last night? He made some pretty ignorant and disparaging remarks about the animators on the film.

    For all of my friends who worked on the film, I hope it does well, but everytime I see that unfunny Seinfeld schmuck in those moronic bumbers on NBC I want to throw my remote.

  • http://www.christianziebarth.com Christian

    Yeah, the book is pretty cool. I got to actually look through Jerry’s own copy at the ASIFA screening . . . and I handled it very delicately.

  • Nipplenuts McGurk

    I wanna see Amid’s review. Jerry sorta ‘can’t’ say anything disparaging.

    Here’s my review (saw last nite’s screening). It’s just awful. This movie has no soul…the directors Q&A made that even more clear….they had no stake in this as a film…they were just doing the bidding of Seinfeld, who has no idea how to make an animated movie – but they can’t tell him that. The film is all talk, all exposition, all bad puns and lame attempts to be edgy. The bad “This is funny in our own Hollywood circles even though no one else will laugh at it edgy” “Is she bee-ish” …get it, like jewish, but a bee? Ugh. An interview w/ “Bee Larry King” …that’s…creative…and, ya know – kids just love Larry King jokes. Vanessa’s boyfriend character just made no sense….and the human chick, Vanessa – she turns on Barry when things go to crap, even though SHE HELPED HIM! What?! I wasn’t the only one in the theater perplexed at that moment.

    And how come after all these years – human characters in Dreamworks movies LOOK LIKE CRAP!?!?!?!?! Vanessa’s a main character…she looks like some generic mannequin you’d stick in the background ….and she’s friggin’ CROSS EYED! Why is she cross eyed!?!?!??! The human’s are all just bizzare…sorta simple and cartoony, but w/ some overly realistic features…. and they gesticulate and move so weirdly.

    Thanks for the screening ASIFA….but….christ, don’t pay to see this thing. Go buy Surf’s Up on Blu- Ray or DVD ….THATS the animated HIT that deserves an audience.

    “And why do bees drive cars!? Who are these bee-ple!?” …see? I could have written this f-ing movie if that’s the level they were going for…..

  • Stephen

    Wouldn’t Larry Kingbee be a lot funnier than the completely unfunny Bee Larry King?

    I liked the movie in parts, I’m no fan of Seinfeld but I thought the rapid-fire joke approach worked pretty well. Lame jokes were quickly superceded by less lame ones. Still, the last fifteen minutes or so of the film kinda killed the story for me (I can only suspend so much disbelief) and the portrayal of bee farms as concentration camps was more than a little disturbing.

  • Mark Borok

    >

    I preferred the Yellow Submarine version. “Are you bluish? You don’t look bluish.”

    >

    Or how about the revelation that worker bees (like the ants in “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life”) can actually be male?

  • http://elblogderg.blogspot.com Roberto González

    I watched it (don’t ask me how) and personally I loved it. Well, it’s not a masterpiece and visually speaking it could be better (I’m pretty sure that book has better designs than the ones that were finally used, as usual) but, like Jerry said, it’s FUNNY.

    Yes, it has a lot of puns. But I thought most of them were funny or clever. And I liked the voice acting too. I’m glad I watched it in english, they are going to mess it all up with the spanish dubbing, that’s for sure.

    And it’s not as if it were only dialogue, it had enough action and visual sequences too. The scenes in the Court Room especially were pretty inspired. It reminded me of Looney Tunes sometimes, and that doesn’t normally happen with a CGI movie, especially a Dreamworks one.

    Maybe there wasn’t a clear conflict or too many emotional scenes, but there was a story, it was original, imaginative and not predictable. It had good jokes and the main characters were charismatic. Maybe it seemed a little more shallow than a more “emotional” film, but the conflicts in animated movies are almost always pretty much the same, so who cares? Yeah, the conflict here seemed to change a lot but at least there were different to the usual conflicts. Barry felt bad cause he couldn’t choice his fave career , that’s unusual conflict in an animated movies. And the whole Courtroom stuff is also very unusual in animation, at least in features. Not even The Simpsons Movie included Courtroom sequences even though it’s a usual staple of the show.

    I don’t get all the negative response there. I think it’s the best Dreamworks has got yet and probably will in a long time (except for those movies they did with Aardman).

    Finally about the humans, they did look kind of weird, and Vanessa was sort of cross eyed, but I thought the visuals were in general better than I was expecting. Of course they are still not great, but it seemed much worse in the trailer. Even though she is generic Vanessa does look kinda pretty in a couple of scenes. And even though Barry looks too much like a weird Jerry Seinfeld caricature, he did have some expressions that seemed more cute or cartoony sometimes.

    Oh, and one thing I loved visually was the caricature of the few famous human people that appeared in the film. I think those humans looked hilarious, and their scenes were pretty funny too.

    Personally I do like the approach of the film, it might have some faults here and there, but it’s trying to include gags that are funny instead of making non stop movie references or stopping the jokes to add emotion.