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Lifestyles of Animation Executives: Al Kahn and Jeffrey Katzenberg

Jeffrey Katzenberg

I’ve often heard people complain that there’s no money to be made in the animation business. That’s not exactly true. It’s just that the money usually doesn’t filter down to the people who actually create the art. Case in point, the NY Post reported that the Manhattan apartment of Bernie Madoff was recently purchased by Al Kahn of 4Kids Entertainment, which is the licensee of Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!:

The millionaire “marketing genius” behind the Pokemon and the Cabbage Patch Kids toy crazes inked a deal to buy Ponzi King Bernie Madoff’s posh penthouse apartment on the Upper East Side, sources said. Al Kahn, CEO of 4Kids Entertainment, signed a contract to buy the 4,000-square-foot home, which was put up for sale by the feds to help recoup cash for the victims of Madoff’s $65 billion scam. The apartment, at Lexington Avenue and East 64th Street, was recently listed at $8.9 million, $1 million less than the original asking price. While the actual sale price is not known, sources said the pad — a three-bedroom, four-bath duplex with a wrap-around terrace — went for just under the asking price in the deal brokered by the Corcoran Group.

That’s nothing though compared to DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg, a more admirably creative exec, who plunked down $35 mil for new digs according to The Wall Street Journal:

Media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg has paid $35 million for a house in Beverly Hills, CA. . . The six-acre property, which was never on the market, sits just above the Greystone Mansion, a Beverly Hills landmark. A long private drive leads to a house on a promontory. Mr. Katzenberg had been shopping for a large property with a view for several years. The home belonged to aerospace pioneer Simon “Si” Ramo, who was instrumental in the development of the intercontinental ballistic missile and co-founded TRW, which was acquired by Northrop Grumman. Mr. Katzenberg, who bought the property under the name of a trust, declined to comment.

  • Very inspiring! I hope to one day make a lot of money doing what I love in animation. Hopefully I could make even more than these guys?

    I would, though, disagree that the money isn’t trickling down, as these entrepreneurial individuals are able to employ many animators and artists who get to do what they love in the animation field! That is a great blessing.

  • Jefferey Katzenberg is rich? Huh, who wouldda thought…

  • david

    depressing, but this is the reality of exploitation and the weak starving artists who allow it to happen.

  • Yeah, 4Kids Entertainment is having a blast…

    4Kids’ licensing segment revenue for three months ended September 30 2009 saw a drop in approximately $0.9 million; revenue for the nine months ended September 30 2009 saw a decrease of approximately $1.5 million. In the advertising, media and broadcast: quarterly decrease of a decrease of approximately $2.3 million; revenues for the nine months, a decrease of approximately $9 million.

    More? TV and Film production, a decrease of $4.1 million (9 mos.). Trading card and games, a decrease of approximately $12.9 million (9 mos.).

    “On a consolidated basis, net revenue for the nine months ended September 09 was approximately $21.9 million as compared to $49.4 million in ’08, a decrease of approximately $27.5 million.”

    But never fear, I read not too long ago that Al Kahn was taking a pay cut in order to help out the company’s finances…

  • barney_miller

    I work @ DW and am not weak or starving. They are quite generous with us at the studio.

    However, if I may stir the pot a bit. I know guys at Pixar who get paid significantly less then they deserve. Maybe the fact that they aren’t union has something to do with that.

  • barney_miller

    BTW, I wasn’t trying to say one place is better than the other in my previous comments. I know LOTS of happy Pixarians. I just think it’s only fair to mention the excesses or lack there of at more than just a couple studios.

  • Blake

    Why aren’t we talking about how much John Lasseter spent on his castle / vineyard out in Napa? The one with the train that runs through his place, taking him from room to room? Or why don’t you post this link of John and his extreeme support for the 3-D medium in animation:


    seems like he would like to say he thought of it first, even back when he got married…

    This website is so biased it’s not even funny anymore, it’s just pathetic. All the execs spend tons of money, it’s nothing new, it just so happens to be that unless you were working for Pixar when their stock was worth something, you get paid terribly, and while Dreamworks doesn’t offer stocks, they pay better than Pixar and they gave their employees a bonus this year and last year, despite the terrible economy, that’s pretty good by my standards. Why is none of this ever mentioned?

  • Al Kahn? related to Gengis?

  • Pedro Nakama

    Well I’ll have to pick up a house warming gift for Jeffery…


  • Tom Ruegger

    Let’s give him an Annie!
    We did!?
    Never mind.

  • I was going to post and ask why you didn’t mention John Lasseter and his winery, but Blake beat me to it. How about if I ask instead why you haven’t reported on the cancellation of “Snow Queen” over at Disney Feature Animation or the fact that it seems that Rich Ross, the guy who took Dick Cook’s job seems to be calling the shots over there at Disney FA, NOT John and Ed, who by the way, have a worse track record than ANY of the previous heads of Disney Feature INCLUDING David Stainton.
    Why, huh? Why?

  • OH! Let me add this to Blake’s DW/ Pixar comparison: Pixar will ask you to work hundreds of OT hours and yet they don’t pay OT, because they are non-union. Dreamworks pays OT, it’s a Union Shop.
    AND Dreamworks offers contracts, meaning they can’t fire you anytime they want.
    Unlike Pixar, who can fire you at anytime under the slightest of pretenses.

  • As far as the whining about the lifestyles of rich and famous animation execs – so what? Big deal.

    I’m a believer in Darwin and survival of the fittest. If the wheelers and dealers are the fittest of the animation breed, so be it. That’s how they get their kicks.

    I don’t see anyone complaining about Stephen Hillenburg, Matt Groening or Seth MacFarlane’s lifestyles.

  • I can’t wait until Jeffrey moves in. I’d love to visit the gift shop.

  • A pink elephant on parade

    So the boss of very big company earns a lot more than his workers? Hold the front page! Those poor creative artists who made Pokemon what it was don’t all live in penthouse apartments? Who’d of thunk it?
    That’s so wrong and you’d never get that happening in banking or car manufacturing or the fashion industry or..er… everywhere else.

    It’s called capitalism Amid and it’s our economic system of choice – inherently unfair as long as the workers themselves don’t own the means of production and distribution ( © Karl Marx, a long long time ago.).

    Unless this is going to be a debate about the alternative merits of collective working, wealth distribution, socialism or communism, then this really is a pretty poor example of the Brew’s worst failing, creating paper tiger villains out of evil execs to get more posts, because the positive posts (which I love you for) don’t get nearly as many responses.

    Sometimes I think this is a brilliant site, which has shown me so many wonderful things I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Other times you do this cardboard controversy thing and let us down. And yes, you do go easy on Pixar all the time.

  • bipto

    What’s all the hubbub, bub? I didn’t read the post as anything other than “look at the rich guys and where they live” kind of thing. Who’s creating the “cardboard controversy”?

    And as long as you’re talking about crazy houses, how ’bout Pete Docter’s treehouse? Is that off limits because he’s not an executive?


  • Christian

    Wow, some pretty good posts. I was expecting the “arteests” to start complaining about “the man”!
    Let me be a gremlin and start another debate; supervising animator salaries and the inflated clean-up department salaries helped end 2D animation at the big studios.

  • Charlie

    I think one of the main issue that is affecting the animation industry is the same that is affecting most other industry. The pyramid structure has been inverted where there are far more people in upper management than ever before and there by taking more salaries and bonuses. This new majority(in terms of salaries and production credits) prevents the distribution of financial rewards due the artist when a project is successful. This isn’t capitalism at work it is the cooperate system in play. No longer are there innovators or moguls or Disneys running the show but a whole army of usually uninspired executives who many (at least in Television animation) don’t have a film or creative or sometimes even business background. A quote I heard attribute to Walt Disney: “I make money to make movies, I don’t make movies to make money”. Unfortunately, this attitude has gone the way of the dinosaur.

  • I’d prefer to see Cartoon Brew remain as a source of information and inspiration. Why don’t we leave the “fine whining” to the gang on AN?

  • In Arizona, you can buy a mansion for what a garage would cost here in California. If you want to live like a rich guy, you simply have to move.

  • Former Disney Animator

    “Let me be a gremlin and start another debate; supervising animator salaries and the inflated clean-up department salaries helped end 2D animation at the big studios.”

    And let me be the first to ask you to support that assertion with some facts .

    Yes, pay-rates from 1995 -2001 were way over scale for most supervising animators and key clean-up. But taking all of the animation staff salaries into account that does not explain the massive cost over-runs on many of the mid-90’s to 2000’s films. There were some films that were in full production, then completely thrown out and started over at the cost of MILLIONS (Kingdom in the Sun – Emperor’s New Groove , Sweating Bullets – Home on the Range. Who made those decisions ? The animators and clean up artists ? No.) A reported $30 million spent on “Wild Life” in pre-production before it ever got into animation. Those are not the only examples which could be named. If you’ve seen the documentary “The Sweatbox” you will have a good idea of how things were operating on the exec. management level during those years. Not only the expensive retooling of films put into production , but also the resulting overtime needed to finish the films contributed to the huge cost over-runs. The animation staff did not ask to work 60 – 80 hour weeks. The poor planning that necessitated the long overtime hours were made at a higher level .

    In 2001 most of us (at Disney) took a 30% to 50% pay cut and in the years from 2001 to 2003 the company also reneged on the annual percentage increases that were agreed to legally in writing by the company in our contracts. We were forced to renegotiate those rates with the implication that if we did not submit to renegotiating the contract on the company’s terms we would be let go. We were told that the deep pay cuts and annual increase freezes were necessary so the animation dept. could stay viable and so that we would all be able to “keep our jobs and still be working 10 years from then”, so we were asked to take it in stride, stiff upper lip , do our duty , but at least our jobs would be secure … well, you know how that worked out : despite the deep pay cuts and the wage-increase freezes for the animation staff rank-and-file they closed down the hand-drawn dept. in 2003. )

    Despite pay rates coming way down in the years from 2001 – 2003 and the closing down of the traditional animation dept. , costs on Disney animated films have remained high. Budgets for “Chicken Little”, “Meet the Robinsons” , and “Bolt” are reported in the $130 milllion to $150 million+ range . And yet artists salaries are not still at the so-called “inflated” rates of the 1995 – 2001 years. So how come the costs haven’t come down and where is all that money going if the problem was the supervising animator and key clean-up salaries that you claim were inflated ?

    Also, as I understand it most of the animation staff on Princess and the Frog worked for union scale (and the artists at the outsource studios were working way below union scale) , and yet PATF cost a reported $105 million. So where does the money go if it’s not going to the inflated animation staff salaries , Christian ?


    By the way, I agree with the people who are pointing out that it’s not fair to single out Jeffery as if he’s some sort of “fat cat” getting rich off the backs of his poor animators while other fat cat execs like Lassetter are not given the same criticism. I think Jeffery has contributed greatly to providing a lot of us with stable, long term employment at a decent living wage. The pay rates and perks (and union benefits) at Dreamworks contribute to better morale in the rank and file than the lower pay and no union benefits at some other studios. Do most CEO’s make “too much” money in comparison to what their workers make ? Yeah, probably. But this is nothing new and to razz Jeffery or Al Kahn for their extravagant life-styles while exempting certain other people seems rather biased.

    Let’s cool it with the rabble rousing posts, ok ?

  • Jim

    Hey for all his faults you gotta admit that Jeffery treats his artists very well… and for that reason Dreamworks is going to be one of my top studio choices when I get out of art school.


    Although some of you are right to point out that the boss getting rich isn’t news, it does suck that being a skilled animator will only make your boss rich, it will never make *you* rich.

    Of course it’s thanks to these rich people that there are jobs in the first place I guess. If studio heads didn’t drop millions on animation projects would animators step up and sell their own work?

  • That didn’t take too long. Jeffery got his Annie on Saturday night, and now Monday morning bright and early we have a post featuring him with a negative slant. He deserves what he’s got and then some. Stay classy, Brew.

  • Ariel

    Lifestyles of the Rich and Animated

  • Boris

    Healthy discussion!! Thanks for the different point of views!!! Interesting!!!

  • woody’s woody

    Keep in mind this is the same Katzenberg who settled with Disney a few years ago for $275 million smackers. What else is he going to spend it on? He likes to surround himself with nice things. Nice union controlled things, and that keeps salaries high. Not the case at their non-union bay area campus where things are kept just as cheap as Pixar, and where the cost of living is significantly higher. Aspiring talent take note.

  • Gio Renna

    I love the brew, but every time I see these kind of posts I have to say I feel disappointed. All execs make money. If I was one, I wouldn’t mind buying an expensive house somewhere. I don’t understand why we have to belittle people for their choices. And as far as animation news goes, I’m not all that interested in the real estate purchases of the big cheeses.

  • amid

    Gio Renna: I wasn’t trying to belittle their choice or make a value judgement about their purchase of a house. I’m pointing it out simply for those who may be curious to learn about how animation execs live.

  • NoTimeForThat

    Al Khan? The 4Kids Al Khan?

    The same Al Khan with his company’s effort to censor, re-arrange, butcher, and reduce anime shows like One Piece to it’s most common denominator which only served to belittle it’s audience and insult it’s intelligence, by replacing firearms with spring mounted boxing gloves, cork cap guns, and cast horribly inappropriate voices for characters with dumbed down, completly altered, politically correct personalities?

    The same Al Khan who basically responded to mountains of critisism with an engraged statement to all the series’s fans that essentially read as “You’re all stupid, we’re rich, you’re not, you’re all stupid kids, and you’ll buy and like what I tell you to, because i’m better than you”?

    The same Al Khan who took the same butchered, heavily censored, and ridiculously altered a quality anime series into the equivelent of a pie-in-the-face gag, and declared it “absolutely unprofitable” before dumping it on another company that released it Uncut and turned a much larger overall profit with said show than 4Kids was ever had?

    Well. It’s good to know that one of the biggest douchebags alive, just bought the house of another one of the biggest douchebags alive.

    He may be pretending to live better than the rest of us, even when his company is falling into the bankrupcy toilet, but yet, when I hear that he’s moving into Madoff’s old digs, it still makes some kind of cosmic sense, anyway.

    • Anonymous

      Why do you care about this guy? Sheesh, noboby complained about that badly between 1998-2004 or 2006.

  • TheGunheart

    “I’m a believer in Darwin and survival of the fittest. If the wheelers and dealers are the fittest of the animation breed, so be it. That’s how they get their kicks.”

    That’s not even remotely what Darwin meant and you should be ashamed of yourself for propagating that common misconception.

  • Sean

    Here are my thoughts:
    I love the positive posts and amazing tid-bits that are posted on this site as well, but if anyone has a problem with something they view to be negative or falsely painting something (or someone) in a bad light, then I would beg them to glance at one of two things:

    1) their computer’s keyboard
    2) the scroll bar to the right side of their browsing window

    Using either of these wonderful tools (available on Mac, Windows, Linux, or ANY OS based computer) allows you the opportunity to MOVE ON. Just because someone chooses to exercise their freedom of speech about a topic – or an executive – does not mean you have to read it. Just move on.

    Lastly, Darwin’s thoughts are far from being applicable to the condition of modern man – THAT is the misconception. We have laws that attempt to prevent the failure and even the death of what (according to nature) would be seen as the “weak.” Darwin only focused on the laws of nature. There were food stamps that allowed the finches to bypass the lack of natural food, they needed to adapt; those that were ill-equipped died.

  • To “The Gunheart”

    You bore me. I was using Darwin as a literary allusion. Run along.

  • Amber

    I’m just here to say that anyone who makes a living off butchering foreign creative properties, making them “suitable for consumption for the American public” should NOT have that much money.

  • Gio Renna

    Yes, Sean, I suppose you are right. And I apologize for my earlier post Amid, I definitely overreacted.

  • TheGunheart

    It’s not even a Darwin quote. The term was coined by Herbert Spencer.

  • @Gunheart – And what do your comments have to do with the topic at hand? Sorry. I’m not interested in your discussion and this isn’t the place.

  • TheGunheart

    You think I care if you’re interested or not? Fine, go plug your ears and keep repeating the same mistake and make those of us who’ve actually researched Charles Darwin’s theories look bad.

  • @Gunheart – Thank you for enlightening me. Now that I know that it was Herbert Spencer and not Charles Darwin who coined the phrase, “Survival of the Fittest”, I can go about my life knowing that I’m a better human being.

    Something tells me that you don’t date much. Now do you?

  • TheGunheart

    Oh, it’s not just confusing quotes. But seeing how you stoop to petty insults if you’re called out on anything, I’ll leave it at this.

  • I didn’t stoop to petty insults. I was just making an observation.
    You really should get out more.

  • Mike

    @ Gunheart and S.Schiner: The two of you should have diner sometime.