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Feature Film

Shocker of the Day

Jeffrey Katzenberg

In this article Jeffrey Katzenberg talks about how little he knows about animation, which shouldn’t exactly come as news to anybody who’s seen the films that DreamWorks Animation produces.

UPDATE: I’m sorry to report that this post has pushed a sensitive CalArts grad over the edge. Bad Cartoon Brew, bad.

  • Kevin

    not to nitpick, but he talks about how little he knew. it would seem he’s done his research over the years according to the article.

  • Richard

    After the interview concluded, he asked the interviewer a question of his own. “DO YOU HAVE ANY F***ING IDEA WHO I AM?”

  • P.C. Unfunny

    “Pioneer” and “Shrek” should never fit in the same sentence.

  • Adam

    Animation? That’s the thing with the fart jokes right?

  • No, he hasn’t batted 1.000 with his Dreamworks movies, but for a studio built from scratch in the midst of a very competetive environment he’s done well. How many other independent studios devoted to feature animation can you name? (Dreamworks Animation is a separate company from the other Dreamworks entities and has to be profitable on its own.)

    You can’t watch “Sinbad” and think he had no concern for animation, it’s got amazing stuff in it that you know wouldn’t be there if he didn’t like it.

  • Magnusson

    As much as I dislike a lot of what he has done, there must be a thinker deep down in there. He did write the “Katzenberg Memo”.

  • Anonymous

    Ouch. That’s all. Just ouch.

  • Bundler

    It’s funny because it’s true.

  • MJ

    Lion King? What did he do on that?


  • Bobby D.

    “which shouldn’t exactly come as news to anybody who’s seen the films that DreamWorks Animation produces.”

    Wow, I’ve been coming to this site for quite some time…this statement totally caught me off-guard. Really, Amid? This is your opinion of the head of the second biggest animation studio in the world?

    The fact that someone, (Katzenberg), came into the industry with no experience and has given us some very viable, some say great, animated films, is impressive. Even if the films don’t measure-up to your own personnel criteria. That said, as an “artist/author/animator”, I would hope you would be able to extend a modicum of respect to Katzenberg for, at the very least, his passion and efforts. (BTW, if that quote is somehow not yours…my apologizes ).

  • AdrianC

    Uh-oh…that article referred to animation as a genre. Brad Bird would be seething if he saw that and I wouldn’t blame him.

  • Please send Dreamworks an email and let them know what type of interviews and press releases you think they should be doing. It seems no matter what gets published or printed about that studio, it’s seen as a negative here.

    “Kung Fu Panda” is an amazing film, and I think it’s going to change (for the better) the way people look at Dreamworks, and the art of computer animation as a whole. I went to an advanced screening down here in San Diego, and I can tell you first hand that Dreamworks has outdone themselves.

    Here is my review:

  • The first half of the article certainly is aggravating, but Katzenberg kind of makes up for his ignorance in the second half, if you just keep on reading.

    I usually groan when I think of Dreamworks Animation, but to be fair they’re not the second-rate animation studio that others make them out to be. They just happen to be the second best animation studio in Hollywood right now.

  • For the record, I agree with Floyd about Kung Fu Panda. It’s certainly an achievement, and one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen all year. I think it will change minds about the potential of Dreamworks Animation.

  • You guys are being really hard on the man. Okay, so he knows nothing about animation. And he probably knows nothing about anything. And, yes, he seems like a complete dick.

    But, without Shrek, I would have nothing to compare the crappy CG Hulk to. So I guess that’s a plus. That’s his contribution.

  • Nessor Sille

    Wait, hasn’t Amid already put forth his opinion that since Kung Fu Panda is another Dreamworks CGI talking animal flick, he considers it to be automatically and innately lousy?

  • Oliver

    The wisdom of anybody who maintained that Pocahontas would be superior to The Lion King, to the extent of being a serious contender for Best Picture, must forever remain in doubt.

  • Steve G

    I wonder how many animated films would be in production these days or how many youngish fans animation would have it if it hadn’t been for JK’s Disney films – Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Lion King.

    I also maintain if it wasn’t for DW (and now Blue Sky) having hits – even if many animation fans are miopic – the animation landscape would be very different.

  • Shrek? Oh that’s such a good movie! I haven’t vomited like that in years!


    I worked in big-budget animation once [on ‘ FIEVEL GOES WEST’] , where apparntly some of the same personnel from those cel-animation days are now in key company positions.

    My own experience of what I saw has left me in no doubt that SOME large companies are run soley by accountants, with an almost built-in ‘suicidal’ approach to avoiding taking risks, or adapting innovation…….preference is definately put towards ‘shoehorning’ employees into [sometimes inappropriate] company roles…and , if ya don’t like it….TOUGH.

    Not exactly the most far-sighted approach for any forward-looking company to adopt, methinks; and it certainly wouldn’t surprize me if DREAMWORKS still operate within tihis creatively-stifling axis, thus cementing their permanent-seeming status as a kind of conglomorate cartel of ‘also-rans’.

  • Oliver

    Given that it’s a matter of historical record how Katzenberg belittled ‘The Lion King’ throughout its production, and declared to the animators the day before release that he was expecting a $50m gross at most, should he really be accorded any credit for it?

  • Dazzle

    Yeah, I did hear that about Katzenberg…”Lion King” was the “B” production, and “Pocahontas” was the “A” production at the studio at that time (they were apparently being developed simultaneously.) In other words, “Pocahontas” was the star vehicle, “Lion King” the also-ran. Funny the little twists life takes…

  • beamish13

    Katzenberg not only doesn’t understand animated films, he’s no great champion of live-action ones either (look at his handling of Samuel Fuller’s “White Dog”). People like Katzenberg assume that animated films should be given test screenings, and that any “excess” footage should be deleted, which is what he shamefully did on “The Black Cauldron”.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Jerry: I really don’t know why you are anticipating Kung-Fu Panada so much. The bland character designs and “Tude” is clearly off the charts. It looks no better then the rubbish they have been making before.

    As for Katzenberg, every single animated film he has worked on was overrated. He is just bussiness man who dosen’t know anything about animation.

  • big bad balloon

    Who cares that(IF) DW is the second biggest studio in the world.

    It certainly isn’t the second BEST.

    Madhouse says hi!

  • Whoa! Instead of getting a little credit for candor, the guy gets whacked? WTF?

    While it’s true that JK didn’t know animation when he started at Disney in 84, NOBODY does homework like Jeffrey Katzenberg. He “got religion” big time, and ever since he showed great respect to both the films and the animators who make and made them. Still does. A hellofalot lot more than many I can think of.

    He deserves better than this.

  • ridgecity

    My god there’s going to be Shrek 4 , Shrek 5, & Puss In Boots. I find them boring, and the jokes exclusive for kids-only types. It seems they are milking the thing! They do make a ton of money from them:

    Shrek $484,409,218

    Shrek 2 $919,838,758

    Shrek the Third $794,561,223

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Will: When he actually produces something worthy of praise and actually shows a genuine apprecation for animation, I’ll be the first to shake his hand.

  • Why are you picking on Macloud?
    You have your opinion, he has his. This sort of thing makes the Internet go round.
    The pettiness evident in your little addendum should be beneath you.
    With that unwarranted personal attack, you have revealed an immaturity that I’ve suspected for some time.
    Bad Brew indeed.

  • While it’s great that Katzenberg did his homework and studied the history of (Disney) animation, I don’t think you can learn to love cartoons. If Katzenberg loved cartoons as a kid and grew up with an intense desire to make them himself as art rather than business, you would probably get very different cartoons from Dreamworks.

  • Mickey Mouse

    Anybody know if Bob Iger loved cartoons as a kid and grew up with an intense desire to make them himself as art (I suspect not) and yet the last I heard he still runs the biggest animated company in the world. Why do we cut one guy so much slack and yet throw all kinds insult imaginable at the other?

  • red pill junkie

    Well, it’s not that I want to be a Katzenberg’s apologist, but sometimes it takes an outsider with no preconceived ideas to change the status quo. And I’m not talking only about animation.

    Yes, Dreamworks movies are a disgrace and cannot be compared with Pixar’s, and yet people still pay their movie theater to watch them. Fancy that…

    And don’t worry about Shreks multiple sequels. Last time I cheked there were no armed thugs kidnapping people to force them into watching a movie. And eventually viewers will show their weariness for the green ogre’s comedic formula, just as they did with Spiderman.

  • The only art that moves me is the kind that comes from an obsessive, passionate love of it. If Katzenberg wasn’t running DW, would he be making cartoons from his garage out of the love it? Disney, Jones, Clampett, Bird, Lasseter, Krisfalusi would. Not so sure about Katzenberg.

    There certainly is a place for the types of movies DW makes as popular entertainment, but they never seem to have the soul of a cartoon (and how could they when the person guiding all creative choices isn’t a cartoonist?) The general public doesn’t notice or care, but it seems like many artists do.

  • Bobby D.

    Can we all agree that Katzenberg, Iger, Murdock, Jobs, would never be scribbling-out cartoons on a workbench in their garages?…But, when the Lasseter’s of the world need a new pen, (or a Gulf Stream) guess who’s buying it for them.

  • Ron

    Shouldn’t Amid at least include the following note in his slams of Dreamworks: “Full disclosure – I have a book about Pixar about to be released.”

  • Guy Who Was In The Room

    Back in the Disney days, while some (OK, a lot) of JK’s comments and suggestions during the production process were asinine, many were dead on target, and made for better films.

  • Katzenberg wasn’t alone in his initial disinterest for animation when he was part of the 1984 Disney takeover. Michael “Bazooka Joe” Eisner had never seen Disney movies as a child. His family saw pop culture as something to be avoided and he grew up with theater and fine art.

    During his regime, Eisner seemed to hire and promote others with the same “my other car is a Rolls” attitude, as if traditional Disney was something to play down as cheesy. Part of the reason surely was that Eisner and Wells were, in their early Disney days, often at odds with some remaining traditionalists in the company, some of whom were not so much carrying on Walt’s vision as never veering from anything new.

    That mindset trickled down throughout the Disney company, with decision makers who made remarks like “Mickey Mouse will never set foot at The Disney Institute” and “I can market detergent and tampons, so I can market Disney.” Many of these people, who really did not like the products at all, left the company. Some stayed longer, but the cumulative effects will take time to fade, if they do.

    To his credit, though, Katzenberg did embrace animation, and there is something to say about someone who admits ignorance in a business where faking it can get you promoted. And by the way, Bob Iger has mentioned many times how he did grow up with Disney TV and movies and loved the Mickey Mouse Club as a kid.

    I agree with the above post that you can’t completely “get” what makes animation so appealing and enduring unless you’ve experienced some of the joy yourself, and it’s especially hard to comprehend the cultural and sociological aspects if you’ve ignored them for decades. But making the effort is far better than not doing so.

  • Me

    So kids, be sure to find that thing you…right now…you WILL NOT be able to discover a love for anything later in life.

    The more you know….

  • inkandpaint

    Amid, why did you get so grumpy about the industry, both commercial and independant? Maybe you should check out of NY and head to San Francisco or Oakland to lighten up a little…

  • Barbara

    P.C.: Jerry has seen the movie, you haven’t. Try not to pass superior judgement when all you have to go on are ads for the movie.

  • Ryan

    Wow, i’m a big fan of Macloud, why would you post that. Low blow and childish. Another animator saying goodbye to CB. You really haven’t done much for me anyhue.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    “Try not to pass superior judgement when all you have to go on are ads for the movie.”

    I’ve seen the trailer and it’s spewing the same Tudey garbage and the same look. These movies are all the same and you can smell them from 10,000 miles away. Abosuletly NOTHING is different about Kung-Fu Panda. I call it like I see it and then when I watch the film I am right.

  • Max

    It may have pushed him over the edge because… Well I believe he is actually head of story on Kung Fu Panda right now! So, I guess you pissed off more than just another sensitive CalArts grad… Leave that to John K, ha.

  • Some Guy


  • Rat

    I have a solution. Can we get an Amid filter? That way I can come here for my regular Jerry posts about cool animation old and new. And I can just hit a switch if I want to read yet another post about how all commercial and broadly appealling animation not done by Pixar is terrible, soul-sucking tripe made by hacks and sell-outs. It’s win-win!

  • Seems like dreamworks has got a lot of their artists by the balls. How does it feel to have your balls chained to the studio?? Feels pretty good don’t it? Its cool guys. Don’t say anything bad about JEFFREY. Defend the man, maybe you might get that promotion, or you’ll be the one they pick to direct Kung fu panda 3: Kickin’ with the homies!

    I can’t wait to work at dreamworks. OH I LOVE THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY!!!!

  • Ant

    Shame on you Amid for bringing a third party into this. Do you even know the “Calarts Grad” in question? I feel his point is very valid. Over the years you have been letting more and more of you’re personal views on the business get in the way of you’re journalism.

  • Ray

    Dreamworks is such an easy target, isn’t it? Lets all bag on Dreamworks. That makes us all feel happy and like true auteurs of animated filmmaking.

    Essentially, your claim is that all Dreamwork’s efforts in animation go for the cheap laugh and aim to please the shallow mob.

    Based off of your commentary in this post, however, how ironic is it that your efforts in the analysis of animation also goes for the cheap laugh and aims to please the shallow mob.

    Funny how that works out.

  • PorkyMills

    I do feel that Dreamworks gets ripped on a bit too much! But is that due to elitism or genuine distaste for their movies? I think it’s a combination of both. Not every animation movie can match the likes of Pixar, just as not every anime movie can match the quality of Studio Ghibli. They deserve credit for efforts like Shrek and Flushed Away.

  • nate

    Picking on a student is low, Amid. If it wasn’t for Jerry I would not read this blog. Your posts are smug and unneccessarily mean far too often.

  • Okay so JK might be helming the company with a money making mind, but really, Dreamworks makes a lot of money from it’s mostly mediocre films (IMO Madagascar is the only exception so far).

    But when he was at Disney he helped steer my favourite Disney films (Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King). I don’t really care that much about the older Disney films after Walt died because I found a lot of them rather boring (Robin Hood and The Fox and The Hound are the exceptions).

    Unfortunately after The Lion King things quickly went down hill and the only interesting movies since then (again IMO) were Mulan and Emperor’s New Groove.

    Long story short, give the guy a break, just because he’s making lots of money and jumped on the animation ship later in life and isn’t as “dedicated” to animation as artists who go bananas every time walts name is mentioned doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the right to do what he’s doing.

  • “Me” – You won’t love it or appreciate its context in quite the same way.

    Oh, and another thing. My comment also stated that Katzenberg did admit he did not know about something, which was to his credit. As for others during his reign at Disney, I have to wonder. Oh, and yes, there are many things I have appreciated far more in my adult (?) life than as a child. But you cannot compare the difference in emotional connection, nor the cultural understanding of what a creation means if you did not live through it, much as growing up in one region is different than growing up in another. You can study about it, learn it, and grow to love it, but it can never be the same to you as to someone who has lived in it or through it.

  • phil

    I agree it was rotten to call out an individual, but at the same time, it was nice to link him, because his blog is great, and I have a feeling while cartoonbrew just lost me as a reader, samacleod just gained one…

    not to mention a whole bunch of other people, think of the hits on his blog today!

  • Brittney

    I agree with Phil – what possible gain could there be in badgering Steve? Having no connection with Dreamworks, I was not offended by the original post. Now, however, I am appalled. Very professional, Amid.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    Rat: How about this, when the post says “By Amid” don’t read it.

    One of the reasons I like Cartoon Brew is because it gives two opposing viewpoints. We really don’t have enough that on animation websites or blogs.

  • I wish some of the spirit and intelligence exhibited by the Dreamworks artists here actually made it into those films.

  • The easy test for me is this. Years from now how many Dreamworks films will be remembered as fondly as Disney’s films ? People still watch Jungle Book, 101 Dalmations, Little Mermaid, but I know of very few people who pop in their copy of Spirit, or Prince of Egypt on a rainy day. At kids parties see how many are dressed as characters from Disney films and how many come dressed as their favorite charcter from Antz !

  • Paul

    You came back to this post a day after it was written to add in a link to someone you’ve angered, and then offer a sarcastic apology?

    That’s petty, unprofessional, and mean. Here’s hoping you feel good about yourself for that, Amid, because looking at the comments here and on his blog, I’d wager that just cost you more than a few readers.

  • Actually if Amid hadn’t done that I never would have found that blog, or remembered that Jim Hull had an awesome website dedicated to the art and analysis of story telling.

  • While I understand Amid’s sentiments I do not agree with the sentiment. Those who are second guessing Dreamwork’s position need only point to two things – their success at the box office as well as the artistic achievement that is Kung Fu Panda. I do not kid – the movie is a huge step in the right direction for the studio and i believe will leave many pleasantly surprised. Go out and see it – you will not be disappointed. Jerry is absolutely right.

    As for pointing out Steve Macleod’s blog… was that really necessary? I understand throwing in your two cents with the article since you seem to prefer the Op Ed style reporting, but I don’t find it is in particularly good taste to joke around about a dissenting opinion.

    Yes, it sucks, there are executives running studios. Can we move on to focusing on the artistry that inspires us to create more great stuff?

  • Chris

    I agree with Paul, pretty unprofessional. I don’t love all DW films (nor Pixar, Warner, UPA or Disney for that matter), and you can bag on the studios all you want, but attacking a young artist (as a news update)? Shame on you. Don’t need news from a bully. There are plenty of blogs on the net.

    And Acetate… you really measure success by how many children dress up in the costume of a movie character. I better go return all my copies of movies that don’t star a superhero or a princess. Road to El Dorado and Iron Giant are both amazing and neither are done by Disney.

  • Matt Williames

    Wow Amid. Anyone who takes pleasure in mocking people publicly the way you do has got– well, issues. I too have noticed the large number of posts from you that go out of there way to mock people. Why? Some posts from you are even solely written TO mock people. Why? All you are doing is creating dissent… nothing more. Geez man–

  • Asymetrical

    HAHAH!~ Come ON guys! Artists can be such sensitive babies! Do you really think Jeffy cares about this post or CB? The dude’s a billionaire. He’s waxing his Rolls right now… Who cares if Amid doesn’t like him. He wrote the post and you commented. that was the whole point. Amid likes these kinds of posts because it drives his hits up and that’s good for ads. Besides, he’s allowed his opinion. It’s his site.
    Sheesh. Grow UP!

  • Okay Chris I’ll give you Iron Giant. (Not a Dreamworks film.) El Dorado has some really nice animation but I still dont think it will be remembered as fondly as the old Disney flicks.

  • “Yeah, I did hear that about Katzenberg…”Lion King” was the “B” production, and “Pocahontas” was the “A” production at the studio at that time”

    Interestingly, on one of Animation Podcasts a veteran of that time asserts that almost all the artists thought Pocahontas was the project to be working on and Lion King was the loser. I think he even says Disney had to offer bonuses to get people to work on Lion King.

    Maybe Katzenberg didn’t forsee the enormous success of Lion King (who did?) but he must have thought it had promise or it would not have gotten made. He was the decider.

  • Shiskababoo

    > Yes, it sucks, there are executives running studios. Can we move on to focusing on the artistry that inspires us to create more great stuff?

    If only it were that simple. It’s really because of executives that we never get to see the inspirational and great artistic stuff. One look at the Kung Fu Panda trailer gives it away. It’s the same formulaic animated movie with cute animals who spout witty and sarcasm-laden one-liners. If an artist were heading the studio, we’d be saying a lot more experimental work by Dreamworks that breaks from the norm, and which, at least, has the potential to break new artistic ground.