August 18, 2022

The animated movie has come a good distance since 1937, which noticed the discharge of the primary feature-length animated film, Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. From experimental and quick movies to sequence for kids and adults, animation has repeatedly developed over the a long time to grow to be one of the crucial dominant mediums throughout the leisure spectrum. The most important shift occurred within the final 30 years, when computer-generated, 3D animation overtook conventional, hand-drawn, 2D animation as probably the most profitable format. The early years of this shift revolved round a number of inventive and enterprise figures, together with one Jeffrey Katzenberg. His reluctant embrace of the medium — within the type of 2001’s perennial basic Shrek — helped place DreamWorks as Pixar’s solely early rival, and cleared the way in which for 3D to dominate {the marketplace} to today.


Jeffrey Katzenberg

Katzenberg was a co-founder of what was initially referred to as DreamWorks SKG, earlier than changing into CEO of DreamWorks Animation LLC, the spin-off firm fashioned in 2004. His legacy as one of many few moguls with ties to Hollywood’s Nineteen Seventies Golden Age has been considerably tarnished by the high-profile failure of short-form content material platform Quibi, which Katzenberg launched in 2018 alongside former eBay CEO (and failed California gubernatorial candidate) Meg Whitman.

Katzenberg was a hard-charging film government who swept by Disney within the Nineteen Eighties and upended, streamlined, and renewed each their live-action Touchstone wing and their once-dominant animation division. As recounted in Nicole LaPorte’s The Males Who Would Be King: An Virtually Epic Story of Moguls, Motion pictures, and a Firm Known as DreamWorks, underneath Katzenberg’s tyrannical path, a staid, lax technology of animators had been proven the door. He introduced in live-action screenwriters (like Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio) to script animated options, foresaw the rise of animated musicals, and successfully started the development of hiring main stars to voice characters just like the genie in Aladdin (Robin Williams). Katzenberg oversaw the Disney Renaissance: The Little Mermaid, Magnificence and the Beast, Aladdin, and mega-hit The Lion King all originated underneath his watch.

As soon as Katzenberg jumped ship to affix Steven Spielberg and David Geffen in creating DreamWorks, he predicted (presumptuously) that their 2D animated movies would rival Disney. Paradoxically, his devotion to the fading traditionally-animated function movie would result in his embrace of 3D animation, and assist reshape the medium.

Pixar & ‘The Prince of Egypt’


As Disney reached the zenith of its industrial and creative animated accomplishments with the 1994 launch of The Lion King, Pixar had but to launch a long-promised function movie composed solely of computer-generated animation. Having been purchased from authentic proprietor Lucasfilm by Steve Jobs, Pixar had lowered its workers and was getting ready to one other sale earlier than the groundbreaking Toy Story debuted in 1995.

Katzenberg and Pixar co-founder John Lasseter had been on pleasant phrases early on through the DreamWorks years, however this relationship would finally bitter. Whereas Pixar spent the center chunk of the last decade constantly advancing the artwork of 3D animation, Katzenberg’s bitter, acrimonious break up from Disney fueled his ambition to not simply match his achievements on the Mouse Home, however surpass it. His supposed instrument for this doubtful objective? An animated biblical epic, The Prince of Egypt.

The studio’s first animated function originated from the identical place as many different questionable concepts DreamWorks would try: one among Steven Spielberg’s whims. Envisioned as a “critical” retelling of the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, the mission turned one thing of an obsession for Katzenberg. The story of how Moses led his folks out of Egypt and into the promised land paralleled neatly with Katzenberg’s exodus from Disney following an epic falling out with Michael Eisner after the loss of life of Disney president Frank Wells.

Wells was the No. 2 man at Disney, a relaxing affect on each Eisner and Katzenberg, two males whose fiery ambitions typically resulted in a conflict of personalities. Katzenberg — who counted David Geffen as a pal and mentor lengthy earlier than the creation of DreamWorks — had been pushing for a promotion. He noticed himself because the logical option to fill Wells’ place, and felt betrayed when Eisner introduced he’d be taking over these duties himself. Their relationship deteriorated shortly after that, till lastly Katzenberg left. (Learn all the fascinating saga on this detailed piece from 2014 by Kim Masters.) The Prince of Egypt could be Katzenberg’s first large assault on the studio that had been his house and made his profession.

RELATED: The way to Watch Each ‘Shrek’ Film in Order (Chronologically or by Launch Date)

Bugs & Antz


The post-Katzenberg Disney animated releases definitely lacked the sort of luster of The Lion King‘s $1.06 billion worldwide field workplace haul (to not point out merchandising, direct-to-video sequels, and the Broadway stage present, which might go on to make the studio one other billion {dollars}). Releases like Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Mulan might have their devoted followers and positively made cash, however none might match The Lion King’s once-in-a-lifetime cultural influence. Sadly for Katzenberg, neither might the traditionally-animated options from DreamWorks.

Katzenberg threw himself into the event and manufacturing of The Prince of Egypt, however for all of the technical prowess of the inventive workforce (that includes many artists and animators lured away from Disney), the movie opened to a lackluster $14 million, topping out at $101 million domestically. This was hardly the earth-shaking animated debut Katzenberg had promised.

Whereas Katzenberg remained stubbornly dedicated to the medium that had made him, he had additionally partnered with the Redwood Metropolis, California firm Pacific Information Pictures. PDI had contributed to the visible results of high-profile blockbusters like Terminator 2 and Batman Perpetually, and basically turned the pc animation wing of DreamWorks earlier than merging with the studio altogether.

DreamWorks’ first 3D animated function, Antz, was launched just a few months earlier than Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, and the dueling insect premises turned a supply of controversy. (“Jeffrey stole my concept,” Steve Jobs, who owned Pixar on the time, would say in interviews.) Antz was pretty well-received on the time, however its $81 million home field workplace take (on a $90 million finances) was blown away by the $363 million worldwide haul of A Bug’s Life.

In the meantime, a mission Katzenberg thought-about to be a low-level near-experiment would finally emerge as DreamWorks Animation’s first main franchise.


Picture through DreamWorks Animation

William Steig‘s 1990 youngsters’s e book may be very completely different from the Shrek film we all know and love. The 30-page e book depicts an unpleasant creature who spits fireplace and terrifies the countryside. The plot roughly resembles the film’s, as Shrek makes use of his flame breath to rescue a princess, who seems to be as ugly as him. The 2 get married, residing “horribly ever after, scaring the socks off all who fell afoul of them.”

Shrek began as a small aspect mission after Katzenberg agreed to accumulate the rights to the e book. For years, a revolving door of writers — equivalent to Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Joe Stillman (Beavis & Butthead Do America) and administrators like Henry Selick (The Nightmare Earlier than Christmas) would come and go, with none of them capable of crack Katzenberg’s desired tone of “irreverent.” Shrek turned often known as “the Gulag,” a spot they despatched you while you had been perceived as unable to hack it on The Prince of Egypt. Enter Andrew Adamson, a special-effects director at PDI, and storyboard artist Vicky Jensen.

Adamson proved able to pushing again in opposition to Katzenberg’s intense, generally overbearing scrutiny. Veterans of the mission credit score Adamson with trusting the inventive ingenuity of his storyboard artists and animators. Following the tragic loss of life of Shrek‘s authentic voice actor Chris Farley, fellow Saturday Night time Reside alum Mike Myers stepped into the position. Over time, the large inexperienced ogre misplaced the misshapen look and mean-spirited power of earlier whacks on the materials. Eddie Murphy was introduced on board to play Shrek’s sidekick Donkey, and his good comedian instincts formed the movie even additional, with the animators developing scenes round Murphy’s improvisations. Donkey turned a scene-stealer, capturing that “irreverence” Katzenberg had wished.

Shrek premiered on the Cannes Movie Pageant in 2001, in competitors for the distinguished fest’s highest honor, the Palm d’Or. Shrek received over the stuffy crowd, and went on to make over $484 million on the worldwide field workplace, to not point out profitable the primary Greatest Animated Characteristic Academy Award. (There have been important inner disagreements over who ought to settle for it earlier than Katzenberg reluctantly agreed to have Adamson step up.) Shrek‘s enduring recognition is plain, and its affect on the 20 years of computer-generated animated movies since has manifested in a broad tonal strategy that may be felt in all the pieces from the Ice Age sequence to the Despicable Me/Minions franchise.

The Actual Street to El Dorado

The Road to El Dorado

Regardless of Shrek‘s success — which looking back resembles the influence of Disney Renaissance classics like The Lion King and Aladdin — Katzenberg remained stubbornly dedicated to conventional, 2D animation. The Street to El Dorado, launched the 12 months earlier than Shrek, was envisioned as a light-hearted romp within the custom of a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby buddy highway film. After years of meticulous, hands-on improvement by Katzenberg appeared to lead to a confused mish-mash of types and tones. That movie topped out at $76 million worldwide, far lower than its estimated $95 million finances. 2002’s Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron fared a bit higher, however its anemic reception by critics — mirrored by that of 2003’s Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas — signaled a change available in the market for animated movies.

After Sinbad, Katzenberg turned his again on the medium that launched him to a brand new degree of energy and affect. Simply as Shrek‘s reference-happy angle spawned inferior “fractured fairy story” ripoffs like Hoodwinked! and Fortunately N’Ever After, it additionally created a path and template for Pixar’s rivals. Few would argue {that a} kiddie-crowd-pleaser like Boss Child is on the identical degree as Soul or Inside Out, however DreamWorks’ greatest animated releases — The way to Prepare Your Dragon, Madagascar, the primary two Shrek motion pictures — sought a decent strategy to artistry and viewers enchantment. This strategy is mirrored in among the greatest non-Pixar animated movies lately: Encanto, the Sing motion pictures, this 12 months’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines.

It was an extended and bumpy highway for Katzenberg: from Disney to DreamWorks (his fallout with Eisner over an unpaid bonus yielded a nasty public courtroom battle), from The Prince of Egypt to Shrek and past. The standard of DreamWorks’ animated sequels might inevitably dip over time (Shrek the Third, anybody?), however the state of recent 3D, CGI animation wouldn’t be the identical with out his devotion to and nostalgia for the standard animated type.

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