Nicole LaPorte, once of Daily Variety and now of Daily Beast, dishes behind-the-scenes tidbits about DreamWorks and its founders:
... Then came Shrek, a fractious production that ran through multiple writers and directors until first-time Kiwi director Andrew Adamson, a PDI special-effects director, finally took over.
From the start, Adamson refused to be intimidated by Katzenberg, and battled with him over such outrageous ideas as sexual jokes and adding Guns ‘n Roses to the soundtrack. Adamson was able to persuade Katzenberg to move in a more irreverent direction.
It also helped that the movie was in production in the Bay Area, at PDI. Katzenberg supervised, but was not all over the animators 24/7. Shrek finally grossed $484-million worldwide and launched a series of hugely lucrative sequels, enabling DreamWorks Animation to eventually go public. ...
This makes a delicious story, and fragments of it may even be true.
But the problems I have ... at least with the paragraph above ... is that
1) Adamson's co-director Vicky Jenson is left out of the equation (along with the directors that came before both of them)
2) Staffers told me at the time that "Jeffrey was putting jokes in and pulling jokes out, right up to release ..." and
3) How do you explain all those hit movies that came after Shrek, lots of them without Adamson's participation, but certainly with Jeffrey K. involved in the process up to his elbows?
And of course there were all those Disney cartoon hits that came before, small features like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Lion King. Andy wasn't on the premises for any of those, as far as I can remember.
I happened to have lunch last week with a story artist who's worked with Katzenberg off and on for decades. He said:
"Jeffrey always gives good notes. Lion King was a mess for a long time when it was in production. I've always thought that Jeffrey was the one most responsible for pulling it together ..."
I don't have any particular inclination to be Katzenberg's apologist. But I do have a strong impulse to get a more complete story out there. I've observed J.K. in action for a loong time, and there are too many people I respect who think he has real creative chops for me to believe that the success of DreamWorks, or Disney Animation before it, was a lucky fluke.
It's nice to have the ball bounce the right way, but for long-term success, you also have to know how to dribble.